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For Next-Level Strategic Sourcing, Invite Procurement to the Table

For Next-level Strategic Sourcing, Invite Procurement to the
Table

Employers of any size all around the world and in every industry have one thing in common: they must, by necessity, rely heavily on vendors as a vital component of their business operations. In fact, many organizations have more vendors than they do employees. Unfortunately, said reliance on these third-party relationships and on the activities of a vendor can leave businesses open to various hazards in categories called risk management domains: operational, financial; technical; regulatory compliance; reputational; and information security and privacy.

By employing effective vendor risk management, a business actively engages with its third-party vendors to ensure that the vendors’ operations, actions or inactions do not cause disruption to the business’s operations or otherwise have an undesirable effect on performance. Vendor risk management also keeps a business from getting hit with hefty fines or penalties for regulatory noncompliance or witnessing damage to the company’s reputation or brand — all because of something one of its vendors did (or didn’t do). And the group that’s increasingly becoming responsible for performing the critical task of vendor risk management? The Procurement department.

A Bigger Job to Do

Traditionally, Procurement’s primary role was to handle vendor selection, sourcing and negotiating best value/pricing on goods and services and finalizing vendor contracts. Performed optimally, this role alone contributes undeniable strategic value to the business. Today Procurement does far more heavy lifting because its core functions make it uniquely equipped to proactively identify and mitigate the myriad risks that third-party vendors present. 

Why the Need for a More Proactive Approach

The business environment continues to move faster, smarter, with more organizational interdependencies. Vendor networks are evolving from simple supply chains into complex value chains, growing almost exponentially in size and technical intricacy. Businesses rely heavily on their third-party vendors to cost-effectively fulfill their portion of the process, and thus must be capable of forecasting, overseeing and responding with agility should the slightest delay or deviation in the vendor’s actions be observed. Further, regardless of what functions are outsourced to vendors, compliance with all local, state and federal regulations remains the responsibility of the business.

The Damage Can Add Up

Failing to recognize the danger of vendor risk can cost a company dearly. Last year alone, a U.S. health insurer paid $2.09 billion in criminal penalties to the Department of Justice and $8.8 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission after one of its foreign vendors ran afoul of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A major utility company reported a vendor had released the personally identifiable information of nearly 300,000 employees, and a bank reported a data spill at a vendor’s location exposed nearly two million current and former customers’ personal information. Data breaches like these cost a U.S. company an average of $8.1 million, with the intangible costs of reputational damage much harder to estimate.

Yes, They Can!

Procurement is well-positioned to take the lead on vendor risk management because, frankly, it’s already doing much of the job. Consider that the core functions in modern procurement operations are divided into six accountability areas that represent the supplier lifecycle from start to end:

  1. Strategic Sourcing
  2. Contracts Management
  3. Procurement Processes
  4. Invoicing and Payments
  5. Supplier Management
  6. Spend Analytics

Coincidentally, each of these six areas is essential to managing vendor risk. Thus, by monitoring the areas for which it traditionally is responsible (e.g., Sourcing, Contracts, Procurement, Invoicing) and extending its reach to include the other areas of accountability means Procurement can provide vendor risk management at the enterprise level — in particular, identify perceived operational, financial or information security risks and ensure that any fast-breaking regulatory and compliance matters are addressed to avoid any risks of that nature.

Just as the proliferation of technology is a major contributor to vendor risk, so does it figure prominently in providing a solution to manage it. Third-party cloud-based risk platforms are available that can connect a host of flexible tools with the eProcurement platforms and accounts payable system that the Procurement Department already uses, elevating the system’s scope and reach to bring immediate visibility, transparency, order, and application of best practices into every cross-functional transaction underway. The best of these platforms are robust and scalable, offering:

  • Seamless, easy integration with the company’s existing eProcurement system(s)
  • An instinctive, approachable UX
  • Efficient automated workflows and risk management processes
  • Tailoring for unique industry needs
  • Industry compliance and regulatory requirements as they develop
  • Scannable reporting capabilities
  • Freely shareable dashboards for real-time, aligned collaboration
  • Risk domains and assessment forms that can be tailored to the needs of the business 
  • Comprehensive customer service throughout the vendor lifecycle

Personal Relationships Are Key to Success

To monitor supply chain health, Procurement can further enhance the risk management process by once again doing what it already does: cultivating great relationships with vendors. These are people they talk to often to discuss terms and resolve issues so they’ve proven they’re up to the task. Work strategically, focusing first on top-tier and most-at-risk vendors within the risk management domains yet assess the entire group, as even vendors deemed lower-tier can have an outsize impact on a business should they trigger data breach or bribery claims.

