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  • January 7, 2021

Supplier Portal: Competitive Differentiator or Must-Have Offering?

Angela Wilson

For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), supplier management can be a challenge. Just consider what goes into onboarding a prospective supplier. The process requires submitting documents, filling out questionnaires, going through background screening, and more.

If you’re managing this process manually, that leaves the room for error, adds delays to the process, and makes it difficult to deliver an excellent supplier experience. Technology can streamline your supply chain management (SCM). SMBs are increasingly exploring how using supplier portals can streamline operations and turn them into more effective partners. Here’s a closer look at how investing in a supplier portal can be a competitive differentiator for your growing business.

What Should a Supplier Portal Do?

Imagine if your suppliers had a central website where they could go to submit invoices, download documents related to their contract, upload items needed for supplier qualification, or check policy details on your FAQ. That’s how supplier portals such as Oracle Supplier Portal Cloud work. Increasingly, SMBs are turning to integrated software solutions to help them manage their procurement processes. There are three key benefits fast-growing companies and their supplier ecosystems capture:

  • The real-time flexibility of self-service solutions to complete tasks, access documents, and refer to information
  • The ability to streamline the supplier workflow, whether you’re reviewing compliance with vendor qualification guidelines or following a process for invoicing
  • Eliminating the administrative burden of supplier management on your procurement team, so they can focus on strategic processes and relationship building

Making the Most of Your Supplier Portal

Once you have the right supplier portal in place, it’s important to think about the creative ways you can use it. One of the most crucial is streamlining the transactional core. For example, if a supplier can log in, see their purchase orders, acknowledge them, and submit invoices, that eliminates a tremendous administrative burden. Looking for ways to automate these kinds of processes offers better visibility and faster turnaround, and it frees your team to focus on what matters most.

Document sharing is another area where businesses can develop critical efficiencies. For example, think about the supplier qualification process. Depending on the business, suppliers may need to submit a wide variety of documents to have a contract or proposal approved. By using the supplier portal as a collaborative home base, suppliers can input their contact information, W9s, insurance certifications, and other supporting documentation. At the same time, buyers can push documents to suppliers so they have a central repository of documents, including anything from the company’s code of conduct to centralized points of contact. Using a supplier portal increases efficiency by moving away from emailing individuals. Ultimately, the portal can also be helpful for reviewing contracts, managing renewals, or dealing with an audit process.

Support Portal Success with Strong Training

Let me say that many growing companies are excited about the possibilities of a supplier portal; however, once they see the amount of work that’s involved in implementing a procurement system, the idea can be deprioritized. It can be helpful from the outset to realize that using a supplier portal—and making it a success—requires an upfront investment in establishing the portal, training suppliers, and moving collaboration there. Once you take those steps, having a successful supplier portal can become a core competitive differentiator. A strong portal that’s designed with your SMB’s needs in mind increases the chances that your suppliers will successfully adopt the portal. Here are a few other tips to ease the adoption:

Invest in training: Do not overlook the importance of supplier training. Make that a high priority and bring your suppliers in early in the process so they become excited about the process, they understand the new steps, and they are vested. Supplier training helps your partners understand the technology and can highlight the benefits such as faster processing of invoices and other projected process improvements.

Consider a pilot: If you’re considering implementing a supplier portal but you’re not ready to roll it out across the entire organization, a supplier pilot might be the right way to go. Many growing companies will select a few preferred vendors or selected suppliers they’re most comfortable with. Make them part of the implementation and testing. You’ll gather critical data about customizing the portal experience to meet your suppliers’ needs, and you’ll get early adopters invested so that it’s easier to roll the system out across the wider supplier base.

Invest in communications: Introducing a supplier portal will be much more successful with a communications plan. Start early, giving suppliers plenty of notice that the supplier portal is coming and offering a view of your timeline. Once you’re ready to begin onboarding, provide insights on training, logging into the portal, and who to call with questions or support. The more self-service resources you can provide, such as training and user guides, the more effective they’ll be in the process.

Your supplier experience matters. Investing in a solution like Oracle Supplier Portal Cloud offers several benefits. Not only can it help you streamline your processes and improve supplier relations, but you’ll reduce the administrative burden your already busy procurement team faces. Small-to-medium businesses can get more done in less time with the right procurement suite.

Learn more about Oracle Supplier Portal Cloud.

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