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4 Steps to build your Digital Supplier Network (DSN) strategy

 

One of the most popular questions we get from customers is “How can we be successful in deploying SAP DSN?”. That is a very layered question, and there is no “silver bullet”, but it is a combination of factors that significantly contribute to a successful deployment.

The best way to explain what defines a successful deployment is maybe by comparing it with planning your holiday trip to the South of France. Google Maps is an efficient tool, but the technology is only part of the story.

“Tell Google where are we going and when we need to get there”

 

The first thing that is key but often overlooked in most projects is unpacking the business case for deploying DSN. To structure the task correctly, it is crucial to define what the desired outcome for the project is. What are the savings or benefits, where will they form, and in what timeframe? This will determine the KPI’s you need to measure to keep the project on track and identify stakeholders you need to include in your communication strategy. A project focused on improving invoicing performance is quite different from a project where purchasing compliance is at its core. Having a clear value scorecard will allow you to measure the progress or course-correct where needed and help justify the investments or required resources.

“Make sure everybody on the trip is onboard”

 

Deploying SAP DSN is principally a change management project, both for your internal and external stakeholders. Once you know what success looks like, you need to build a vision and a story for both stakeholders. People will rightfully ask: “Why do we need to change what we do today?”. Initial resistance is expected as this is linked to human nature. If you’re going to implement change successfully, you need to state what you’re trying to achieve and why. You are trying to change some of the most fundamental business processes there are, for both you and your supplier community, therefore it will take time and effort. That’s the reason it needs to be aligned with the Business Case because the What, How, and When is intrinsically tied to the Why. Important is to start with your internal stakeholders first and only approach the suppliers once everyone is on board. Not having a consistent, unique message towards suppliers is one of the main reasons we see customers struggle.

“Have the most up to date version of the map”

 

As this is a change management project, you need to be sure you are talking to the right stakeholder. Think about it. Whom will you speak to about your invoicing project if the only contact information you have for a supplier is an email address of “orders@company.com”? Your vendor master will not be good enough for a change management program of this type because your data will either be insufficient, too generic, or entirely out of date. Sending out an email and hoping for the best is not an appropriate strategy here. Supplier organizations are complex, just like your own organization. How would you react when you get an invite to a tool like SAP DSN. Also, don’t forget that we live in a day and age of SPAM and phishing, suppliers might disregard communication from unfamiliar sources. Put yourself in the supplier’s shoes is the best advice I can give you.

At the very outset, you need to establish a program to gather the right data from your supplier community to deliver the right message to the right person. Your supplier’s AR clerk will not care about cash forecasting or improved invoice quality, especially if they see your eInvoicing program as a threat to their livelihood. Deliver those messages to Finance Directors or business owners and instead tell your AR contacts about real-time status updates to invoices so they won’t have to keep calling in for an update on an invoice’s payment status. This again ties back to the two previous points, when you know what you want to achieve.

“Be prepared for changing (weather) conditions along the journey”

 

Every customer’s journey is somewhat different due to their industry’s specifics, position in the market, company culture, supplier base, or market maturity. What works for one customer is no guarantee for another. There is no one size fits all as with any change management project. The key is to respect the culture and customs of the region you are deploying in. Suppliers in Saudi-Arabia have different expectations about getting introduced to a tool like the SAP DSN than their US counterparts. Factoring all of this into your strategy and communication will ensure maximum adoption.

I hope this helps to arrive, first and foremost safely upon your destination, but hopefully on time and within budget.

Safe Travels!

 

For more info on SAP Digital Supplier Network, visit the SAP Digital Supplier Network Community page

 

PS – We would also like to hear from you, what you think about the above ideas. Feel free to discuss in the comments section.

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