There’s a great deal of upside to increasing the breadth of a business’s Procurement operations to include leveraging a cloud-based procurement platform to meld with the company’s P2P system and utilize both, along with personal relationships, to eliminate or minimize the myriad risks inherent with vendor relationships before they can negatively affect the business. At the same time, the wealth of key data and process improvements that are realized will help an employer streamline and optimize daily operations to face the competition with a distinct advantage. 

Sources: Digitalguardian.com, Managing Vendor Risk (The Shelby Group)

4 Key Benefits of Strategic Sourcing

Last week, I was in a meeting where someone described the company’s Strategic Sourcing group as the peacekeepers in their organization. Take a moment to consider that…. What else would you call the team that is responsible for navigating the gulf between upfront costs and long-term savings while meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders? Strategic Sourcing isn’t a job for the faint of heart.

Strategic Sourcing was a term and process coined in the 90s when the dotcom era was transforming industries at record speed. Since then, the methodology has become a staple in successful procurement processes. With strategic sourcing solutions, firms can focus on maximizing the value of the entire procurement process rather than simply choosing what initially has the lowest upfront price – increasing the efficacy of procurement.

If we were to look at driving as a metaphor, it would be the equivalent of plotting your course to a destination rather than picking a route spontaneously at every cross-section you come across. By planning ahead, you end up saving time during your journey. Implementing Strategic Sourcing is to see past the initial pricing and to take a long view of of the goals and needs of the organization.

Like drivers, businesses that use strategic sourcing solutions begin by setting a destination and then figuring out the best way to get there: analyzing their business needs and historical spending, followed by outlining a strategic plan, conducting data collection and market analysis that breaks down the roster of potential suppliers. Strategic sourcing takes into account all activities that happen during the procurement cycle, from specification to receipt and payment of goods and services. As a result, businesses that use Strategic Sourcing can develop channels of supply at the lowest total cost, not just the lowest purchase price.

Here are 4 key benefits to Strategic Sourcing:

Take a Long View

The most obvious benefit businesses will experience from Strategic Sourcing would, of course, be the reduction in cost. Identifying and selecting suppliers that provide the highest value at the best price can open up compelling opportunities for your business. Even if the outcome is identical, paying less for that outcome is always preferable! The opportunity cost saved from investing in a less-than-optimal supplier may then be used to invest and improve other aspects of your business, giving you an edge against competitors.

Align Sourcing Objectives with Business Objectives

It can be difficult to draw direct comparisons between suppliers in the same industry. If you’re overly deferential to your suppliers, they can make it feel like you’re comparing apples to oranges. A supplier that offers the most cost-effective pricing in one aspect may not be the best in another. The key here is to be clear and concise in identifying what you need from the supplier. You will always want to align your sourcing activities to your organizational goals and objectives. Remember that you are optimizing for value, not cost. Cost is a component of a value, not a synonym for it. Strategic Sourcing is what allows these vague differences to become quantifiable and directly comparable in terms of data. Better alignment between between procurement teams and stakeholders allows your business to achieve better performance with higher efficiency while minimizing the risks in your supply chain.

A Long-Term Relationship With Your Suppliers

Most organizations enjoy switching suppliers about as much as people like visiting the dentist. Not only is it disruptive to your business, but it can also be costly and time consuming for your team. Your relationship with your high-value suppliers should be one that is highly collaborative and mutually beneficial (a win-win). Strategic Sourcing helps you achieve that by focusing on the core capabilities of the suppliers and assuring the right fit for the sourcing objective. This creates synergy between the organizations and its suppliers. Both the suppliers and the business should aim towards a mutual goal of success. Put simply, your suppliers should want you to succeed while feeling appreciated for their contributions to your success. Customer success is a key to repeat business and referrals.

Beyond the initial negotiations and contracting, Strategic Sourcing also involves measuring performance and continual process improvement. As you work with a supplier, you should be monitoring KPIs and collecting qualitative feedback from stakeholders. While some of the collected data might be sensitive, it’s worth considering what you can share with your suppliers so they can remediate any issues and double down on the things that are working. A shared emphasis on continuous improvement and sustainability of the supply chain provides increased flexibility in how you cooperate.

