Do Portals Actually Increase Suppliers Workload?


“You mean my supplier doesn’t appreciate the fact he can check my portal about payment status?Comment from Fortune 500 company

APEX Analytix completed a recent survey and found that  60% of the supplier respondents had to log on to 10 or more portals every month; 10% log on to more than 50.  And, 40% said that portals had increased (rather than reduced) their department's workload.  I wrote about this previously, Are Too Many Supplier Portals Causing Companies Headaches?

Think about this for a minute. It would seem that suppliers that need to manage 10 or more portals would need to have a number of FTEs devoted. I've looked at Ford, Deeres, GM and other portals. It would seem there would be a benefit of an aggregator here that with single sign on, you can pull the data you need from multiple sites to manage, similar to what corporates do that need to run multiple bank platforms to issue LCs or Standbys do now with different service providers. Or what Yodlee provides for bank and credit card data. The trick of course is getting the portals to share the data, and there may be some data privacy issues around this.

My colleague, Pierre Mitchel, wrote a good piece about just what are supplier portals, see The Problems with Portals. He said, "First, you have to define what the heck you mean by a "supplier portal." Is it the web page and custom functionality you construct to coordinate all supplier interactions? Is it just a place for suppliers to check on payment status, do PO flips, and do some self-service data maintenance? Companies are all over the board in their definitions, and so are the technology suppliers who serve them."

Like Pierre, I find you have to look at these portal solutions by what they are asking you the supplier to do:


There are about 18,000 companies in the $100M to $1bn range in the States, and many sell to the Global 2000, who have a myriad of pcard, reverse factoring and einvoicing solutions sprinkled around the globe.  Enough to give you headaches?  You bet.   Can your IT resources handle the interface requirements in-house?  Probably, but is it a key priority?

Building a bespoke solution is unlikely to be cost effective as producing invoices in a number of different formats and sending via a number of different e-invoice networks requires an ongoing budget. Another option is to use a bill consolidator service from the likes of a company like Cloudtrade or BillTrust, which offers three modules for invoice presentment, payment and cash application of the payment.  So this really seems to be a potential issue for the small to medium size guys, and mostly small guys selling indirect services to large enterprises.

Supply Chain Finance or Reverse Factoring

Having a solution that enables you not to have to log on to multiple banks and vendors to access money from CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreen, Amazon, Costoc, etc. can be of real value.  What is of further value is to  get a single view of all the various buyer finance programs you work with and all the currencies that you settle invoices.  This would be a powerful cash flow planner and to get a consolidated view down to a single currency is powerful.

Back to the APEX Analytix Survey

According to APEX Analytix, top functions suppliers valued in the survey were in order:

  1. Registration/application to become a supplier,
  2. Self-service maintenance/update of address, contact info, etc.,
  3. Invoice payment status,
  4. Remittance advice,
  5. PDF invoice upload,
  6. Integrated invoice delivery (EDI, XML, CSV files),
  7. Early payment/dynamic discounting, and
  8. Online collaboration about invoice or payment questions.

According to this survey anyway, accessing early pay was #7.  #7!  So what does this say about early pay?

Certainly an interesting subject and one which is begging for more aggregation services.  I can see why the buyer had the quote above. They were looking at it only from their perspective.

Get your company listed in the Alternative Business Finance Almanac by signing up for a FREE Almanac listing today.

And don't forget to sign up for TFMs weekly digest delivered to your inbox every Monday here

First Voice


    We will land a man on Mars before we solve the supplier portal problem. This has been a big issue for 15 years now.

    I studied this extensively when writing my book. Getting the vendors to agree on interoperability is hopeless. Several organizations in the EU tried this for many years to no avail.

    Two better options in my opinion would be:
    1) Get buyers to publish RESTful APIs to supplier portals. This would be easy to do – the digital business groups (think Walmart @Labs) at the Fortune 500 are publishing APIs for various other functions. Sears has APIs for suppliers to list products on their B2C website. Once the APIs are in place aggregators could then build portals to centralize all the data with a single sign-on.
    2) Robots that can login into supplier portals automatically (instead of a human) then screen scrape the data and email it to the supplier. The technology already exists (think why we have CAPTCHAs), but hasn’t been applied to this use case yet.

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *