Earlier this year Bob Parker, group vice president for IDC Manufacturing Insights, discussed in his blog, "Thank you Mr. President," the idea of intelligent execution for the intelligent economy. In other words, allowing manufacturers to be connected, intelligent, and collaborative. IBM and 15 other major corporations must have read his blog – or at least they think alike.
In the spring of 2010, when the economy was still top of mind for nearly every business or personal conversation, a series of discussions were held between President Obama, senior IBM executives, and other key organizations to find a way to work together to support the recovery of the U.S. economy. Key to this endeavor was helping small to medium sized business grow, which typically results in hiring additional employees more quickly as demand ramps up. One of the obvious areas to start with was sourcing and procurement where large manufacturers typically engage with multiple smaller suppliers. However, it is not always an easy or fast process to find new suppliers - manufacturers sometimes take months vetting financials, quality certifications, logistics, and electronic enablement - to find and contract with a new supplier. This is how the IBM Supplier Connection was born.
The site (https://www.supplier-connection.net/SupplierConnection/index.html) went live in early 2011 and there are currently 16 large corporations that are a part of the community and committed to using the nearly 1,200 registered smaller suppliers for procurement. Today companies such as AMD, Caterpillar, Dell, Facebook, John Deere, JP Morgan/Chase, Kellogg Company, Office Depot, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Bank of America, Citigroup, IBM, Pfizer, and UPS purchase over $300 billion from the suppliers on IBM Supplier Connection on an annual basis.
The platform - based in the cloud - is likened to the Universal College Application where a small to medium sized business only needs to fill out one form to be considered for contracts from these major corporations for services ranging from chemicals to HR services to office supplies.
Suppliers that want to apply must be U.S.-based, with fewer than 500 employees or less than $50M in annual revenues. The entire platform is free - for both members and the suppliers.
This is of course not the only way to connect with suppliers - there are many major vendors out there that provide services and platform support for procurement. However, I think there are 2 unique things about IBM Supplier Connection:
- First and foremost it is free and entirely maintained by IBM through a grant from the IBM International Foundation
- To Bob's points in his blog, as mentioned above, this is not about policy - this is about creating the infrastructure (albeit in the cloud) to allow organizations to connect in a more intelligent way there by improving productivity without the restrictions of policy and economic incentive
I was surprised this was the first I had heard of IBM Supplier Connection - perhaps my head has been in the clouds - but I think it's an excellent initiative with virtually no down side. Connecting organizations to do business in a more efficient manner - and on the side helping stimulate recovery in the small to medium sized business sector - Thank you, Mr. President indeed.