As one of the first companies to harness the power of the internet to connect people, Facebook has become synonymous with social media. Today, more than 3 billion people use Facebook services each month. Additionally, more than 140 million businesses have a presence on one or more of Facebook’s products, including Instagram, connecting them with consumers and other businesses around the world.
The company formally launched its supplier diversity program in October 2016, headed up by Jason Trimiew. A veteran of connecting small and medium-sized businesses around the world with economic opportunity, Trimiew previously ran the supplier diversity program for Super Bowl 50.
At Facebook, he saw an opportunity to not only help diverse suppliers compete for contracts with the company itself, but also leverage Facebook’s products and services to transform the way diverse suppliers connect to each other, to their customers, and to the tools and resources that enable them to grow.
“At the end of the day, Facebook is a platform to help bridge connections between people,” he said. “I want to harness that capability to equip entrepreneurs, particularly from diverse communities, with the tools for and the access to economic opportunity.”
Support Diverse Supplier Adoption in a Decentralized Purchasing Environment
At Facebook, purchasing works differently than it does at most other companies. Facebook’s motto is “move fast with stable infrastructure,” a guiding principle that values and enables entrepreneurial thinking and autonomous action. This makes partnering with diverse suppliers especially appealing, Trimiew said.
“We love to partner with third parties at Facebook,” he said. “Our primary criteria is that the supplier is ready on day one to come in and make an impact [and] deliver. We find time and time again that working with diverse suppliers, particularly smaller companies, actually brings us much more value because we’re dealing directly with decision makers; we’re dealing with entrepreneurs directly.
“Working with large companies may make procurement easier, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be working with the speed, nimbleness, and entrepreneurial talent that you would get working with a diverse company,” Trimiew continued. “I try to encourage folks that if they can work with a diverse supplier, they should do it every time. Not just because they’re diverse and it checks a box, but with the intent to work with a company that’s going to respond to your needs in a way that a large global conglomerate won’t.”
Embracing an entrepreneurial mindset extends to how Facebook engages with suppliers from the start. The company empowers employees to find and begin working with suppliers as needed, then loop in procurement later to formalize the partnership using an internal tool called Buy@.
“One of the things that’s unique about Facebook is we are really decentralized in the way we buy things,” Trimiew said. “So almost any employee can engage a third-party supplier if they need a third-party supplier to get their job done.”
Though this decentralized approach speeds up the procurement process in many ways, it also exposed a need for a supplier locator tool. When Trimiew joined Facebook, supplier information was stored in an Oracle database without a user interface. Discovering suppliers—diverse or otherwise—was cumbersome. “Imagine you’re launching a new product and you want to hire a market research firm to test the sentiment around this new product,” Trimiew said. “Say you’re new to Facebook, maybe you just started in the last six months. Unless you asked a colleague who have we used in the past for this kind of stuff, you would have no idea which suppliers to contact. There was no internal tool to look up that information.”
Adding to the complexity is the fact that Facebook’s supplier diversity program is not designed to scale as a separate entity so much as it is designed to become fully embedded in the company’s unique procurement practices. Yet as the company itself grew— from around 17,000 full-time employees in 2016 to about 50,000 at the end of Q1 2020, most of whom have the ability to work with third-party vendors—Trimiew’s small team began fielding more and more inquiries about how to engage diverse suppliers.
“I’m not trying to build a program because programs come and go,” Trimiew said. “I’m trying to build a muscle, to build something into our DNA so that when we partner with third parties, I want people to first think of diverse suppliers.”
Trimiew’s challenge was two-fold: make diverse supplier data accessible to tens of thousands of employees while also maintaining the intentionally small supplier diversity team.
“Facebook has an aggressive internal supplier diversity goal,” he said. “So people were coming to us more and more wanting to engage with diverse suppliers, suppliers we recommend. We just knew that was not sustainable. We can’t, and don’t plan to, scale our team to handle that, so we needed a tool to do it for us.”
Powering Discovery and Fueling Impact with Facebook DiSuL
Trimiew saw an opportunity in the need for an accessible supplier database for Facebook employees. If he could provide a tool to solve that pain point, why not optimize it for supplier diversity from the start?
With those twin goals in mind, Trimiew engaged supplier. io to collaborate on a solution. “We were looking for a partner who would join us on this journey of using tools and technologies to make diverse suppliers a part of the course of how we do business at Facebook,” Trimiew said.
The Supplier Explorer tool, powered by Supplier.io’s industry-leading diverse supplier database, became the framework for Facebook’s first supplier discovery tool: Diverse Supplier Locator (DiSuL, pronounced “diesel”).
DiSuL’s tagline is “powering discovery, fueling impact.” Creating impact is a primary driver at Facebook while cost savings are a lower priority, but Trimiew sees DiSuL as a tool that will deliver both.
“As part of the procurement organization, we are growing and maturing to help our company understand the value of being strategic and intentional about how we spend our money, and part of being intentional is leveraging the talent in the diverse supplier community,” he said.