Establishing a Systematic Approach to your Procurement Processes

Strategic Sourcing allows your procurement teams to optimize productivity, increase compliance, and lower costs across the board. With improvements in data collection and digital transformations across the procurement industry, Strategic Sourcing is rapidly growing in popularity, revolutionizing procurement and supply chain processes. Coupled with a more systematic approach to cost analysis, negotiations, supplier sourcing, and even contract management, you will always be armed with the information you need to be effective.

Wrapping Up

Strategic Sourcing is an analysis of what your organization buys, from whom, at what price and at what volume. We at Vendorful are here to help you implement and streamline your critical procurement processes. To continue the driving metaphor, we are the GPS that helps guide you to your destination, saving you all the trouble from manually plotting with a map while achieving the best outcome. It’s our job to make your life easier and save you from traditional “Time Sucks.”

If you want to see how Vendorful can help you automate your processes and support you in your efforts to build a world class Strategic Sourcing program, we would be delighted to talk with you. Contact us today. 

Strategic Sourcing Checklist

A Handy Checklist for Sourcing Managers

How do Sourcing Managers go about choosing the right supplier for a project? Are there specific steps that you should follow to ensure that you get the best results? Are there benchmark practices that you, as a procurement manager, should take note of?

Strategic sourcing is a multi-step process with several considerations. And cost-efficient, systematic sourcing is a process that requires thoughtful preparation. 

To help you keep track of all the necessary steps, the following simple vendor relationship management checklist is offered as a guideline:

 1. Have you identified your requirements?

Before you even start crafting your RFP (Request for Proposal), take a moment to consider whether or not the service or product that you want is actually essential to your business. Is it something that is required for your business? Is the service critical to operations? Is it something that will improve business performance?

Make sure the product or service that you are trying to procure isn’t already readily available in your company. 

Remember, one of the most important goals of streamlining your strategic sourcing and procurement processes is saving money. This requires taking a closer look at resources already available in your organization.

2. Identify and estimate the cost of your procurement

A Deloitte study notes that 74% of CPOs (Chief Procurement Officers) cite cost reduction as a strong business priority. That said, it’s essential that companies ensure due diligence when it comes to researching market prices of services and products.

Establishing an estimate will provide an overview regarding whether your procurement costs meet or exceed your allotted budget.

3. Seek funding approval

Before you send out an RFP, make sure you have the necessary funding to back it up. You don’t want to jumpstart the process by seeking suppliers first, only to find out executives don’t agree with your proposed budget. This will only lead to ruining supplier relationships.

4. Determine the best procurement strategy

A strong purchasing strategy is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways companies can create value for their business. It will help ensure longevity of supplier relationships, create positive working environments, and establish transparency in business processes. Often, automating the process via an eSourcing platform is the best way to go about it. Not only is the whole process simplified, sourcing managers can also monitor and track the entire process every step of the way.

5. Evaluating suppliers and awarding projects

Be sure to create clear criteria for evaluation that potential suppliers can access and review. This will help them identify key areas about the project that they need to focus on. For example, if you’re trying to expedite the completion of a project, it might be to your advantage to identify speed as a priority. If saving money is a priority, cost might be something that requires greater emphasis.

The strategic sourcing process can be complex. Fortunately, keeping this simple checklist in mind will help make sure that you have every critical element in place to make the right decisions regarding suppliers. 

Take advantage of Vendorful’s eSourcing functionality and find out how you can get the most value out of it for your business. It’s as simple as point and click. Speaking of which, you can point a click your way to a demo of Vendorful.

Craft your RFP

7 Key Components of an Effective Marketing RFP

If you work in the marketing industry then you know just how important good vendor relations are to the success of any project. This means you should put a strong focus on finding good vendors; beginning with a streamlined and efficient marketing RFP (request for proposal) that you can send out to potential candidates.

At this stage of the RFP process, your proposal essentially represents your company to future partners and collaborators. Well-written and thoughtfully planned RFPs yield good proposals. And good proposals result in great working relationships with vendors you can rely on. All things considered, a good RFP will ultimately ensure the positive outcome of your project.

With this in mind, the following key components should be a part of any marketing RFP you send out:

 1. Executive Summary

This is one of the most critical components of your marketing RFP. Vendors will often refer to the executive summary to determine if your project interests them and is worth bidding for. Keep it short and succinct. The very reason you’re crafting a summary is so your potential vendors can get a quick idea of your requirements. Be sure to include important milestones and objectives you want to achieve so that there is a clear understanding of what they will be working towards.

