But I am stuck thinking about a tool I was briefed about a couple of weeks back by a company called FreeFlow. Its offering is a hosted inventory asset management system, something that a vendor and its supply chain can use to make excess inventory available to those who have a better shot at selling it. We're talking current products, by the way, not necessarily end-of-life stuff.
Say, for example, there is excess current inventory of a certain server configuration in region/state/country A, but a shortage of inventory in region/state/country B. The FreeFlow application could reallocate the product to the place it is needed most, based on criteria the vendor's field personnel select. Or it could be used to liquidate and move end-of-life inventory out of the supply chain before a new product release hits. Incidentally, the FreeFlow service links into the private marketplace platform from eBay for B2B auctions with approved wholesale buyers.
FreeFlow also offers a service called ChannelFlow, which lets a vendor conduct private auctions of excess inventory (at approved discounted pricing, if desired) to channel partners. I was interested to hear the service is being used in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division (which sells stuff including the Xbox gaming systems, mouse products and keyboards, and other embedded devices).
David Warrick, general manager for the Microsoft entertainment and devices business in EMEA, said the company decided to test FreeFlow in Europe first because of the complexity of the market and the vast number of SKUs that Microsoft has to support there. "The language differentials alone are staggering," Warrick said.
In the case of Microsoft, the company's own sales personnel are empowered to feed information into the system on behalf of retailers and distributors. Based on the success of his group with the service, other regions are now looking at adopting the service, he said.
Alan Scroope, founder and CEO of FreeFlow, which is headquartered in San Jose, Calif., said aside from helping with inventory management, using the service helps provide companies with market intelligence about what is selling—and what is not.
To be really useful to solution providers, I'd love to see FreeFlow (or something like it) be linked with distributors. Guess we'll have to wait and see on that one.
What are you buzzing about this week? Send feedback and story ideas to email@example.com. As always, I'll give precedence to comments that come from within the solution provider community.