You can build and deploy the best supplier collaboration tool available, but if your vendors are not on-board it’s as useful as an empty warehouse. The success of your collaboration project is directly tied to supplier willingness to use the system.
Any time you ask your vendors or partners to change their processes, there can of course be resistance or uncertainty, but by taking a few simple steps to make the supplier on-boarding process easy and pain-free, you can significantly increase the number of suppliers who participate and thereby the overall effectiveness of your collaboration ecosystem.
1. Be proactive.
Supplier on-boarding is the most critical process for any collaboration implementation, and organizations should address it proactively rather than reactively. Rather than waiting for problems or resistance to arise, make the case preemptively for the ROI the project will deliver via on-time payments, visibility to all demand, shorter cycle times and reduced manual labor. And prepare to make the process as seamless as possible from the beginning so that suppliers have no cause to push back.
2. Prioritize suppliers to on-board.
Based on the 80/20 rule, 20% of your suppliers will typically account for 80% of your spend. By focusing on that 20%, you will get more of your spend into the system even while on-boarding a smaller number of suppliers. Then, once your top vendors are on-board, expand your focus to the next tier.
3. Plan how your suppliers will connect.
Suppliers can be primarily divided between B2B suppliers who might connect via EDI / FTP (high volume and large suppliers typically fall into this category), and online suppliers who would use the web portal.
- B2B Suppliers: Determine if the suppliers already use a defined EDI format to send and receive data. Suppliers would easily buy into the system which uses a format which they already are using instead of developing a format specific to your need.
- Online Suppliers: With the new versions of browsers continuously being released, browser compatibility could become a stressful area if the collaboration platform does not support the browsers your suppliers are using. To avoid this issue, analyze all the browser versions used by suppliers and prioritize the onboarding of suppliers which use supported browsers. Work with the remaining suppliers to either change browsers or work with the collaboration platform vendor to add support for additional browsers. Keep in mind though that changing browsers is a lot easier and cost effective than developing support for a new browser.
4. Make registration of individual suppliers and users easy as possible.
Automatic on-boarding of 80% of your suppliers will allow your core team to focus on the 20% that run into issues.
- Allow your admins to send supplier email invitations with link, username and password. This will allow most of your suppliers to access the platform easily. However, some users will run into issues with any automated process, such as mis-copying a password or having the email blocked by spam filters. Have a core team standing by to resolve any issues (at least during initial phases of product implementation).
- Allow suppliers to submit various documents and required certificates online so they can be tracked efficiently.
- Allow for supplier admins to manage their platform space by:
- Adding and managing other users along with user roles/permissions
- Defining a set of preferences/settings such as what kind of default views or dashboards are available.
“…if the majority of your and your vendors’ time is spent handling invoicing, start with AP Automation.”
5. Plan for future growth.
A merger or acquisition by your organization can increase the number of suppliers to be on boarded as well as the type. If the organization is currently in an expansion phase, then plan for this by building as many connectivity and management options into your collaboration platform as feasible so that you can scale as needed.
6. Prioritize processes to implement.
For example, if the majority of your and your vendors’ time is spent handling invoicing, start with AP Automation. Because there is a significant need for this, suppliers are more likely to give it a try. Once the suppliers buy into this, depending upon the need, you can plan to roll out additional processes such as PO Collaboration or Ship Collaboration.
7. Plan to provide supplier training.
Training helps to form the initial perception of the platform and can ensure a positive experience.
- If your organization does not have the skillsets or logistics to do this, use the platform or other training vendors to develop and run the training plan. Some product vendors include some level of training when you buy the product. Work with them to effectively utilize that by targeting and customizing to your needs. If it will be a live training, the schedule needs to be planned a few weeks to a month in advance so that the suppliers have required information and the trainers develop the content to suit the audience.
- If your organization has the capability to conduct all future trainings, these initial trainings by the platform vendor can be used for Train the Trainer.
“Show suppliers that the investment on their part is minimal, while the return for both organizations is undeniable…”
Make Supplier On-boarding Easy for a Pain-Free Investment with a High Return
While there may be initial reluctance from suppliers to trying this new approach, with these few simple steps you can dissolve that resistance, show suppliers that the investment on their part is minimal, while the return for both your organizations is undeniable. And the more suppliers that sign on, the more successful your collaboration will be.