However, rather than evangelize supplier diversity, DiSuL is presented as a dependable, dynamic supplier discovery tool—a resource anyone in the company can access through a user-friendly interface.
“DiSuL is a self-service tool that enables supplier discovery,” Trimiew said. “It just happens that all the suppliers are diverse suppliers.”
Powered by Facebook’s Oracle database and Supplier.io’s master database, DiSuL includes 250,000 suppliers in three categories:
1. Suppliers who were previously onboarded with Facebook, which are given top ranking in search results because they have a prior relationship with the company.
2. Suppliers who have registered their interest in doing business with Facebook through the company’s diverse supplier portal, which is managed by Supplier.io and vetted by Trimiew’s team.
3. Suppliers who have registered via Supplier.io’s tools and meet Facebook’s fundamental criteria for diverse suppliers, namely that they are certified or self-identify as minority-, women-, LGBT-, veteran-, and/or disabled-owned businesses.
DiSuL is single sign-on enabled, meaning that if you’re logged into Facebook’s system, you don’t need a separate password to access the tool. Trimiew and Supplier.io collaborated with Facebook’s enterprise team to connect DiSuL to Buy@, Facebook’s internal procurement tool, adding richer capabilities and functions.
Users can search for suppliers in DiSuL, find one that meets their needs and is already onboarded with Facebook, and then click a button through DiSuL’s connection to Buy@ to start a purchase requisition (PR). The supplier’s information is automatically populated into the PR, simplifying the process enormously.
Alternatively, if a supplier is inactive or new to Facebook’s supply chain, then an employee can invite them to onboard directly from DiSuL.
“DiSuL directly addresses an increasing need, which is people reaching out to our team and saying, ‘Hey, can you help me identify a diverse supplier for this?’ Now we’re able to point them to a tool so they don’t have to come to us first. They can access it directly and begin their supplier discovery journey.”
Always-On, On-Demand Supplier Diversity
DiSuL is still in the early days of launch, but Trimiew sees it as the future of efficient, inclusive sourcing for Facebook.
“There’s this adage that diverse suppliers don’t exist for the products or services needed,” he said. “It’s one of the most annoying things supplier diversity professionals hear every day. So being able to solve for that discovery with a tool like DiSuL meets one of our most fundamental challenges.”
Trimiew is already seeing how the supplier diversity “muscle” is getting stronger at Facebook. After launching DiSuL, the enterprise engineering team came back to him and suggested an added function that flags requests for proposals (RFPs) with no diverse suppliers included in the invitation to bid.
“This was a case where the enterprise engineering team was saying, ‘We want to make sure people have these points of friction,’ saying, ‘You’re not using a diverse supplier, you should consider it,’” he said. “I was like: You know you’ve done something right when the product builders are saying, ‘We need to insert this.’”
The new addition requires that anyone sending such an RFP acknowledges that it does not include diverse suppliers. They can then go to DiSuL directly from the Buy@ tool and search for a supplier that may be relevant to their needs.
Trimiew is encouraged by this feedback as well as early engagement with DiSuL.
“Through tools like DiSuL, we’re creating a persistent, always-on, on-demand supplier diversity program,” Trimiew said. “It doesn’t require a person but provides tools that enable people to find the resources they need.”
Building an Industry Standard
Facebook and Supplier.io built DiSuL to address the fundamental challenge of discovering diverse suppliers, but that’s just the beginning. Currently, the teams are collaborating to build an application programming interface (API) that will validate a supplier’s certification status and automatically add them to DiSuL, no matter their entry point into the supply chain.
Trimiew also envisions a function in Buy@ that suggests diverse suppliers to include based on parameters stipulated in an RFP, drawing from the DiSuL database but without accessing that tool directly.
Tracking usage of DiSuL, including search terms and end-product purchases, is another enhancement Trimiew is working on with Supplier.io. The wealth of data to be gleaned from search is big business, and Trimiew wants to use the data from DiSuL to surface trends in purchasing decisions within Facebook to refine the tool.
Trimiew’s team collaborated with Supplier.io and the Facebook enterprise team to build a bespoke supplier discovery solution that will, he hopes, become a standard within the industry.
“We aren’t doing this just for Facebook,” Trimiew said. “I want to see supplier diversity be on the front lines of innovation. I don’t want to see us always playing catchup, always using technology that’s 10 years behind. We have relatively cheap and widely accessible tools that could enable discovery and engagement of diverse suppliers in a more scalable and meaningful fashion.”
Ultimately, the development of this supplier discovery tool goes back to Trimiew’s career-long mission: connecting businesses with economic opportunity.
“We never wanted DiSuL to just be an enhancement so that Facebook has a better product,” he said. “I’m doing this because we want to create more economic opportunity for these businesses that have the grit, the talent, the determination—but often lack the connection. Our platform is uniquely positioned to help make those connections real, make them durable, and make them powerful. We want this to be something that moves the whole field of supplier diversity forward.”