Connecting with suppliers, retaining those connections and maximizing the benefits of having more spend under active management

October 4, 2013 Jay Keough

Part 2a  – Maximizing Supplier Portal Adoption and Making Those Connections Sticky – Successful Supplier Portal Usage Policies and Procedures

teamworkWith so many variations of supplier portals and so many approaches to delivering and supporting them, buyers and portal vendors sometimes miss sight of what makes a supplier portal successful.  In my view, the successful supplier portals are environments where buyers and their suppliers collaborate and where both parties get something in return for what they give.  This is the overriding theme for Part 2 of this series on maximizing supplier portal adoption and making those connections sticky.

One important, if not the most important driver of supplier portal adoption is the portal usage policies and procedures buyers adopt relative to supplier usage and obligations.  In a truly collaborative approach, the buyer is making a significant investment that holds many benefits for the supplier, so shouldn’t the supplier be obligated to embrace that investment?  And what about the expectations and obligations for the buyer’s supplier facing employees?  We have seen a 2x difference in supplier adoption between buyers who establish and follow solid portal usage policies and those who don’t.

So what buyer usage policies and procedures have the most impact on supplier portal adoption?  The most successful approaches include some hard stances and standards that benefit buyers but also serve as catalysts to drive portal adoption so that suppliers can realize portal benefits too.  Here is a summary of some highly successful approaches Taulia has encountered and in many cases encouraged buyers to embrace.

  • Modify supplier contracts such that, in the future, all new suppliers and all renewing suppliers are obligated to leverage the supplier portal for specific activities (e.g., visibility, eInvoicing, change of bank account, change of address…).
  • All supplier-facing employees must go through awareness training so that they can inform suppliers why they should use the portal and what benefits they can expect to receive.  Accounts payable, procurement and field personnel must become portal advocates.
  • Buyer staff must direct all status inquiries to the portal for common requests such as "did you receive my invoice" and "when will you pay" (invoices, payment, POs).  The call center should not field questions where the answers are available to suppliers on the portal 24x7x365.
  • Provided the buying organization offers an array of FREE eInvoicing options (different options based on supplier size and sophistication), and provided buyers accept any format in which their supplier(s) can deliver the invoice file (removes supplier IT barriers), most if not all suppliers should be obligated to engage some form of eInvoicing.  For example, Taulia’s customers often leverage our traditional ERP to ERP/integrated eInvoicing (for large suppliers), portal based eInvoicing (file upload, PO flip and web form entry) and automated processing of e-mailed invoices.  The latter two forms often appeal to small and medium sized suppliers.
  • Assuming that you establish eInvoicing as your standard for supplier invoice submissions, it’s important to ensure that almost all paper invoice submissions are discouraged if not rejected.  One of the most successful ways to discourage paper invoices is to define the invoice baseline date as the date the invoice is received as opposed to the date the supplier placed on the invoice.  After all, alternative methods are available to the supplier so why should the buyer be responsible for the postage cycle and capture process.
  • Assuming your portal provides PO visibility, electronic delivery to the supplier’s ERP or to the supplier portal should be the standards for PO delivery.  Mail, e-mail and fax delivery methods should be phased out to the extent possible.  Suppliers want their orders and they will go to a portal to pick them up.
  • A stance similar to POs above can be taken for remittance information.  Delivery to the portal for viewing and download should be the standard for most suppliers though exceptions can be made for large suppliers.
  • Require suppliers to update address, contact information and bank account information through the portal as opposed to paper or phone.
Stay tuned for Part 2b of Maximizing supplier portal adoption and making those connections sticky
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