If there is one thing that is under-estimated by organisations embarking on an eProcurement transformation and under played by eProcurement technology vendors then it is supplier and content enablement. The simple truth is that if you are not able to transact electronically with your core suppliers, certainly those representing the highest value of spend and largest volume of transactions, or if your buying community is not able to find and order what they need in a timely manner, then your best efforts are doomed to failure. As you embark on this journey you should keep in mind the following points:
Define your objectives around Adoption Be clear about your goals and objectives and define what successful adoption looks like both in terms of Supplier and Persona based. Are you trying to optimise P2P process efficiency, bring more spend under management, drive savings, improve contract compliance, improve persona user experience or a combination of these? How will this support your broader source-to-pay strategy and underwrite the benefits case for transformation and/or technology implementation? Not only is this an important step to enable you to make objective decisions, it will also help drive adoption in your supply chain. Communicating the business drivers with your suppliers will ensure they understand the context of the change, and how it will benefit them. For example, will this reduce your suppliers’ cost of sale, enable prompt payment or increase share of your spend?
Build your capability Assess your organisation’s capability to support the change. Do you run or will you need a buying desk for tactical sourcing of buying support? What project and ongoing (BAU) resources will you need to create and maintain the content your requisitioners and buyers will need to find what they want? How will you integrate with your category management teams to ensure that new sources of supply are incorporated into your eProcurement platform? Your procurement Target Operating Model will largely be led by the broader source-to-pay transformation strategy, but make no mistake, you will need to allocate business support and adoption resource to your supplier and content enablement programme, and probably for longer than you think! It may be possible to allocate resources freed up from reduced transactional order fulfilment or invoice reconciliation effort over to supplier and content enablement.
Establish your policy Determine and gain senior commitment to your policy position and on suppliers who are reluctant or who maybe can’t adapt. How far, and under what circumstances are you prepared to help them meet your objectives, and when do you use the carrot versus the stick? How will you leverage the relationships your suppliers already have in your organisation to drive compliance? A weak policy with optional participation, lacking deadlines and consequences or incentives to change will inevitably inhibit adoption by your suppliers. Ineffective internal communications and stakeholder engagement will also have a similar detrimental effect. Conversely, strong executive messaging to supplier stakeholders with mandatory participation, clear deadlines and consequences for non-compliance or incentives for compliance will accelerate adoption. Clear internal communications with executive backing across both procurement and finance will close any loopholes.
Define your buying channels This is explained in detail in my article “Streamline Purchase to Pay with Buying Channels”.
Develop your supplier and content flight plan Analysing the purchase order history and associated invoices processed against those orders will identify which suppliers to approach for content enablement. It will also help you assess what spend you could tactically source. Prioritising your suppliers in this way ensures you focus attention and effort on those suppliers where enablement will have the greatest impact on the organisation and achieving your goals and objectives. Establish the initial enablement plan around those suppliers and categories you have prioritised based on spend value and transaction volumes and further overlay that plan by focusing on suppliers where you have supportive contractual position and content readiness. Thought should also be given to first engaging suppliers which provide materials or simple services. Highest priority should typically be given to the few strategic contracted suppliers representing the combined highest volume and value, followed by the highest value or volume depending on your goals and objectives. This exercise will help identify those suppliers who should be brought under contract and / or included as preferred suppliers for tactical sourcing. You will also have a clearly defined tail spend, against which a subsequent strategy can be considered and executed, aimed at actually reducing the size of the tail by bringing more spend into your strategic supplier pool through supplier consolidation, or reducing the cost of processing goods or services purchased from the tail.
Build and execute your enablement programme The enablement programme brings together all the above elements into a detailed communications plan covering what assets needs to be created, how they will be used, when groups or individuals will be targeted. This should be all tracked to ensure it is actioned in a timely manner. Resourcing will be constrained by many factors, but as a minimum we recommend that you dedicate at least one individual for an appropriate period with applicable skills, aptitude and experience dedicated to driving the plan forward, supported by category managers, IT representatives and content experts who can rapidly bring suppliers onboard and realise the buying channels strategy. The communications plan itself may comprise many elements, ranging from emails, supplier summits, scheduled and ad-hoc training, telephone calls and follow-ups and should cover both internal stakeholders and suppliers. The plan should have clearly defined success criteria, be organised around “waves” based on the earlier supplier prioritisation and incorporate a clear mechanism for reporting progress and implementing feedback or necessary corrective action. Executing the supplier enablement programme will be an iterative phase that should continue for as long as is necessary to reach critical mass.
Operationalise At an appropriate point the enablement programme will turn from being a project into a Business-As-Usual function which continues to enable suppliers in conjunction with building, maintaining and refining buying channel content. This is driven by the fact that as the quality of spend data improves due to transacting with an increasing number of suppliers, further opportunities to refine the approach will become visible combined with the ongoing activity of category managers undertaking sourcing and contracting with suppliers. To this end, we recommend that you build supplier enablement into your category strategy and sourcing; make acceptance of your eProcurement platform a mandatory part of supplier on boarding.