Supplier Portals are becoming increasingly important for large organizations.
You might be wondering why? It seems odd to have an upsurge in demand when you’ve had the obvious players in the market for a good number of years. Names such as Ariba, Tungsten, Jaegger, Basware, Coupa, etc. Many of which produce marketing claiming supplier portals, so surely that’s exactly what they are selling? The answer to that is no they are not, they are networks or they are transactional systems. Rigid and designed to help the vendor scale easily and quickly in the P2P arena. Mature organisations and experienced procurement professionals that have been around the block recognize this.
We are often asked if suppliers will be annoyed to have to log into a different portal for every customer that they work with? The answer is no, for a couple of very simple reasons. Firstly, there isn’t one global worldwide supplier portal. There are 100’s of networks so there is no better alternative, secondly, the supplier will have to provide this information manually or via email anyway, so a portal when compared to the status quo is still a much better option.
Another option that you will hear mentioned is to consider a Network. Once you move away from transactional processes like P2P it’s an illusion to think you will be able to use a Network to cover your requirements. Strategic processes are not standardized across customers and even within individual industries. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because you are in the same industry you will have a huge amount of overlap, the reality is very different. This article is not here to convince you of this but geared for those mature, complex organisations who have already tried and failed and are looking at how to do this successfully.
A supplier portal is something that needs to be very personalized and is seen by many as a competitive differentiator in the battle to become customer of choice, and also in the quest for perfect supplier data and the resulting efficiency gains and empowerment of the procurement function/buying side of the business.
With that in mind I decided to outline the five steps that come together to provide a roadmap to a ‘Global’ Supplier Portal. For the avoidance of doubt, by Global Supplier Portal we mean one entry point which can handle all the different variations you will have by operating in 100 countries, working with 10+ ERPs, different business units and yes different processes to handle all this complexity.
Can all of that come under one umbrella? It sure can and you can read our case studies or watch some of our webinars explaining how our customers have managed to do this.
Step 1: Supplier Data Governance
The first stage is to understand that the portal is ultimately a front-end to your supplier master data, it will be many other things but the root of everything will hinge on the data. You will need to understand the idea of Global (central) data and Local data. This should be defined and then owned accordingly. There will be some new roles particularly around global data ownership when you embark on it.
Without this idea it will not be efficient and most likely not successful.
Step 2: Supplier Definition & Identification
You need to be very clear on your definitions here – What is a supplier? – is it the parent company, a trading subsidiary, etc. Most organisations think of a supplier as it is defined by their ERP, this is wrong and potentially catastrophic in a project like this. Every ERP represents a supplier differently and a lot of time is wasted because someone will refer to a supplier to mean an address, as frequently as someone else means the parent entity of an entire family of entities.
Step 3: Master Data Architecture
You might think we are going a bit techy here, but this approach has been developed through a lot of trial and error. You need to think of how to architect your supplier data so it will fulfil the needs of four stakeholders:
- The ERP system – because they need the data a certain way
- The Local person – because in a Global solution they are not interested in what everyone else has done/is doing in 100 other locations
- The Supplier – because they are not interested in entering data the way your ERP system needs it.
- The Analyst – because they will need to answer questions such as is this supplier part of the same family
Step 4: Data Consolidation & Integration
In order to go-live you will need a way to consolidate your data through what we call match & merge. If you don’t and you have the same supplier in 5 ERPs they will appear 5 times. Problematic to say the least.
This is also a common challenge which many face when implementing P2P. They expect to have vendors rationalized, however the P2P will replicate those five vendors. If you want a pleasant supplier experience and a pleasant P2P experience you need to consolidate your data and integrate your systems. Integration with the right solution is not challenging but is absolutely critical. Don’t fall into the trap of providers claiming they do integration. All it means is that they output an Excel or XML file – this will cause you headaches and be a very expensive and lengthy implementation. For many organisations this has equated to years and years of wasted time and money.
Step 5: One front door…
Once you have consolidated your data you need to launch your five key business processes around supplier data governance:
- Supplier Onboard
- Supplier Extend
- Supplier Update
- Supplier De-activate
- Supplier Re-activate
There you have a very condensed set of the five critical steps.
The one critical take away for you is that if you want a Global Supplier Portal you have to be thinking about Supplier Master Data Governance and not a simple form and workflow as you will find in most Sourcing/Procurement suites.
If you’d like to read into this in more detail, the two white papers below are a good starting point.