We always talk about APIs so now we're going to write a bit about APIs. If you've talked with us or found the right pages on our website, you know that Vendorful has been built in "API-first" fashion. What does this mean? We work back to front, creating API tests, then the API, and then a front-end that calls the API. This enables us to practice Test-Driven Development (TDD), which confers a heap of benefits on its own.
But back to APIs for a moment. These are generally internal as publishing them would be overwhelming and likely useless. However, when a customer asks us to expose particular capabilities, we can turn Vendorful's private APIs into public ones. Once they are released to the world, the maintenance of these public APIs is different, but remains very much in keeping with the way to develop software.
This blog post is going to be devoted largely to the release of some public APIs and will touch on a couple of other enhancements as well.
Authentication and Vendor Management APIs
It happened at once — multiple customers decided that they wanted to move their vendor onboarding process from manual to automated. So rather than swapping a bunch of emails with vendors and keying data into an ERP, the vendor self-onboards in Vendorful and the collected data is synchronized to the ERP (and/or any other systems that need it).
When we started Vendorful, we had a very narrow focus: RFPs for complex and/or expensive IT purchases. We had a couple of prospects that loved what we had built, but they wanted that same simplicity for managing their existing vendors rather than sourcing new ones. And that feedback ultimately turned into a robust standalone module. These prospects, both of which became customers, were using Excel, shared folders, and the like to manage their respective supply bases. So our focus was on giving them a simple UI where they could see and manage all of the information in one place. In addition, we wanted to make it east for vendors to add and update their information in a self-service manner. Thus began the development of what grew into our Vendor Management module.
As our business has grown, so too has the existing infrastructure footprints of our customers. Now, a "typical" Vendorful customer likely has an ERP, AP, and/or e-procurement system. And they regularly face the prospect of manually keying in data or running the risk that key data falls out of date.
By exposing a public API, we allow our customers to have a single point of entry for vendor onboarding. While this could be another third-party system, our customers are now using Vendorful for this. The vendor onboards into Vendorful and the data is sync'd via the API to other systems. If data should change in another system, it can be sync'd to Vendorful as well. On top of that, Vendorful can act as an update orchestration system when its API is used to update multiple systems.
Vendorful's audit histories can show the calling system (e.g. SAP) as well as the user allowing for a full narrative to support data changes: "This data was changed at this time, by this user, using this application."
To learn more about the API, we invite you to check out our documentation:
Vendor Survey Reminders
One of the ironies about starting a company that promises to reduce the amount of work that is done via email is that our customers keep asking for more email capabilities! Last month, we rolled out a reminder system that allows account administrators to send email notification reminders to people who have outstanding vendor assessment surveys. (This is part of the Vendor / Supplier Scorecard module.)
An interesting insight into how we develop features is that we like to consider all the way things could go wrong and then mitigate those risks. In this case, one of the concerns was that multiple people with the appropriate permissions could send out reminders. So we addressed this my only allowing these specific reminders to be sent once per day.
Enhanced Notes on Vendors
While the bulk of our development ties back to customer requests, the asks are often a bit more opaque than we realize. For example, we had several customers ask us for the ability to leave notes on a vendor record. This made sense. There is a lot of structured data tied to the vendor record so allowing users to complement this with some unstructured data was quite logical.
However, what we found is that the way people actually want to use the feature is different than what we anticipated. Our expectation was that users would want something akin to a permanent, immutable record. In reality, what they wanted was a way to capture non-specific information that might be relevant for a short period of time.
To that end, we've added the ability to both edit and delete notes on the vendor record. Based on the early feedback, this is one of those small changes that results in a significant boost in customer happiness.
Want to check out these new features in action? Sign up for a Vendorful demo.