Remember The Supplier!

Lynn Barras
Lynn Barras

As a company goes through the process of implementing an eProcurement system, the impact on internal stakeholders is often managed through important Change Management workstreams such as communications and training.  Just as important, but sometimes overlooked, are the external stakeholders - namely, the suppliers who will begin to transact business with the company through the eProcurement system.  Adoption by both of these groups - internal and external - is needed to ensure a successful implementation.

Supplier Management Glasses Newspaper Procurement Remember the Supplier

In practice, the keys to an effective change management strategy for external suppliers are similar to those needed for internal stakeholders.  Let's look at a few of those key elements in the communication and training work streams.

Key Communication Elements

  • An introductory message should come from the project's executive sponsorship.  This demonstrates to the supply base that the project has support at the highest levels of the organization (i.e. credibility).  This introductory message can be sent via email and should include high-level information about the new system and impacts on suppliers.
  • All communications should speak to benefits available to the supplier.  Consider such topics as greater visibility into the organization, faster payment processing and streamlined requisition and invoice approval processes.
  • Plan for more detailed follow-up communications that help suppliers understand system specifics, such as the enablement process (TIP: You may want to consider delivering these communications via web-conferencing).  
  • Consider sharing screen shots - or even a short demo - of what your employees will see when they use the system.  This will help suppliers better understand how business will be transacted through the system.
  • Equip your internal staff (category managers, sourcing, etc.) with "talking points" as well.  Some suppliers may push back (especially if the implementation requires a supplier to pay network fees) and it's critical that whomever they speak with gives the same message.
  • Decide ahead of time the organizational "stance" regarding network fees and in general, the required use of the network.  If a supplier complains loudly enough, will they be allowed to by-pass using the network therefore negating the efficiencies gains a network brings (for both companies)?  Take a stance and stick to it!

OK, so now the suppliers know about the project they've "bought in", we can't ignore the training workstream.  Just as with internal stakeholders, training content is often determined by the complexity of the topic.

Key Training Elements

  • Consider the complexity of the topic.  For example, training a supplier on how to create catalog content is less complex than services procurement collaboration.  This also impacts how you deliver the training content (web conferencing, in-person classroom style, etc.)
  • The technical expertise of your suppliers will vary greatly.  Some may barely be able to do much more than send emails (yes, those people still exist) while others will be perfectly comfortable working in the cXML or EDI technical worlds.  As a result, some suppliers will need more hand-holding than others.
  • Make sure your suppliers assign the right type of resource to the enablement efforts.  This is usually where sales people exit and technical and accounting resources enter.  Supplier resource requirements should be part of the communications discussed earlier.
  • Plan for delivering the "same" training more than once, especially for those suppliers that are less technically savvy.  They may simply not get it the first time or may have to adjust resources.
  • Enable a portal where training documents, technical specifications, and communications can be housed and available to suppliers.

Creating and delivering strong introductory messages, managing each supplier's enablement effort as its own project and planning and delivering supplier training will lay the foundation for a successful and sustainable eProcurement system.

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