Vendor Portals (also known as Supplier Portals) are a very hot topic right now in the realm of product information management (PIM). At the recent 2017 NRF Show, the majority of EnterWorks’ booth visitors wanted to talk about solutions for better managing supplier collaboration. And it’s really no surprise. As we discussed in our recent PIM & Vendor Portal post, product content is a driving force in today’s omnichannel environment. Sellers must have compelling product content to win sales, however this content is often difficult and costly to procure. Vendor Portals help enlist suppliers in the process of generating vital product information, yet these endeavors often fail. The fact is, launching a Supplier Portal hinges on the program’s implementation along with the solution itself. So, in this post we’ll examine the “Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts” for successful Vendor Portals.
Top 10 Vendor Portal Do’s and Don’ts
#1: DON’T Reinvent the Wheel. Having a plan in place is vital for your Supplier Portal to succeed, however trying to reinvent the wheel with something entirely unique will slow you down and lead to failure. Vendor Portals that build on what has worked for others have a greater chance for success. Therefore, seeking an expert with a track record in Vendor Portal solutions is a great place to start.
#2. DO Focus on Vendor Adoption. Supplier support is possibly the biggest factor for success. While you can expect a period of adjustment, the program should not be a burden. Therefore, Vendor Portals must keep a firm focus on collaboration, from start to finish. All of the effort and expense of your Vendor Portal will be in vain if your vendors fail to get on board.
#3. DON’T Assume One Size Fits All. When implementing a Vendor Portal program, consider several methods for engaging your suppliers. Think about how you interact with your suppliers on a daily basis. You should evaluate your end goal for collaboration, and then start with simple process changes that will help get you there.
#4. DON’T Expect an Army. Avoid implementing a solution that requires an army of people to deploy and maintain. Also, consider that a Vendor Portal can be easily introduced as part of a seamless PIM or Master Data Management (MDM) solution.
#5. DO Relax the Rules. At least at first. Rules around quality and constraints have their place, but the beginning of an implementation should take baby steps. Most importantly, look for a Vendor Portal solution that is configurable over time. As your business changes and your suppliers adjust, you can consider tightening rules and adding deeper levels of data.
#6. DO Penalize and Reward. Clear communication begins with setting basic standards and expectations for performance, as well as clearly-defined rewards and penalties. Always keep in mind that a Vendor Portal program should be a win/win for both you and the supplier.
#7. DON’T Over-Communicate. The onboarding “registration” process for suppliers should be as simple as possible – don’t overwhelm them or give them reason to withdraw. The goal should be keeping your suppliers engaged and excited about the mutual benefits of using the new tools. Remember, bi-directional collaboration with program managers will help drive adoption.
#8. DO Measure, Measure, Measure. A Vendor Portal solution should provide tools to monitor and measure real-time activity. Polling suppliers is also a helpful tactic for two reasons: to find areas where adjustments are needed, and to identify positive experiences to share with others. Positive word of mouth among suppliers can be a powerful ally in pushing your program forward.
#9. DO Provide Constant Feedback. Let your suppliers know how they are doing, and consider incorporating a “scorecard” that all suppliers can see. A scorecard can be a constant source of performance monitoring, as well as a motivation for suppliers to keep up the pace.
#10. DO Give Yourself Time. Be sure everyone in your organization knows that full adoption will take time. The beginning stages of your implementation should involve piloting the program with a few of your “champion” suppliers to work out the kinks and gain support. A full rollout may soon follow, but continuous testing, measuring, and adjusting should be expected.
Whether you’re deploying a portal as part of your PIM system, or seeking a standalone Supplier Portal to reduce business overhead and accelerate time-to-market, following these best practices will help set you up for success.
Take a look at the first post in our Vendor Portal series to read how you can score great content and sell more products with a Vendor Portal. And finally, stay tuned for the Vendor Portal series conclusion. (Spoiler: There will be a Vendor Portal Playbook to download for free!)