It’s critical for any technology business to be fanatical about the continuous development of its services. The day you stop developing, you’re signing your own death warrant.

Over the last couple of years, Applegate has invested heavily in new technology, replacing all our systems front and back. There’s not a single line of code that’s more than two years old.

Now, we’re launching further new services, in Beta form initially, that will in future provide additional analysis for our clients. We’re also commencing development of Artificial Intelligence services, supported by a grant from Innovate UK, the UK government innovation unit, and working in collaboration with the Machine Learning team at Exeter University.

In recent years Applegate has expanded our platform to include the new website, our searchable business information database and Applegate PRO. Over two thousand business and government bodies use this to raise requests for quotations (RFQs) for things they need to buy, ranging from machined parts to promotional gifts; cleaning services to reactor components. Now, in addition, we are rolling out information services that will provide:

  • feedback on the outcome of RFQs: whether a supplier has been successful or unsuccessful, broad guidance as to whether the quote was at the more expensive or cheaper end and whether the response was faster or slower than others (whilst some buyers decline to share the outcome, we now follow-up on every RFQ and will usually be able to inform clients of the result);
  • a monthly report on activity within each client’s sector and, if they have responded to RFQs during the month, data on those and their positioning.

These are Beta services that will be rolled out gradually to clients; we would welcome feedback. It’s become clear that we’re building up valuable intelligence on the behaviour and needs of buyers in different sectors; we’re keen to identify how we can best use this to support our clients.

We are continuing to invest in the platform and recently launched Applegate PRO Enterprise, for use by finance functions and procurement teams wishing to manage buying activity across their organisations. We’ve had great feedback from trial users; this should further increase usage of the system by professional buyers over time.

We will be launching further new functionality continually through the year ahead. One key development coming up regards matching suppliers to RFQs. From the start, we’ve taken the view that we should match a small number of relevant suppliers to each RFQ rather than making them available for anyone to respond to. This is a tough task, given the size of our client base and the complexity of business it encompasses, but we believe it’s critical so that suppliers know they’re not going to be one of hundreds of responses and buyers know they won’t be inundated with messages. We don’t always get the matching spot-on, and improving it is a core priority. In the months ahead, we will be working sector by sector to add more detailed options for buyers to select within an RFQ – specific to what they’re buying – and for suppliers to choose the nature of requests that will be of interest to them, so we can steadily increase the precision of matching.

Looking further ahead, we are delighted to have been awarded a prestigious grant from Innovate UK, the British government’s innovation agency, to advance our plans for an Artificial Intelligence system for RFQ matching. This will use Machine Learning, constantly improving the accuracy of matching as the system learns from outcomes to refine its approach. We are working with Exeter University to develop this, and have also set up an Artificial Intelligence Academy with our local college, Petroc, to provide sixth form students with experience of working on an AI project.

There are many more plans in the pipeline: perpetual revolution is the default position!

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