In continuation to our blog series on Oracle Procurement Cloud, this week we will share our opinion on supplier management. You can read our earlier blogs on go-live, implementation speed, structural flexibility, setup, support, user experience and Business Intelligence here.
In my experience, all the global companies that I have worked with, have had a vast supplier base. Quite often I see the same global companies struggling with how to handle their suppliers. They are overwhelmed by questions from suppliers and often lack the complete insight on what was agreed and communicated with each supplier. In most cases these companies have a big team of employees answering phone calls and emails from suppliers. This consumes a lot of the team’s time in informing the supplier on the most basic things such as what is the status of my PO, when is the invoice getting paid and where does this return belong too. You could say, supplier collaboration and communication is one of the key challenges for the procurement function nowadays.
In most situations, I am asked for my insights on how to improve this. What I always recommend in these cases is that as a first step a supplier portal can increase the efficiency of the process by multifolds . An external supplier portal helps in sharing information and working together with your suppliers by simply improving the communication. The good news here is that the Procurement Cloud supplier portal offers new features and gives you the flexibility of social collaboration & messaging.
With these new additional features you can do one thing which I find extremely powerful and cool. You can automatically link the conversation to the transaction. How it works is that from every transaction you can open a social network or messaging functionality and collaborate internally and externally on that specific transaction. The most interesting bit here is that all communication taken place through this transaction is stored and can be viewed at any time by anyone with access. So if your supplier has a question on a certain Purchase Order, you no longer have to go through hundreds of mails to find what you agreed upon. You simply click on the PO and open your social messaging to see the conversation history and other communication that took place. You can even attach documents such as mails to the conversation. So if six months later you have an issue with the same supplier on another similar PO, you can easily see what you discussed with that supplier in the past. Also, anyone who has access to the transaction can view the complete communication and add their inputs thereon. All your communication is simply stored in one central location. This saves time and helps you to work much more efficiently!
Next level of working more efficiently and getting more out of your supplier base is by using supplier networking. With supplier networking you share your experience with other similar companies and can get better insight into the performance of your own suppliers. You can easily exchange information and the insight will help you in selecting the best supplier. For instance, you can see the list of suppliers for a particular product and their attributes such as price and quality as this is seen by other companies as well. This is however a next step and for now I don’t see many companies using this. The main reason is that this portal require sharing information and most companies are showing resistance in doing so. But I do see this as the next step in working more efficiently and becoming a true master of your supplier base.
To conclude, if your company has a huge supplier base and the amount of supplier collaboration and communication is giving you headaches, do think about implementing a supplier portal as a first step.