 2. Company Overview

Do not assume that your potential vendors are already familiar with your brand. No matter how big your company is, or well known, always introduce your business and share pertinent information about your brand. As part of your vendor’s research, it’s likely that they will also refer to other sources of information that will give them additional insight into your business, such as your LinkedIn or Facebook page. Be sure to keep these up to date.

3. Target Audience

Indicate in your RFP who you want to reach. To accurately identify who your intended audience is, think about who you’re speaking to, who you want to engage, and the kind of user experience you want create for them. This will ensure that your vendors are able to deliver quality bids that are relevant and therefore, more engaging to your target audience. 

4. Objectives

What goals or metrics do you want to achieve? How do you intend to determine whether or not these goals are met? How will you evaluate the success of your project?

Do you want to create a website for your client that prioritizes interactivity? Do you want to produce marketing materials within a very specific period of time? Discuss your objectives internally and communicate this clearly in your RFP. 

Your objectives will determine the kind of solutions that your vendors will provide. This is critical information for your vendors as it will help them prepare a better, more relevant bid.

5. Budget

Like any business, a big part of the success of any project comes down to budget. In fact, marketing budgets represent 11.4% of a company’s overall spend. 

Budgets, however, should always be considered in the context of quality. While you will always want to get the best value for the lowest possible price, try not to compromise quality just so you can get the cheapest bid. Keep this in mind when you indicate your budget. Be realistic about what your budget can achieve and find a balance between quality and cost-efficiency.

6. Requests for Additional Information

Are there any other details that you want your vendors to provide? Should they include organizational charts? Do you want a list of previous industry experience? Think about the information you need from your vendors so you get a better picture of what they can do for you. Make sure, however, that you keep your requests simple. Asking for something complicated might just turn potential bidders off. 

7. Selection Criteria

Finally, be sure to clearly indicate how you will be choosing your vendors. Apart from specific criteria, it might help if you assign a point-value or percentage for each to help vendors identify the top priority elements. For example, you may have multiple criteria for evaluation but if price and speed are priorities, show that it carries more weight by assigning more points to it. 

Ensuring these key components are included in your RFP as you search for vendors for your next marketing project means you’re increasing your chances of engaging them and building good relationships with them. Remember, the better written your proposal, the better response you’ll likely get.

Take advantage of Vendorful’s eSourcing module and find out how we can help you streamline your RFP process. Schedule a demo today.

Are your sourcing methods as effective as you think?

Quiz: Are Your Sourcing Methods as Effective as You Think?

If your procurement team is like the ones we usually encounter, then it’s a given that you would like to accomplish your work in the most efficient way possible. So, when traditional sourcing methods deliver the results you need, it’s natural that you stick with them.

However, staying competitive and keeping up with the rapid changes in the business world requires you to take a more forward-thinking approach. Technology means you now have the option do things faster and better. For example, eSourcing platforms help expand your reach as you search for new suppliers or product sources, and can do so at a more competitive cost. With a solutions landscape that has evolved considerably in recent years, there’s no better time than now to reevaluate whether your current sourcing methods are as effective as you think. (And if you are part of the aforementioned procurement teams that we encounter, you’re undoubtedly in the midst of this reevaluation process.)

To assess what you can do to improve your processes, take this brief quiz below. Read through the questions and give yourself a point for each YES answer.

  1. My team and I use a lot of documents, emails, and spreadsheets to manage our sourcing and procurement methods efficiently.
  2. The lack of visibility and transparency in traditional procurement methods means I have to spend more time managing and monitoring bids and proposals than doing productive work.
  3. I tend to spend a lot of time coordinating between suppliers and internal stakeholders to ensure everyone is in the loop.
  4. The prospect of sourcing new products or suppliers feels tedious and daunting, and usually costs a lot of money.
  5. It takes us a lot of time to prepare a proposal to send out to prospective bidders.
  6. It regularly takes our team weeks, or even months, to find the right supplier that meets our stakeholders’ requirements.
  7. Our suppliers tend to feel that we’re pitting them against each other, which creates tension in the relationship.
  8. Our relationships with our network of suppliers can be strained, especially when we are trying to get the best price for our requirements.
  9. Our team finds it difficult to find new suppliers to participate in the sourcing process.
  10. Objectively speaking, our team finds that our current processes can definitely be improved to be faster, more transparent, and cost efficient.

