Not every resource on your go-to research list has to be expensive and subscription-based. High quality resources are available that are free and open to everyone and are from reliable and respected sources. Here are my picks for the "top ten" for procurement professionals. What are yours?
Kompass is a free worldwide directory of business and commercial companies, representing over 55,000 products and services. Kompass uses a unique classification system to help you target specific companies/suppliers more easily. Categories are comprehensive and include Agriculture, Business Services, Construction, Chemistry, Energy, IT/Internet, Paper/Printing, Tourism/Leisure, Transport and Lodging, Training, and Textile/Clothing, to name a few.
Thomasnet.com is a standard reference that has been a favorite of buyers for years. There are six applications to choose from when using the platform. The Supplier Discovery application lets you find industrial and commercial suppliers by product/service category, company name, brand name, and UNSPSC. You can search by keyword and filter various ways. The Product Sourcing application has semantic search capabilities based on a classification system specific to engineering. The coverage focuses on North America. The ThomsonNet.com Corporate Edition for Walmart was recently launched.
Buyers' Guides - Industry Associations and Trade Journal Websites
There is a professional association for just about every type of industry, no matter how specialized. Most provide buyers' guides that are free to members and non-members, as well. Just as there is a professional association for almost every type of industry, there is also a professional or trade journal. These publications, more often than not, have companion websites with buyers' guides that are almost always free to access. Using these types of guides allows you to see how the supplier lists are broken down and categorized, which provides greater insight into the structure of the industry.
This one I'm still evaluating. FindTheCompany is a newer comparison tool where you can search, filter, and compare location, employee size, and sales volume (even for private companies) data points side by side. To start you select "Companies and Organizations" under "Recommended." Product keyword searching is not available, so you need to rely on industry subcategory dropdowns, which are detailed enough. The data sources used are openly provided.
There are many financial firm websites that provide free market and company data, in addition to Yahoo Finance, which is a fine website to use. Google Finance, also providing the same data, includes charts with data points that link to key company news stories and Google Domestic Trends, which shows trending activity for major categories.1
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Filings
Look at SEC filings for current and historical company, and other filings, for publicly traded companies (e.g., 10-Ks, 10-Qs, 8-Ks) through its Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval System (EDGAR). At the EDGAR Company search page, type in a company name. Click on the correct central index key (CIK) number. You can filter results at this page by filing type and date.
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports on primary commodity prices and forecasts. The Primary Commodity Price data are updated monthly. The Commodity Price Outlook & Risks monthly report presents a price outlook and risk assessment for selected commodities, as depicted in futures and options markets. The Commodity Market Monthly provides updates on commodity prices worldwide.
Thierry Decocq, founder of YQ Purchasing, with the support of the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, initiated the development of the YQ Matrix in 2009. YQ Matrix makes available, at mostly no charge, global prices, indices, and sourcing graphs on almost any product or raw material. Sourcing graphs vary from the simple to the complex.
Honorable Mentions: World Bank Commodities Markets and Producer Price Indexes (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Global Risk Insights
On Global Risk Insights’ open access site, political risk analysts provide insights into political developments around the world. You can browse by region or by topic (Politics, Economics, Security, Natural Resources, Technology, or Finance).
World Bank Data
The World Bank provides free and open access to data about development in countries around the globe. On the Data page, you can view information via country, topic, or indicators (over 2,000). By selecting indicators, you can do a search or browse the detailed listing. Topic areas of interest are: Economy and Growth, Education, Energy and Mining, Environment, External Debt, Financial Sector, Infrastructure, Social Protection and Labor, and Trade.
1. Jack Cahill and Emily Cox, "Google Finance and Yahoo Finance – How Do These Free Services Measure Up To the Premium Financial Databases Capital IQ and ThomsonOne?" The Bulletin, Business and Finance Division of the Special Libraries Association, Fall 2015, http://bf.sla.org/wp-content/uploads/bf-bulletin155-fall2015.pdf.pdf.