How One Sourcing Vendor's Offerings Are Bolstered by a Wealth of Services

Eqos ( is a UK-based provider of sourcing and supplier management solutions that are based on a service-oriented architecture platform. Specifically, the vendor offers two collaborative platform applications: Global Sourcing & PLM (as discussed in The Secret of One Vendor's Success in the Retail Supply Chain) and Eqos Supplier Management. For more background on Eqos, please see One Vendor's Quest to Garner a Global Sourcing Ecosystem and A Retail Sourcing Suite Built on Experience.

Managing Supplier Performance

Eqos Supplier Management delivers a virtual infrastructure that ensures collaboration and retailer control over trading partners. The solution achieves this via recruiting, auditing, conducting business, and measuring performance. Well-managed supplier relationships can help thrust private label strategies forward by leveraging best sourcing practices, implementing shared scorecards, and fostering ongoing collaboration among trading partners. This suite enables clearer visibility of supplier performance information combined with the management of key performance indicators (KPIs). Consequently, enterprises are able to proactively manage potential problems, maintain higher performance, minimize risk, and negotiate better terms with their suppliers.

The Eqos Supplier Management suite is comprised of four modules that allow retailers to monitor and control their business on a supplier-by-supplier basis:

  1. Eqos Supplier Hub Management enables suppliers to self-register, manages supplier portals and direct communications, and maintains a single, up-to-date repository of information. Promoting best practices facilitates the onboarding of new suppliers and places responsibility for maintaining factory profiles onto the supplier community.

    Supplier data resides in a secure, high-availability environment with interfaces to downstream systems that require supplier data, thus enabling the retailer's head office to monitor suppliers' adherence to specific instructions. This improves visibility into supplier information very early in the engagement, thereby lowering the risks associated with onboarding new suppliers, and reducing the vast administrative burden of managing a large supplier community.

  2. Eqos Auditing and Compliance helps retailers to maintain best practices and to exercise due diligence by generating audit schedules and providing tools that enable auditors to enter findings and update vital product and production information on a regular basis. It provides a more complete control of supplier quality and risk processes by systematically scheduling (although unscheduled events can be accommodated too), executing, and recording quality-related activities, such as site visits, corporate social responsibility (CSR) checks, risk assessments, quality audits, and product tests.

    Like the suite's other modules, Eqos Auditing and Compliance also leverages critical path planning to raise alerts for routine activities, and exceptions when predefined thresholds are breached, thus providing a more secure environment to better manage risk (that is, supplier compliance with retailer and regulatory requirements).

  3. Eqos Supplier Performance leverages best practice templates to continually improve supplier performance through scorecards-based reviews and appraisals. Today, successful retailers remain focused on driving the very best performance from each and every strategic supplier. Joint goal-setting and collaborative processes help drive performance improvements in areas such as on-time delivery, product quality, and regulatory compliance.

    A view of both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of supplier performance and built-in tools and techniques are provided, which enables the development of shared, customized KPIs; scorecard reporting; supplier comparison dashboards; and performance target review—all to encourage both parties to review progress on a scheduled basis and to engage suppliers in a continuous improvement process. This module helps to formalize measurements by monitoring performance against pre-established objectives, and reporting results either graphically or in conjunction with existing data repositories.

  4. The Eqos KPI Management module collects and analyzes key performance data across the global supplier base and delivers this data to targeted decision makers via dashboards. Eqos is working with the world's leading retailers to incorporate best practices and industry-standard data into its evolving KPI Management module. Most retailers are consistently striving to improve the performance of each and every one of their suppliers. Leaders are effectively building and managing supplier relationships and looking for ways to improve the performance of their overall supplier networks.

    This module captures and publishes multidimensional KPIs on a near real-time basis, and delivers KPI reports with threshold breaches direct to decision makers. Dashboards synthesize “top 10” and “bottom 10” measures so that senior management can take the appropriate proactive action on a daily basis. The emergence of industry standards, more effective KPI programs, and analytic tools are enabling companies to benchmark individual suppliers against other in-network partners as well as suppliers outside the retailer's network.

How Can All These Moving Parts Be Implemented?

The suite's broad functional footprint aside, Eqos is especially proud of its complementary services portfolio, which stems from a decade of direct experience in providing sourcing and supplier management solutions to some of the world's leading retailers. Along with this portfolio of services, Eqos's professional services and customer response teams are confident that customers will begin meeting time-to-value objectives within 60 to 90 days. From program and project management through to configuration and solution deployment, Eqos Express Implementation Services ensures the availability of professionals with the industry and technology expertise required to fill any gaps in the retailer-supplier community expertise, and thus get the user's global sourcing and supplier management programs up and running more quickly.

The solution provides both retail sourcing and program management expertise (in terms of the implementation program scoping, business case definition, delivery phase definition, project budget and task management, and providing the Eqos executive sponsor). It also provides collaborative project planning both locally and globally, solution configuration and systems integration, and the ability to assess and integrate with the current IT infrastructure. Given these capabilities, Eqos claims to constantly deliver a rapid return on investment (ROI) with minimized project cost and risk.

The Eqos sourcing implementation methodology goes through several distinct phases, starting with the mobilize phase, where the customer engages with Eqos's project team. The idea is to educate the project team about the business issues, and then to define the approach, plan, project scope, and representatives; conduct integration discussions; create the development environment; and onboard stakeholders—all within a time frame of two weeks.

Next comes the analysis phase, which typically takes four weeks. In this phase, the stakeholders must agree on business processes; conduct process simulation; define configuration, functional, infrastructure, and integration requirements; and conduct the gap analysis. The best practice sourcing consultation is provided here to “jump start” the correlation of business user requirements and define standard sourcing processes.