Now, add up the number of times you answered YES to the above questions.

If you totaled 3-5:

Reevaluate your current processes. Your methods may be effective at the moment, but there could be room for improvement. At the rate businesses are evolving, you might find it harder to keep up with the demands of clients and suppliers down the line. At this point, it would be very helpful to find new ways to keep your procurement team focused and motivated—whether through additional coaching, training or by introducing new tools to help them improve current practices.

If you added up 5 or more:

You clearly need to find a new approach to ensure that your company maintains efficiency and efficacy in spite of apparent sourcing challenges. You might consider leveraging sourcing tools that can offer transparency, streamline communication, improve sourcing practices, and manage supplier relationships all in a single eSourcing platform.

Take advantage of Vendorful’s eSourcing and vendor management platform and find out how you can use it to improve your sourcing methods. Contact us today.

Important RFP Elements

Does Your RFP Contain These Important Elements?

Your ability to attract and engage quality bids is dependent on how well you begin your procurement process.

After all, the search for the right supplier isn’t simply just about cost-savings. It’s important to establish a balance between budget and quality, and assure that you will be forging a partnership that mutually benefits you and the supplier.

In many cases, achieving this starts with crafting a high-quality RFP (request for proposals): when your RFP outline is sub-optimal, the whole sourcing process is likely to deliver sub-optimal results.

With that in mind, it’s crucial that your RFP online contains all the important elements you require. Browse through the checklist below before sending out your next RFP.

1. Statement of Purpose

Your RFP should offer a brief explanation detailing exactly what you need, your purpose for sending the RFP, and what you hope to gain.

It should also include an outline of your target timeframe. Are you seeking a long-term supplier or a partner for a one-time project?

This section should be able to set clear expectations regarding your needs.

2. Introduction

Provide comprehensive background about your company. Your prospective bidders are of course expected to do their own research, but giving them an introduction will point them in the right direction.

Try to provide as much information that you believe will be relevant to your supplier’s ability to deliver a great proposal.

3. Timeline

Map out how long the entire process will take by providing a timeline. Establish closing dates for submitting the intention to bid and be specific about deadlines.

Make sure you provide a feasible timeline for your suppliers. Give them enough time to craft their responses so you receive quality proposals.

4. Goals

Were you able to articulate a clear set of goals in your RFP? Spelling it out clearly for your potential suppliers helps them focus on delivering what you actually need. Think about what your priorities are and what you’re working towards.

5. Deliverables

Explain the deliverables you expect to receive from each proposal. Typically, this should include items such as the plan of action, timelines, and ways forward specific to your project.

6. Pricing Template

While not necessarily a requirement, best practice shows that providing potential suppliers with a pre-designed pricing format where they can detail their pricing structure makes it easier to compare one bidder from another. It also makes it easier to ensure that there are no requirements that were left out.

7. Terms and Conditions

Comprehensive RFPs typically provide a pro-forma contract that details pertinent information about the working engagement. Typically, this includes details such as payment terms, penalties, incentives, breach of contract rules, and dispute resolutions.

8. Criteria for Evaluation

A critical element of the RFP is anchored on knowing exactly how you will make your decisions when it comes to choosing the winning bid. Suppliers have to know what you are prioritizing. For example, are you putting more weight on budget over timelines? Or is price negotiable as long as they are able to ensure quality of service?

9. Wish List

Make sure that your wish list is separate from your non-negotiables. You may want certain elements that would be great to have in the proposal, but aren’t necessarily needed. These could also be items that you’re not quite sure will fit your budget. Regardless of what you want to include, if it’s not a priority or a must-have, be sure to include it as a separate list.

While there isn’t a cut-and-dried way to construct an RFP, ensuring that the above items are included when sending it will raise your chances of receiving high quality, thoughtfully prepared proposals.

Take advantage of Vendorful’s eSourcing platform and find out how we can help you write better RFPs. Get in touch with us today.

Reasons your organization is no adopting eSourcing

Top 4 Reasons Your Organization is not Adopting eSourcing and How You Can Overcome Them

For any business that has used an eSourcing platform, the benefits are evident. Using tailored technology to streamline its procurement needs can provide an organization with significant cost savings, faster cycle times, more transparency, and better control over its sourcing requirements.

