A Firm but Fair Approach to Supplier Portal Use

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Supplier portal engagement can be a major challenge: Daniel Ball, director at Wax Digital, UK eProcurement solution provider of Source-to-Pay solutions to mid-size and large organisations around the world, looks at how to best manage the process.

For many businesses and their suppliers, adopting processes like eInvoicing is a no a brainer, enabling a quick and efficient transaction from both sides. Businesses that engage with their suppliers electronically claim it delivers many efficiencies for both parties, so why then are some organisations finding it a challenge to encourage their suppliers to trade in this way too?

Large organisations or those that yield significant power in the supply chain can, if they choose, mandate that suppliers use their supplier portal, otherwise they won’t trade with them. However, the ‘build it and they will come’ strategy doesn’t work for all. What happens if you want to trade with an influential supply chain partner that refuses to engage with yet another supplier portal or has its own system? Or, how about the small family business that supplies to you but uses little technology and is reluctant to change the way it works and embrace electronic trading at all?

Whether it’s a large global organisation or a small farm holding, the key to effective portal engagement with suppliers is making it as easy as possible for them to trade with you in this way. There are plenty of supplier portals on the market and procurement professionals need to recognise what platforms are going to work best for their suppliers - ease of use should always feature at the top of the list.

Working with many organisations as they have undertaken the process of encouraging widespread adoption of a supplier portal, we’ve seen procurement teams successfully facilitate the change management process by investing in education, best practice Supplier Relationship Management and of course, a dose of gentle or occasionally firm, persuasion.

Key steps to consider include:

  1. Segment the supply base in terms of the type of supplier and volume of trade you undertake with them, and their importance to your business. Identify those suppliers whose poor use of the portal will have the biggest impact. They may be reluctant to trade electronically, but making it easy for them will encourage them to do so.
  2. Early, regular communication with your suppliers will help them to better understand what you are asking them to do and the reasons why. Make sure all supplier communications explain what it means for them.
  3. Be firm, but fair. It’s important not to rush suppliers and listen to their concerns, but it’s essential to be firm or the adoption process will take far too long. Let them know what’s required of them and when by.
  4. The procurement team should be prepared for how to handle objections and deal with queries as part of the process.
  5. Ensure the supplier portal you select is easy to use. The easier it is to navigate, the more suppliers will be willing to sign up.

A supplier portal that is used effectively by both suppliers and buyers will deliver benefits to both sides of the fence, but ultimately implementing a portal that is easy to use, good communication and managing the process is what will deliver long-term results.

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