Purchaser's Lesson In RSS Technology

PurchTips edition #73


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Can You Track All Of Your Key Suppliers On One Screen?

In an earlier article, I made the prediction that RSS technology would revolutionize supplier interaction. Since then, several individuals have asked me to provide more information.

This article will help you get RSS working for you for its current applications. Currently, using RSS for supplier interaction is only a vision I have. But with the steps in this article, initiative on your part, and the cooperation of your key suppliers, RSS can help you manage day-to-day supplier performance better than any tool out there.

What you'll be doing by following this lesson is setting up a way for you to use a single screen to track updates of various data sources through RSS "feeds" transmitted via the Web. After you complete the steps of this lesson, you'll learn more about how this same approach can be used to track supplier performance.

There are two approaches you can take to receive RSS feeds: through software or through a Web site. If you are using a computer on which you can download and install software (even if it is your home computer), keep following this lesson. I feel that using software to track RSS feeds is the best approach as you get "pinged" when there is an update.

If you are not able to install software, click here to follow the alternate approach - using a Web site to track your RSS feeds. While you won't get pinged with updates, visiting a single Web page will still provide you with access to all updates from various sources.

If you are still reading this page, you want to install FeedReader software to receive your RSS feeds. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to this Web site: http://tinyurl.com/4oaeb
  2. Click on the icon in the Download column for the Location nearest to you.
  3. Follow the instructions for installing the software. Note: If you are prompted to save
    or run the software, I like to save it first and then run/open it.
  4. You should now have the FeedReader icon on your desktop screen - the screen
    that you see before starting any programs. Minimize or close all windows
    so you can see the desktop screen.
  5. Double click on the FeedReader icon to open it.
  6. Open up your Internet browser (e.g., Internet Explorer)
  7. Go to my blog at http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/blog.
  8. On the right-hand side, under "Links), find and click on the link that says "Site Feed".
  9. Highlight the entire address (also called a URL) from your browser's Address bar. The address will look something like this: http://purchasingcourses.com/atom.xml.
  10. Click on "Edit" at the top of your browser window, then select "Copy" from the menu.
    This copies the Web address so you can paste it later.
  11. Go to the FeedReader screen that you opened in Step 4.
  12. Click on the "New Feed" or "Add Feed" button. You will then be prompted to enter a URL.
  13. Right-click over the space to enter the URL to display a command menu.
  14. Click on "Paste" to insert the URL that you copied.
  15. Click on the "Next" button.
  16. Click on the "Finish" button.

    Under the "My Feeds" section of the main FeedReader screen, you'll see "Charles' Purchasing Certification Blog." Every time that you open FeedReader, it will check for updates from my blog. If my blog has been updated, you will hear a audio tone and a small message will pop up in the corner of your screen with the title of my blog post (this is called being "pinged" ). You can click on the title to read the post within FeedReader and click again to view the Web version of the post.

    FeedReader will also maintain all of these feeds under "Charles' Purchasing Certification Blog." for you for future reference.

    OK. Let's subscribe to one more RSS feed - CNN's news feed. Follow these steps...
  17. Go to http://www.cnn.com.
  18. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
  19. Click on "Add RSS Headlines".
  20. Highlight the URL that corresponds to "Top Stories" in the middle of the screen.
    It will look something like this: http://rss.cnn.com/rss/cnn_topstories.rss
  21. Repeat Steps 10 - 16.

You'll also get pinged whenever CNN posts a new story. Feel free to subscribe to RSS feeds from other sites, too.

For each day over at least the next week, make sure that you open FeedReader each time you start your computer and keep it open for the entire time you are using the computer. This will give you a good feel for RSS' capabilities.

So what does all this have to do with supplier performance?

Imagine that instead of seeing "Charles' Purchasing Certification Blog" and CNN.com in your "My Feeds" section, you saw the names of your key suppliers. And imagine that clicking on the name of a supplier would show you status updates for all of your critical orders instead of blog entries and news stories. Then, imagine getting pinged whenever there is a critical update from a supplier - like a shipment of an emergency order. Finally, imagine having a single screen where you can access information about every critical shipment over a period of time for all of your key suppliers.

Are you starting to see how RSS can be a great tool for managing supplier performance?

Now it is up to you. Identify those suppliers who (a) have excellent transaction-capable Web sites and (b) consider you a key customer. Share the RSS vision with them. Ask them to get their IT staff working on publishing automatically generated, XML-based RSS feeds of your order status updates.

It may not be implemented tomorrow. But I see RSS feeds as the future of buyer-supplier interaction.

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