Despite the demonstrable success and a strong ROI story, eSourcing adoption remains low. As Jeff Gilkerson asks in his article for Spendmatters, “Why do 30 percent of organizations not have eSourcing tools when the benefits are widely known and accepted, the technology has been around for decades, and the tools can be obtained for a relatively low investment?”

Check out the following top concerns and some ideas about how you can overcome them.

  1. Employees are generally apprehensive about change

Any form of new technology can be overwhelming and intimidating for an organization. This is especially true for procurement teams that might be used to doing things the same way for years. Despite the fact that traditional methods of sourcing are tedious and time-consuming, there is a certain comfort in knowing that you’ve already mastered the steps you have to take to get the job done. A well-worn groove might have compromised structural integrity, but it is comforting. Conversely, anything that might disrupt a familiar sourcing sequence becomes a cause for apprehension.

Addressing potential discomfort from change requires patience from management and a commitment to support the transition to the new tools. Take the time to talk about the advantages of using an eSourcing platform. Make sure you answer the questions and dedicate time to train your employees so that they can see for themselves how eSourcing can help improve their productivity and efficacy.

  1. Some companies assume their sourcing needs can’t be addressed by technology

Without a clear understanding of eSourcing technology and what it can do, it’s very easy to assume that the platform simply won’t fit your specific requirements.

With a little research, however, it’s easy to see just how broadly applicable eSourcing platforms are, regardless of industry or nature of the business. No matter how large or small your company is, no matter how complex your project may be, eSourcing will likely prove to be a useful tool to streamline the bidding process as you search for partners and suppliers. But if you’re not convinced and have lingering concerns? Ask for a demo. Have a discussion with an eSourcing vendor. At the very least, explore the opportunities in front of you before resigning yourself to doing the same thing you’ve been doing.

  1. Some employees feel overwhelmed at the prospect of full transparency

There are numerous advantages to transparency. In fact, this is one of the main advantages of an eSourcing platform. Transparency, however, can have its drawbacks. In certain professional environments, an open process is one that is ripe for judgment as well as micromanagement. The irony here is that a strong eSourcing tool should empower — not disempower — procurement teams.

The key to managing this is to focus on processes and protocols. Leveraging a tool should provide tangible benefits and the opportunity to rethink and re-implement processes. By creating the right framework around the tool, an organization can mitigate the potential “risks” of transparency while setting up its procurement team for success.

  1. Procurement teams tend to use it without proper planning

Inasmuch as eSourcing platforms are intended to make everything easier for employees, it does require a bit of planning to execute everything seamlessly.

Often, in the interest of meeting a procurement team’s urgent sourcing requirements, stakeholders may point to eSourcing as a quick and easy solution, expecting immediate results. However, as with anything in business, great results require some forethought. As detailed above, you should be rethinking the process, not eliminating it. Even a great tool can be used incorrectly. To that end, clear objectives should be identified and workable criteria for evaluation should be defined. Remember eSourcing is a tool, not a replacement for critical thinking. You have to give the tool the right context and inputs to deliver the results you need.

Working with your procurement team regarding the best way to begin the eSourcing process is a great way to ensure that you drive the best outcomes.

When it comes to procurement technology, eSourcing platforms can prove to be a boon for all kinds of organizations. And while there are risks and concerns with adopting any new technology, a thoughtful approach should allow you to address them head-on.

Take advantage of Vendorful’s eSourcing platform and find out how we can help improve your procurement process. Send a message to Vendorful today.

Biggest challenges in eSourcing

4 Biggest Challenges in eSourcing

For a long time, procurement managers were focused on one thing—reducing costs.

Through the years, however, business needs have evolved such that cost efficiency, while still important, is now joined by a whole new list of concerns that can similarly impact a company’s bottom line.

Given this, procurement teams are now seeing their roles expand beyond simply finding the most affordable sources for materials or services. Procurement teams must also consider the broader relationship, including whether their chosen supplier reflects their own organization’s brand values and whether it’s a working relationship that will spur innovation or yield other less tangible benefits for the company.

Fortunately, eSourcing has proven to be an effective tool to help manage these concerns. eSourcing software offers robust tools and applications that facilitate traditional procurement processes with more efficiency. Still, to truly maximize what it can do for your organization, the following challenges should be addressed:

1. Declining value of cost-savings

Cost reduction has long been the primary driver of eSourcing. But often, focusing too much on affordability – especially after significant savings have already been achieved – leads to declines in quality or in service level, leaving businesses feeling unsatisfied with their suppliers despite achieving excellent pricing.

