Many companies agree that diversity is a good thing, but connecting buyers with minority-owned suppliers has long been a challenge. Rod Robinson, CEO of ConnXus, founded his company out of his growing frustration as a government procurement officer and small business owner.
Speaking during an expert roundtable at the recent SAP Ariba Live 2017 event, Robinson explained why partnering with SAP Ariba supports both companies’ shared purpose-driven mission.
“I created ConnXus after realizing how inefficient and under-invested the market was,” he said. “Bringing technology to bear on the problem to shine a light on the data was the first step. Being able to attract a partner like SAP Ariba is the second. I knew we’d begin as a direct channel to customer, but to truly change the world for greater efficiencies and effectiveness, you have to partner with world’s largest business network.”
The partnership aims to help companies improve supplier diversity whether it’s because of direct or unconscious bias, or lack of awareness of their existence. Jon Stevens, global senior vice president of Business Networks at SAP Ariba, said that companies want diversity not only in their workforce, but also across suppliers for speedy innovation.
“Small, diverse companies are nimble and very responsive. Having a diverse supply chain allows you to react quickly,” he said. “The other major benefit is having diverse opinions and points of view, which lead to greater innovation at a faster pace. One of the challenges our customers have is awareness of diverse suppliers. Our partnership connects the largest business network to the largest diverse network.”
Unlike past diversity solutions, which often reported to human resources, Robinson said integrating it with procurement produces stronger results. “We’re focused on bringing diversity into procurement where it should be,” he said. “What differentiates ConnXus is that we’re staying true to our expertise.”
Process innovation is just as important
Robinson shared examples of how companies are using the network to innovate faster by developing both new products as well as “new ways to approach old problems.” One supplier responded to an RFP opportunity with an idea for changing the buyer’s product specifications that would significantly reduce costs. Stevens discussed the collaboration network in the context of post-apartheid empowerment programs in South Africa. He cited how two sisters operating a cleaning service used the network to develop new offerings by working with a broader set of customers.
Diversity that makes a difference
As companies expand, many want to track diversity spend for preferential procurement programs or meet geographically specific objectives. Robinson said ConnXus is supporting these demands, along with others including “matchmaking” within a company’s larger supplier base, as well as a subscription-based model for small and midsize business. One new offering provides impact results to buyers reporting on outcomes like jobs and wage rates.
IDC research predicts that by the end of 2018, 90% of manufacturing supply chains will use B2B commerce networks as the primary collaboration tool for demand, supply, service, and new product development. That’s just one sector. Cloud-based B2B networks like are the innovation growth engines for the new economy.
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