Supplier Enablement

Aberdeen just released its report on Supplier Enablement, Connecting with Suppliers to Build Lasting Relationships which found that supplier enablement continues to be one of the top three challenges for procurement professionals looking to transform their procurement organizations, gain better visibility into their supplier enablement processes and supplier relationships, and increase spend under management.

According to the study, best-in-class enterprises demonstrate that supplier enablement can positively impact the business when the right technologies and practices are employed. Best-in-class enterprises, which have 78% under management compared to an average of 44% for all other peer enterprises, enable 50% of their suppliers versus the 23% enabled by their peers, are 25% more likely to document and share their best practices, and are almost twice as likely to have full visibility into enablement activities, realize transaction processing costs 47% lower than their peers. Thus, this study confirms which many of us were starting to suspect, that supplier enablement not only makes suppliers feel good, but generates significant bottom line savings for an organization.

Aberdeen defines an enabled supplier relationship as one that includes one or all of the following capabilities:

  • automated exchange of documents and communications
  • on-line catalog management
  • active management of supplier information through a self-service process

Of these activities, the third is the most important. When it comes time to source a category, it takes little effort to click the “send” button to send a document to a supplier, and you do not care about the entire catalog – just the product(s) in question. However, if you do not know who your suppliers are, what they can provide you with, and how to contact them, and the relevant individuals in the organization, you will not be very productive. Moreover, with large companies typically having tens of thousands of suppliers, managing this information is an onerous task – but if you are a large customer, it takes very little effort for a supplier to manage their information for you – especially if they want your business.

So what’s the best way to achieve supplier enablement? If at all possible, select a sourcing suite that has, or is about to have, supplier (self) management capabilities (like your forum sponsor, Iasta, that will be releasing an initial version of Supplier Management with a Supplier Self-Service portal in the fall), or a solution that integrates into the sourcing and/or procurement suites you already use. If this is not possible, I’d recommend going with a specialty provider of supplier information management (SIM) services, like Aravo who specialize in integrating SIM management applications into the sourcing, procurement, and / or ERP tools that you already have.

Then, as Aberdeen so eloquently states, include suppliers in the enablement process – leverage their experience and technologies to ensure collaborative and efficient interactions during enablement and through the lifetime of the relationship.

Finally, as Aberdeen also points out, be sure to standardize processes along the way that leverage leading technologies, like XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and SOA (Services Oriented Architecture), and leading 3rd party services, such as Ariba‘s Supplier Network, Austin Tetra‘s integration services, or Integration Point‘s Global Trade Management software.

One Response to Supplier Enablement

  1. I would agree strongly “If at all possible, select a sourcing suite that has, or is about to have, supplier (self) management capabilities”….we insisted on this component when we specified our ExpediSource suite two years ago. The industry as a whole has overlooked the value of this very basic feature (not Iasta in particular, as they have a great product suite and are well ahead in other areas). Our customers and prospects are more attracted to this single feature than we initially imagined.

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