Of course, the ability of eSourcing to deliver cost efficiencies for businesses still remains very relevant, no matter how significant the gains made in the past. However, communicating to suppliers and upper management the importance of other factors in supplier selection is just as critical. At some point, this requires a significant shift from a business’s tendency to focus on year-over-year savings instead of considering the annuity value of past savings achievements.

2. Lack of support for eSourcing’s other benefits

This is the corollary to the declining value of cost-savings outlined above. To maximize the benefits of eSourcing, management and procurement teams must fully buy into the idea that there is much more to strategic sourcing than simply gathering the lowest bids for a project.

Ideally, eSourcing is designed to deliver high quality and relevant proposals for a particular project. This means bids must strike a good balance between cost and quality. Often, upper management is unable to recognize the relevance that quality plays into the whole procurement process—they’re too focused on the costs. Ultimately, this can serve to be detrimental to the success of any project, but especially when savings have already been achieved and the company is enjoying the ongoing dividends of those savings.

3. Insufficient understanding of objectives

With an eSourcing platform, it’s easy to host bidding events and send out requests for proposals (RFPs). However, to attract the attention of quality suppliers and ensure quality bids from them, you need to give them something solid to work on.

Knowing how to create an effective RFP and sending it out means understanding the reasons why you need to do it in the first place. This goes back to your objectives. If the team behind the whole initiative is not provided a clear understanding of what they’re looking for, it will ultimately lead to poor results.

4. Lack of insight into effective decision-making

Related to the previous point, an underappreciated aspect of finding the right suppliers is the proper evaluation of proposals. If procurement teams don’t fully understand their objectives, this also means they won’t be able to create reliable criteria for evaluation. This could result in a business basing their decisions on something that might not be completely relevant or sustainable for a long-term working relationship.

Having identified these challenges, you can take a closer look at your procurement process and reassess how you can maximize your eSourcing platform to deliver the best results.

If you want to learn more about how Vendorful can help address these challenges to improve your procurement process, contact us today.

Create an RFP that gets results

How to Create an RFP that Gets Results

The efficacy of procurement teams is tethered to knowing and understanding what they are purchasing and why. Think this seems straightforward? Think again. Large enterprises might have vendor rosters numbering in the thousands that cut across numerous categories. And most of the ongoing vendor engagement is in the hands of stakeholders, who all too often, sit in virtual silos. So what can procurement teams do to address this? Actually, there are lots of things. But for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on maximizing the chances that the best-aligned vendors are engaged. A key tactic to engage involves leveraging procurement’s favorite three-letter acronym — the RFP (request for proposal). An RFP allows an organization to assess whether the supplier’s goods and/or services are actually going to meet its needs.

With that in mind, it’s critical that the RFP proposal is able to draw out the best answers from your potential suppliers. Therefore, it has to be prepared thoughtfully and with care.

The following steps will help to ensure this:

1. Do your research

Start by embracing the requirements gathering process. Engage with stakeholders and establish what problems they are trying to solve and understand both the parameters and constraints surrounding them. Collectively, you should determine what they actually need, which will help you draft an RFP proposal that drives specific results. Are there key areas that you want your prospective suppliers to address? Be sure to understand what elements are actually feasible and in scope. You want to take care to avoid wasting the supplier’s time — and yours — by providing an RFP to which they can reasonably respond.

If you’ve done your homework upfront, then you can be realistic about setting expectations and tie them to measurable and quantifiable company objectives.

2. Identify your ideal supplier

Different suppliers will provide different proposals. Each supplier endeavors to provide its unique viewpoint. Their approaches and solutions will vary and each one will likely have its own strengths and weaknesses. While some suppliers will focus on cost, others will attempt to win you over by providing the most comprehensive service. Others may focus on speed or support. Create a clear picture of your winning criteria to minimize the difficulty in assessing what each bid has to offer. As you write your RFP, be sure to also note what qualities your winning bid will have.

Remember: value is ultimately dynamic in nature and can change situationally. While you might be particularly priced sensitive with one purchase, you might find yourself more time-sensitive with another. By establishing the key drivers of your decision, and if possible, weighting your RFP accordingly, you increase the likelihood of strong alignment with the supplier you ultimately choose.

