Why do some procurement implementation projects fail?
There could be a whole host of problems and unanticipated risks, in addition to multiple factors outside of the project. A potential reason, and one that is often overlooked, is the importance of enabling your suppliers. This not only means suppliers are onboarded onto the platform, but also able to transact with your end-users.
If you can’t transact or collaborate with your suppliers, you’re not able to realize the full potential of your solutions. This is why supplier enablement is such an important part of any SAP Ariba implementation. We know that every supplier has unique needs and goals, and our experienced team of 700 supplier experts work to provide them with the tools they need for long-term success on SAP Ariba. What makes an effective supplier enablement program?
We share our top 5 supplier enablement strategies:
1. Segment your supply base
Say you have a list of over 10,000 vendors, you can’t expect to have them all onboarded on to your solutions at once, nor will all your suppliers want to do so. You need a good understanding of your supply base – this will determine how you segment them, how you will collaborate with each supplier segment and the timing with which you’ll enable them.
With SAP Ariba, segmenting your supplier list will start with a match and classification process. Ariba Network is the world’s largest business network with over 4 million companies. Chances are, you’ll have suppliers on your list who are already on the network. The SAP Ariba team will run this matching process, and once we have a list of matched companies (that is, your suppliers who are already on our network), we analyze their industry classifications based on NAIC (North American Industry Classification System). Similarly, we analyze your suppliers who aren’t yet on the network and assign NAIC codes to them as well.
2. Err on the side of over-communication
Less change management effort is required for suppliers who are already on the network. They’re already familiar with and transacting on Ariba Network so the effort required for them to transact with you is significantly less than a net new supplier. For suppliers who aren’t yet on the network, our supplier enablement experts reach out to them to inform them of the change, and provide resources to help them onboard and adapt.
In both scenarios, change management for your suppliers should be addressed as deliberately as your own end-user change management. When we work with a new customer, the SAP Ariba team provides communication templates customized to that customer. Meaning, when we reach out to your suppliers, we are doing so with custom materials built using your voice and reference to your solution scope. We have a multi-channel communication approach to reach suppliers – which includes email, telephone, and buyer-specific webinars and demos, videos and more. We take a proactive approach and at the same time, we have support channels as well to receive inbound inquiries from suppliers. We aim to provide suppliers with support until they are equipped to transact with their customers.
3. Align buy processes to your suppliers
The SAP Ariba team goes through the process of understanding your suppliers’ experience on the network (if they are already registered), the product or service they provide, the frequency they provide the product or service. Our supplier enablement experts then propose ‘buy processes’ for your supplier segments. A ‘buy process’ determines how you transact with your suppliers – it can be via catalogs, service POs, release contracts, etc. For example, a contract like janitorial services, which occurs on a regular basis, should not require a new PO each time – a service like this can best be served with a contract that the supplier invoices against.
When the SAP Ariba team makes their recommendations for buy processes, they are taking into account the leading practices that they’ve seen across thousands of projects implemented. Not all suppliers are the same, so they develop an enablement plan that determines the processes that will work best for each supplier segment.
4. Start with clean data
If your vendor list as missing or inaccurate data, it makes enabling suppliers quite difficult. How do we know if we are targeting the right set of suppliers, if their information is current or if they still do business with you? Having outdated or inaccurate data leads to a lot of wasted effort as you try to reach suppliers with wrong numbers or email addresses.
There could also be wasted effort when there are duplicate records in your supplier list. At the very minimum, you need to ensure you have a good email address for each supplier. As mentioned in a previous point, we run a match and classification with suppliers already on Ariba Network, in this case, we can leverage that information to supplement the information in your supplier list.
To be as efficient as possible with any supplier enablement program, make sure to do the work upfront and start with as clean a vendor list as possible.
5. It’s not a ‘set and forget’ strategy
Supplier enablement is not just about getting your suppliers online and wishing them luck. At SAP Ariba, we consider suppliers onboarded once they’re able to transact and send their first invoice. Suppliers have different needs and processes, so even if they’re all online, a one-size-fits-all approach to get them to the point of being able to transact doesn’t work. Suppliers who have more advanced configurations, like integration or catalogs, will need additional support to test and go-live.
As our customer, our supplier enablement team stays engaged with you for the duration of your subscription. This means onboarding your new suppliers onto SAP Ariba as they are added to your vendor list. We continue to provide support to suppliers, along with enablement resources and a robust digital library to help them along their journey as they do more with you on Ariba Network.