During this critical phase, the focus is on conducting requirements-gathering workshops and demonstrations with business representatives to identify functional gaps. Sessions focus on business processes, details, and practical, hands-on training on the current and future system. The delegates include business representatives from various departments (such as merchants, buyers, quality assurance, shipping, etc.), and they must define integration requirements and conduct the infrastructure sizing study via workshops with the existing enterprise applications providers and integration partners.

At the end of the analysis phase, the team has to clearly understand what needs to be done in order to set up the standard Eqos solution to meet the customer's needs, as well as where to obtain the necessary master data to upload into the system, how to integrate or interface the Eqos solution to existing legacy systems, and what hardware is required if Eqos will host the solution.

The next step is the four-week implementation/configuration phase to configure and implement the processes, configure the integration of systems (build the integration interfaces), procure and deploy any needed hardware, and conduct business process validation workshops. The goal here is to properly define and configure business data, and to set up roles and permissions before managing application testing and validation.

This step is followed by a four-week long testing phase that entails the users' validation of configuration (user acceptance testing) and integration testing. The deploy and train and go-live and rollout phases can take as many weeks as necessary, and they consist of the physical installation and deployment of the solution, intensive training to further skill the users, support of the user community during go-live and pilot stages, and community development.

Eqos espouses the bifurcated implementation approach, with the flexibility of either a tailored implementation or a straightforward, out-of-the box deployment. Regardless of which type of implementation is chosen, the first step is to meet with key stakeholders within the business and IT organizations, and gather information to determine the key business drivers and to identify pain points and impediments, as well as opportunities for improvement.

The next phase involves developing a scope document. A scope document articulates, at a high level, the key business opportunities (to quantify the potential ROI) for which high-level, “as-is” processes must be specified. Should users opt for an out-of-the-box implementation, then logically, customers must use standard business processes and workflows, standard screen interfaces, standard reports, and standard business form layouts. Pilot implementation with limited ROI focuses merely on critical business processes, limited supplier community, targeted training, standard role-based configuration, engaged user community, rapid implementation, limited portion or scope of the business, and best practices.

In the case of the more involved and tailored outside-the-box implementation, the team must design more detailed business processes with associated business rules; custom interfaces, including the look and feel of transactional screens; custom reports; and custom requirements for business forms (such as requests for proposal [RFPs], bids, purchase orders, invoices, etc.). The team must also develop custom training programs for administrators, super or power users, end users, etc., and develop customized documentation and “quick reference” materials.

Other possible deliverables of the Eqos sourcing implementation with a full ROI include the deployment of global best practices, development of a business case, establishment of process standards, creation of a global training program, definition of end-to-end sourcing processes, and development of a partner community, as well as customer-specific product configuration, systems integration, and establishment of an IT production infrastructure.

Functionality Bolstered by a Wealth of Services

Eqos's customers typically report a total cost of ownership (TCO) in the seven-figure range (give or take), while a hosted service should accommodate IT budget–constrained customers. The need to focus on core retailing activities and to not be distracted by non-core activities is leading retailers to acquire solutions on demand, which is especially appropriate for those retail companies focused on reducing capital spending and on improving time-to-value while supporting the rapid deployment of private label programs.

For retailers that would like to minimize upfront technology investments, reduce cost and time to entry, and lower the risk of business disruption, or for those that simply want to defer decisions and bring the solution in house at a later date, Eqos can provide broad solution hosting capabilities. This type of solution can manage all hardware, software, connectivity, and ongoing technology-oriented operations on behalf of the retailer. More specifically, Eqos provides hardware, data center footprints, Internet bandwidth, physical and electronic security, ongoing application management, and ongoing systems management. The vendor's experienced and fully equipped hosting team uses a secure data center with redundancy, and provides local support in the US, European, and Asian time zones, as well as Web-enabled change and problem resolution systems.

Therefore, in addition to a broad and focused sourcing functionality that is backed up with a well-devised technology blueprint, the vendor's consultancy skill-set, knowledge, and domain expertise in the supplier relationship management (SRM) arena is further extended in the context of solution development and integration, hosting and community management, professional training, and ongoing customer support. The realm of systems integration and architecture blueprint entails examining the user's architectural landscape, validating the stand-alone system's viability, defining integration requirements, implementing enterprise integration, onboarding the supplier network, formal testing of integration points, and defining and sizing hosting requirements. Further, customer support includes first- and second-tier user support, third-tier software support, the administration of the user community, a physical hosting of application environments, application management, server monitoring, and software deployment.

In terms of a global rollout of products and services, the following are all necessary: a definition of the solution's deployment approach, identification of global user communities, management of education and communications, training of users, and onboarding of the user community. Specifically, the onboarding of and collaboration with trading partners is a new discipline for many organizations; traditionally, enterprise systems kept retailers focused on internal processes rather than on embracing suppliers and extending processes across the retail supply chain.

Built on a collaborative platform from the outset, Eqos's solutions are designed to deliver community support across the global trading partner network (the ecosystem of suppliers, 3PLs, auditors, testing specialists, etc.). The Eqos Customer Response Center (Eqos CRC) is experienced in engaging and rolling out solutions to large supplier communities across multiple time zones, thereby removing the administrative burden of maintaining supplier connectivity. The center aims at providing faster access to the global market place via self-registration and ongoing administration of community members, with a rollout methodology for a rapid engagement and training of the entire community.

This is part four of the series One Vendor's Quest to Garner a Global Sourcing Ecosystem. Part five identifies and discusses the challenges that Eqos faces in its mission to become the leading provider of global sourcing and supplier management solutions for the retail supply chain worldwide.

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