When rolling out a new Ariba Network program, your success as a Buyer will be heavily influenced by how widely it is accepted and how quickly it is implemented by your Sellers. With that in mind, we have compiled a Top 10 list of things not to do. We have helped to execute tons of customer programs and have seen what works – and what can cause unnecessary delays and unneeded headaches for Buyers and Seller alike.
As you plan your program…
10. Don’t Start at the Top. Treat the pilot phase as an information-gathering step. Engage a select set of diverse suppliers in an effort to uncover as many issues and field as many questions as possible – while also minimizing the number of suppliers who will experience those issues or raise those questions. Working out the kinks of catalog enablement with a smaller $100k-per-year supplier will provide insights to help the process work much more smoothly when you approach your big $10m partner.
9. Don’t Contact Their Team Until You’ve Educated Yours. Your entire organization, from Procurement to Accounts Payable to Finance to Executive Management, should be aware of and able to articulate your programs goals and details. You can rest assured that at some point a Seller will have a question and they won’t reply to the automated email or call the contact you would expect. Regardless of who reads the email or answers the phone, the answer they give must be the same.
8. Don’t Rush Your Requirements. At the beginning of a program, we’ll work with you to lay out all of your requirements and define your business processes. Will you allow suppliers to submit Non-PO Invoices? Will you use blanket POs? Do you want to limit the program to specific suppliers, regions, or spend categories? The answers to these questions filter through to how the system is configured. To ensure that everything works in the way that you and your Sellers expect, we want to get this right from Day One.
7. Don’t Treat All Sellers the Same. We’ll help you to segment your supplier base so that you can better tailor your program, your offers, and your compliance messaging. Would you set the same adoption deadline for a large-volume EDI supplier that you would for a small outfit that will be entering simple invoices on the Network? Would you impose on them the same extended Net Terms, or offer them the same APR discount? When the goal is to engage suppliers to get up and running on the Network, being mindful of their differences is very helpful when determining how to approach them.
6. Don’t Forget the Sell-Side Value. While you may be the driving force behind this program, don’t approach it as something negative you are imposing on suppliers. Automating POs, invoices, and payments improves their visibility and can speed up the time it takes for them to get paid. Discounting and Supply Chain Finance can give them access to capital that they can’t get elsewhere – or at more attractive rates than they can get from other sources. On top of that, by being easier to do business with, they may see an uptick in sales as well. Make sure that is front-and-center in your communications.
5. Don’t Run in Silos. These programs have multiple simultaneous workflows, with IT tasks to complete, communications messaging to draft, Procurement and AP data to analyze, and suppliers to manage. You need solid centralized management on a program level to keep the disparate parts working in harmony. You also need dedicated executive support to help bring these teams back together when they begin to diverge. Anything less than an organized and concerted effort will lead to missed deadlines, unclear direction, and a generally undesirable experience for your suppliers. If it gets bad enough, it might also lead to lost relationships and supplier churn.
4. Don’t Go Radio Silent. No matter how well you plan, how well you tailor programs to supplier needs, and how well you communicate the message, there will be hiccups from time to time. When this happens, it needs to be addressed quickly with open communication. If a supplier encounters a technical issue, objects to a mandatory change, wants to propose a counter-offer, or simply has a question, silence will cause damage to—and potentially risk the future of—that relationship. It’s amazing how helpful even the simplest “We’re looking into this and will be in touch soon” can do!
3. Don’t Underestimate the Delivery. Just as important as the details of your program is the manner in which those details are delivered. These programs are equal parts technology projects as communications efforts. Put yourself in the suppliers’ shoes and don’t ignore the impact of clarity, empathy, and tone when conveying change. For midsize and small suppliers, even fairly straightforward technical tasks like setting up a supplier catalog can be daunting. By explaining your reason for change, articulating the benefit to them, and letting them know there are support resources available, your message can go a long way towards alleviating their change management concerns.
2. Don’t Undercut Your Goals.* Over the course of a technology implementation and supplier enablement project, it is easy to get lost in the details and deliverables. Remember: there was a business case with certain expected benefits that justified your investment in the Ariba Network. Every decision you make in designing and executing the program should be with those goals in mind. How will this choice of compliance language impact our ability to onboard 10,000 suppliers? How will this APR for discounts impact our ability to drive $1,000,000 in discount capture?
1. Don’t Go It Alone. The final decisions on strategy, communications, and timeline targets are always yours. You are empowered to follow as many or as few of our recommendations as you desire. To us, our success is your success. We bring with us to each program an accumulation of experiences and best practices honed over time and informed by first-hand knowledge of what has worked—and what has not—for other customers. These programs are buyer-driven, but there is good reason to keep your supplier top-of-mind in your decision-making. Without their acceptance and support, it will be difficult to fully realize the opportunities that justified the project in the beginning.
And there you have it: our Top 10 list of potential pitfalls and how to avoid them. If you keep these insights in mind as you approach your own program, you’ll be in a strong position to drive acceptance, adoption, and value for yourself and your supply base.
* Admittedly, this item is not directly focused on how you interact with suppliers. It is, however, a reminder that your supplier-related decisions are not made in a vacuum and that unless they are guided by an understanding of your goals, the end result may not be ideal for either side of the equation.