Supplier Onboarding: Implementation Tips and Key Recommendations (Part 3)

So far in our PRO series exploring the nuances of setting up a supplier onboarding program (see Supplier Onboarding: Defining and Setting a Strategy and Supplier Onboarding: Linking Design With Action) we’ve delved into many specific steps and elements necessary to implement an effective process. Yet achieving a level of program certainty around these recommendations and plans is not realistic prior to engaging with a solution provider – unless you are prepared to pay separately for the provider to go through the scoping and delivery documentation as an independent engagement (which can be a smart approach, and probably something that you can get at least partial credit for if you award the solution business later on).

Implementations typically (and with very large and/or bureaucratic clients, the headcount involved can escalate) involve a client-side project owner resource, ideally a direct report to the CPO or other senior executive, and a senior project manager from the solution provider. The solution provider lead likely reports to the VP of professional services and possibly also has project-based dotted report to the account manager, depending on organizational structure. This is important to understand, especially if the implementation is not going as planned.

We strongly advise against assigning these projects to junior resources. On the surface, supplier onboarding systems and programs might seem straightforward. But to lay the best foundation for both comprehensive data capture and rapid organizational adoption, someone with a firmer understanding of the company’s strategy and business needs (both those of internal stakeholders and those of customers) will likely be more effective.

Making Life Easier For Suppliers
Note that with the right deployment approach, not all suppliers have to follow the exact same workflow, depending on the category of product or service they provide for you. There are lots of potential “shortcuts” where non-applicable steps are bypassed. For example, domestic facilities management firms don’t have to wade through European labor laws, and non-California suppliers can skip a few steps as well. Combined with parallel instead of sequential steps (where applicable) this approach can reduce the time spent on the onboarding process by several months for the more bureaucratic organizations. And it can make suppliers that much more satisfied in working with your organization.

What’s the ideal SLM solution for me?
Why, it’s… actually, no, we won’t tell you! The reason for our secrecy is simply that there are so many solutions in the marketplace, with varying degrees of capabilities and functions. There are also service components in the mix that we haven’t touched. Then there are technical integration considerations that vary between companies. Additionally, you need to consider whether this is expected to address a point problem, or be part of a broader suite approach.

One size does not fit all – and this piece cannot address all permutations. We strongly recommend that you peruse our research library for information on the other areas as well as read the content on Spend Matters in general to inform yourself further.

Here are three very different papers to start (and this is just a very small subset from our library):

Can Supplier Management Be Saved? Analysis and Technology
MetalMiner’s Lisa Reisman looks at two specific examples from the automotive industry, and Spend Matters’ Jason Busch and Thomas Kase take an in-depth look from at some of the problems companies face when it comes to supplier management – and what they can do to address them

Supplier Lifecycle Management: Reduce risk, Improve Performance and Drive Supplier Value
Spend Matters UK’s Peter Smith looks at the concept of Supplier Lifecycle Management, which works from the premise that the supplier should be considered as central to procurement activities and processes. Peter also covers why choosing the best supplier and then managing them in a joined-up, integrated and consistent manner throughout their life as a supplier should be at the very heart of everything procurement professionals do and care about.

Is your Supplier Selection Process a Source of Competitive Disadvantage?
We describe how pre-qualification can help – or hinder – your efforts to improve procurement performance, and why it is an important part of the overall sourcing process. We explain the different purposes of the pre-qualification process, why it is important and how it can add value. We look at how to construct and manage an effective pre‑qualification programme, and the different stages involved in the process. We will also comment on the cost of the process, and the options, benefits and issues around using third parties to assist in the process, which can save significant time and money.

Beyond getting smart, there is much to be learned from demos and face-to-face interaction with solution providers. This is not a problem to solve by internal thinking alone. Such an approach carries the risk of implementing only what you needed for yesterday’s business rather than putting in place an adaptable supplier onboarding and management program that can provide a sourcing of continuous advantage based on flexibility and emerging needs and requirements which are just as likely to come from the outside as from within.

Final Takeaways
Based on our own lessons learned from selecting and implementing these tools over the past decade, there are a number of somewhat basic (but often overlooked) recommendations that are worth restating:

  • Develop Insights and Document Them – Understand how your vendor-engaging activities truly work. Explore internally by engaging all stakeholders and understanding, from their view, what is most important. And don't forget: document, document, and document – master that Visio tool!
  • Strategy – Take a step back and understand your company’s longer-term direction, and how this fits into a program designed to manage supplier involvement and activity – become a proactive partner to the overall business, not just current procurement and A/P needs.
  • Rigor – Don’t waver in your convictions. You will likely encounter many ad hoc steps as you conduct your fact-finding; these need to be sorted out one way or the other and must be addressed as part of improving and documenting processes.
  • Allies – Build partnership internally. Overlooking this step is likely a large reason why many firms are lagging behind the capabilities of the tools they have chosen, struggling with numerous data silos and rekeying along the way. Allies are key in all aspects of supplier management, and especially with mastering an onboarding program.
  • Patience – Like Rome, this is not an overnight build.
  • Early wins – Unfortunately, your CFO is not as patient as you need to be. The CFO expects returns this quarter and the allies you need will be more likely to rally to your defense if you can show at least one quick fix through this approach, that’ll buy you more time to pull off the bigger vision. Either that, or you’d better be best friends with the CEO – that also helps – and can tie supplier enablement and management into a broader agenda as part of a board level strategy. That helps too!

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