We hate to waste time. We really hate to waste time doing something we don't like doing. Who really likes to do supplier research? I haven't met anyone yet and I have been doing this for about 10 years.
Supplier discovery is the bane of the sourcing professional. This is why you find so much complacency in the sourcing profession. The sourcing "professional" doesn't want to spend the time looking for a new supplier so they keep dipping into the same pool over and over again. This is one of the things that causes engineered results during the sourcing process. There isn't enough new information in sourcing gene pool and performance suffers.
Supplier discovery is also the bane of the project based engineer. Engineers went into engineering to build awesome things. They did not go into engineering to spend hours, days, and weeks, searching for and qualifying suppliers. As an aside, I would say companies that ask highly trained engineers to spend time in this function are really doing themselves a disservice.
It isn't an easy problem to solve. How can we accelerate the discovery time-line?
First we have to look at the way companies craft RFPs. Unfortunately, most of them are woefully incomplete. They don't contain the requisite amount of information to receive uniform quotations from the suppliers that do receive them. It is critically important that during the RFP creation phase companies include as much of the critical data as they can. Otherwise they leave things open to supplier interpretation and that is a huge cause of inconsistent data coming back from suppliers. Then, when you try and normalize the data you go into process of tail chasing that would rival most hyped up dogs.
Second we have to look at the supplier networks that exist and what differentiates one from the other. Supplier investment determines engagement. If you have supplier engagement you can create a demand driven environment where the right suppliers find you. If you don't have an invested supply base your supplier marketplace isn't much more than a glorified directory because your RFP response rate will be hit or miss. Directories have a lot of value, but they don't shrink the sourcing time-line.
When you are considering an enterprise sourcing tool make sure the embedded marketplace is an engaged one and you understand where the value lies. (HINT: It lies in what will save you the most time.)