Tools to help you manage your vendors and suppliers

Pen and paper, spreadsheet, full-blown ERP/CRM suite -- or somewhere in between? We examine some leading vendor management systems.
Written by Charles McLellan, Senior Editor
Image: tumsasedgars, Getty Images/iStockphoto

'No business is an island', as the poet (John Donne) nearly said, which means that organisations will inevitably have to choose and manage an array of third-party vendors and suppliers -- any of whom can pose risks as well as deliver valuable goods and services.

Prominent among those risks in today's business environment is the chance that a vendor might unwittingly provide 'bad actors' with a route into your company's network. But beyond cybersecurity, there are plenty of other areas of corporate governance where careful scrutiny of existing and would-be partners is vital. For example, as CIOs increasingly outsource applications, IT infrastructure and business processes to the cloud, it becomes vital to assess the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) offered by the various service providers involved -- particularly in regard to compliance with national and international regulations.

According to analyst firm Gartner, there are four organising principles for effective vendor management: 'strategize and plan'; 'develop governance'; 'execute'; and 'measure and improve'.

Any tools designed to help organisations manage their vendors should be viewed within the context of these (or similar) principles. The gamut ranges from pen and paper, to simple spreadsheets, to full-blown ERP or CRM suites (or components thereof).

Here are 15 vendor management products that should get you started in your quest for visibility into and control over your third-party suppliers.

ProductDescriptionTarget customersDeployment
ApptioApptio's cloud-based IT-specific applications allow CIOs to manage, plan and optimise their technology investments across on-premises and cloud. Strategic initiatives around cloud adoption, application portfolio rationalization, vendor rationalisation and negotiation, and infrastructure modernisation, can be measured and communicated to the business.enterprise, SMESaaS
Ariba (SAP)SAP's Ariba integrates the buying process across an organisation via an end-to-end automated system. Solutions include supplier management, strategic sourcing, supply chain, procurement and financial supply chain. SAP Ariba and IBM have recently teamed up to deliver a smarter 'source-to-settle' process, including a hub for 'cognitive procurement'.enterpriseSaaS
BravoAdvantageBravoAdvantage is a next-generation procurement platform that enables organisations to generate value, influence innovation and reduce risk across the supply chain. The suite includes multiple modules: Savings Management, Spend Analysis, Supplier Value Management, Sourcing, Sourcing Plus, Contract Lifecycle Management, Procurement and Invoicing. BravoSolution (the company behind BravoAdvantage) was named as a 'leader' in Gartner's most recent (2017) Magic Quadrant for Strategic Sourcing Application Suites.enterprise, SMESaaS, on-premises
ClaritumClaritum provides an online platform that allows buyers to link up with specialist suppliers and category experts to deliver efficiencies and savings. Services include sourcing tools, supplier management tools, procure-to-pay processes, invoicing, analytics and more.enterprise, SMESaaS
DeltaBidDeltaBid is a usable cloud-based e-sourcing platform designed to help you manage RFX (requests for information/proposal/quote/bid) and supplier information, run reverse auctions, and efficiently evaluate bids. DeltaBid's pricing is suitable for organisations ranging from small businesses to enterprises; a free trial is available.enterprise, SMESaaS
GatekeeperGatekeeper is a cloud-based supplier and contract management solution that helps you simplify complex vendor relationships. Features include automatic contract renewal reminders, integrated email links to suppliers, reporting and analytics, document management, automatic compliance and risk management, and more. Gatekeeper's pricing is suitable for organisations ranging from small businesses to enterprises; free trials are available.enterprise, SMESaaS
Market DojoUK-based Market Dojo provides online negotiation software that helps businesses efficiently negotiate the true market price for goods and services of all kinds. Online negotiation events allow participants to compete in real time by using the feedback from the software to assess whether or not to adjust their prices for supply contracts, services, products or items. enterprise, SMESaaS
NextBuyNextBuy is a cloud-based procurement solutions platform featuring supplier management, RFX and e-auctions, procurement, contract management, product catalogues and spend analysis. NextBuy is suitable for small businesses, and free trials are available.SMESaaS, on-premises
Oracle Procurement CloudOracle Procurement Cloud is a complete 'source to settle' solution that includes: Supplier Qualification Management; Sourcing; Procurement Contracts; Purchasing; Self Service Procurement; Supplier Portal; and Budgetary Control and Encumbrance Accounting. (see also Oracle iProcurement, Oracle Advanced Procurement)enterpriseSaaS
Pool4ToolAustria-based Pool4Tool, which was recently acquired by US company Jaggaer, was named as a 'visionary' in Gartner's latest (2017) Magic Quadrant for Strategic Sourcing Application Suites (Jaggaer was a 'challenger'). Pool4Tool's extensive portfolio includes portals covering Sourcing, eProcurement, Project management, SCM, Quality, CRM and SRM (Security Risk Management). Third-party integrations are available for supply chain risk management, financial data look-up and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) ratings.enterprise, SMESaaS, on-premises
ProfileGorillaProfileGorilla provides vendor/supplier/contractor management solutions for verticals such as service providers, manufacturers, retail businesses and non-profits. Software components include contract management, vendor management, document management, HR management, asset management, credentialing and records management. A free single-user trial is available.enterprise, SMESaaS
Provade VMSWisconsin-based Provade's vendor management system is built on Oracle's enterprise platform, and specialises in contingent workforce management and services procurement. It can be used as a standalone SaaS solution or integrated into an existing procure-to-pay infrastructure, and also offers business analytics and mobile (iOS and Android) apps.enterprise, SMESaaS
ShortlistShortlist unites vendor information with process automation capabilities for onboarding contracts, due diligence, RFP and reporting. A free version is available for up to 100 users and up to 1000 freelancers or vendors. Paid plans add account management, payments and tax forms, custom branding, RFP/RFx/eSourcing, contract management, background and compliance checks, single sign-on, custom reports and custom integrations.enterprise, SMESaaS
TipaltiTipalti has an accounting focus, aiming to help businesses transform accounts payable from 'back office cost center to a lean financial operation'. Modules and portals include: Supplier Management; Tax Compliance; Invoice Management; Global Supplier Payments; Early Payments; and Payment Reconciliation & AP Reporting. Integration to other systems is available via APIs or built-in links.enterprise, SMESaaS
TradogramTradogram allows businesses to automate requisitions, create purchase orders, negotiate with suppliers using RFQs/RFPs, manage contracts, apply multi-level order approvals and track deliveries. The cloud-based procurement platform includes solutions for: supplier management; purchase-to-pay; strategic sourcing; contract management; spend control; and order management. Tradogram has a simple pricing structure: a free single-user package or an affordable ($10/user/month) enterprise package.enterprise, SMESaaS

There's a lot more to a good vendor relationship than a tightly constructed and managed contract, but tools like those listed here are undoubtedly a key component. Another key problem for CIOs, for example, is simply knowing who the organisation's suppliers are -- thanks to the widespread incidence of shadow IT.

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