3. Organize your document

As a standard, any business-related document should be carefully and accurately written. This is especially true for RFPs. After all, your main goal is to find a vendor that will provide valuable goods or services for your company.

That said, be sure to outline what is needed in such a way that your priorities are clearly communicated to the potential supplier.

In general, you should be able to answer the following questions:

Why are you trying to find a supplier for this particular problem?

  • Who is the organization seeking this solution? (Provide a clear description of your organization.)
  • What is the nature of your project and what is required from your suppliers?
  • When do you need the proposal or bid completed?

From here, it is easy to create a brief introduction that summarizes key bid points.

4. Clarify your evaluation criteria

When it comes to evaluation criteria, you are at liberty to provide as much information or as few details as you like. Generally, however, suppliers need some insight you will be judging their bids in order for them to focus their answers on your actual requirements. Undoubtedly, you will be better served by conveying your priorities. However, we would caution you not to share specific weighting criteria as you don’t want suppliers to “game their responses.”

5. Provide a detailed timeline

Explicitly detail the timeframe by which your RFPs need to be answered. Suppliers must know how much time they have to prepare their responses.

For a clear and comprehensive reply, establish reasonable deadlines. Remember, complex bids require weeks of preparation (sometimes more!) and it’s unreasonable to demand that they be submitted hurriedly.

Keep these points in mind the next time you’re writing an RFP. These simple tips can help ensure that you send out an engaging and effective RFP that attracts the best bids from potential suppliers.

Take advantage of Vendorful’s eSourcing platform and find out how we can help improve your procurement process. Send a message to Vendorful today.

eSourcing can boost relationships with suppliers

3 Ways eSourcing Can Boost Supplier Relationships

When it comes to procurement, technology can make a significant impact.

Take eSourcing platforms for example. Whether it improves efficiency or reduces costs, there’s no denying that automating processes can provide significant operational value. With minimal effort, you’re able to communicate your objectives clearly, minimize tedious back and forth coordination between individual suppliers, and substantially reduce human errors in the sourcing process.

However, beyond improving internal efficiencies, companies using eSourcing platforms should also know it’s a tool that can facilitate better working relationships between businesses and suppliers. This post explains some of the ways it can do so…

1. Helps you find the right supplier efficiently

Traditional methods of sourcing suppliers can be a long-drawn-out process. It’s tedious, time-consuming and, given the effort, it takes to individually coordinate and brief potential suppliers, leaves a lot of room for error.

An eSourcing tool that streamlines the selection process makes things a lot easier. The tool allows you to simplify the entire bidding process given that everything is available on a central platform. As a buyer, you’re able to request all the necessary information you need from all potential suppliers at the same time. You can easily compare results and determine which supplier not only has the best bid but also best fits into your organization.

By identifying potential partners through eSourcing tools, you’re essentially starting a working relationship that wasn’t solely achieved through negotiation. It allows for time to create effective RFPs given that you’re removing the labor-intensive paperwork behind the process.

2. Improve communication between suppliers

Most of the errors made during the procurement process happen because of all the back and forth required to communicate with suppliers individually.

Typically, as you begin to search for suppliers, you will need to send out a brief to each of them. This means you will need to reply individually to their questions. A lot can get misinterpreted in the back-and-forth.

Using an eSourcing tool means all questions and clarification can be communicated via this centralized platform. Interaction on the platform is smoother and facilitates better collaboration. There’s also no need to keep repeating your answers given that everyone involved in the bidding process can easily refer to the information provided. In addition, coordination can be done in real-time.

Communicating in a structured way shows that you are considering your supplier’s time as well as yours. After all, as tedious as the procurement process can be for you, keep in mind that it can also be as time-consuming and complex for potential suppliers.

3. Provides unprecedented transparency

Any successful working relationship is based on trust. This can be difficult when you might be perceived to be starting a professional relationship on the wrong foot.  eSourcing tools make the process more transparent. Everyone gets the same access to the same information, and no one is given an unfair advantage.

This also translates to the selection process. Making your selection criteria available for everyone to access assures suppliers that they are all being evaluated on the same standards.

eSourcing offers a systematic and efficient approach to one of the most labor-intensive and complex processes in procurement–finding the right suppliers. Not only is this beneficial for operations, but it can also enhance supplier relations, which is critical to a project’s success.

Take advantage of Vendorful’s eSourcing platform and find out how we can help improve your procurement process, contact us today.