The following is a guest post from April Rassa, head of product marketing and growth at Progressly.
Effective supplier or vendor management is all about communication, expectations, and contracts. While all of the above are important for building strong relationships with external vendors, there’s a key element missing: internal processes.
What processes are you running to ensure that you’re the best possible partner for your suppliers?
Today’s company-supplier relationships are subject to a variety of influences, including reorganizations, product launches, code of conduct updates, regulatory changes, as well as security and safety audit outcomes — to name just a few. In this ever-shifting milieu, it’s far too easy for companies to throw up their hands and proclaim their erratic behavior or sudden changes in direction are totally out of their control.
But with proper planning and strong internal processes, all of these changes can be foreseen and smoothed out. Here are 5 tips for becoming an excellent partner to your suppliers by getting your house in order first:
1. Go paperless
Jumping into a new routine or process can be intimidating – as we’ve seen with enterprises going paperless.
Many offices are stuck in this predicament: They have filing cabinets full of paperwork that haven’t been touched in 10, possibly 20+ years, and as people come and go these files keep becoming someone else’s responsibility.
Gen-Xers and millennials have established themselves in the workforce and expect to be able to access their work anytime and from anywhere, be it the cloud or their phone. In fact, according a recent Pew Research study, this year millennials will surpass baby boomers and Gen-Xers to become the largest generation in the American workforce.
The goal for companies is to stem the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality, which drives out younger employees who crave digitization and flexibility and embrace paperless initiatives.
2. Keep your records up to date
Going paperless will help you tremendously with another important way to take control of your supplier management processes: keeping your records up to date.
Having a clear assessment and inventory of existing contracts is key, and the best way to do that is to digitize them.
Start by creating a central repository of data that’s easy to navigate. Once it’s up and running, have regular supplier audits to make sure your records are always up to date and changes are communicated across your team.
3. Make sure internal controls are efficient
Strong internal controls will keep your team marching in the right direction, but there’s always a tradeoff between mitigating risk and enabling efficiency.
There are two key steps you can take to boost efficiency without sacrificing quality:
- First, use technology that ensures the approval process is easily accessible by key stakeholders and easy for them to understand and navigate.
- Second, make sure that same technology gives decision makers centralized access to everything they need to move a plan or a contract forward. The less time an approver spends digging around for missing info, the better.
4. Simplify your collaboration tools
This key step is as valid internally as it is externally.
Obviously, strong collaboration with your suppliers is key to a successful relationship, but your internal team also needs an effective way to manage key contract milestones like renewal dates.
Nothing will frustrate your partner more than having multiple overeager procurement and supplier managers reaching out to different touchpoints about the same contract renewal. Make sure your team is lined up first before you expose the organization to the embarrassment caused by unnecessary thrash.
5. Drive accountability and transparency
Nurturing long-term relationships with suppliers requires maintaining open communication for sharing plans, ideas and (in some cases) inventory. One of the best ways to provide the necessary transparency is to document supplier processes (again — something that can only be competently pulled off if you are paperless).
Once defined and agreed upon, these shared processes will drive accountability on both sides of the table. Ideally, your process management solution will also enable you to assign tasks and gain visibility on outputs and performance. These open collaboration tools will ultimately enhance collaboration as you shift from problem-finding to problem-solving — together.
Supplier relationship management is hard enough — don’t make it harder by giving in to internal disorder. Starting with that first key step of going paperless, these simple suggestions will help your organization focus on improving efficiencies, supporting compliance, and building healthier supplier relationships while mitigating risk.
April Rassa leads Product Marketing and Growth at Progressly. April has more than 20 years of marketing and leadership experience across various industries and a strong advocate for the overall customer experience. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn