In Part One, I introduced a discussion of some surprising trends I found when looking at supplier registration forms from a wide variety of companies across many industries. The first surprise for me was that so many of these companies are asking the same questions from supplier companies. In this post I’ll discuss the other unusual thing I discovered: some organizations ask potential suppliers essay questions. It’s not quite as open as the classic American “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essay but I found multiple examples of instances where suppliers were asked to expound at a high level about the supplier organization’s philosophy or overall value proposition. Here are some examples:
- How will your company directly contribute to the overall value of our organization?
- Describe how your firm’s advantage over your competition will help us compete more effectively against ours?
- What are the key characteristics that differentiates your company from others in the marketplace?
When I encountered the first one I figured it was an anomaly but when I continued to see them pop up here and there I thought, “Wow! Those are big questions requiring thoughtful, articulate responses!” It seems to me that the current business climate values numbers and hard metrics and tends to dismiss any information that can’t be plotted on a chart as not actionable, subjective, and therefore suspicious. The drive for evidence-based decision making has become so prevalent that I had assumed that larger more philosophical questions were no longer part of the buyer-supplier dialog.
Based on some of the questions I encountered, clearly some organizations are still interested enough to ask the larger question and think it’s important enough to incorporate them into their initial supplier registration process. The underlying message behind these questions is that successful supply chains are based on relationships and relationships can’t always be completely defined with short-answer or multiple choice questions!
So, does your organization incorporate high-level questions in their Supplier Information Management process? If not, what big-picture questions would you like to ask your suppliers?