Short-List Faster & Improve Your Supplier Relationship Management

Short-List_Faster__Improve_Your_Supplier_Relationship_Management.jpgWould you rather ask your suppliers the same basic questions over and over, or be able to make your short-list at a glance? 

It's no contest, and that's why more than a year ago one of our key clients in the Healthcare industry asked to us to co-develop high-tech vendor profiles for them. 

Being Benefits Consultants, their job was to analyze and distill tons of information in order to make informed and prompt recommendations for their clients; no small feat. They needed a tool that would help them be just as thorough, but cut to the chase faster. Enter digital vendor profiles. 

Today, the digital profiles help them: 

  • Save vendors' information and total history
  • Empower their suppliers to make updates any time 
  • Segment vendors by category
  • Filter by capabilities so they could quickly rule out unsuitable fits 

In other words now they can short-list much faster, and so can you. 

(This blog is written for current RFP365 users as a guide for leveraging our latest features. If you're new to us, we hope you'll take a peek and see the possibilities. If you have any questions contact us here.)

Why traditional vendor profiles are risky

First off, why should we bother to move away from traditional vendor information storage? Chances are you, like most purchasers, are keeping all your suppliers' details housed in a Microsoft Word or Excel document. 

But vendor information is useless if it’s not relevant, and unfortunately, profiles can become out-of-date and/or inaccurate very easily. 

The problem with relying on annual updates 
  • Lack of data: in an age when a vendor profile can become outdated in as little as two weeks, relying on annual updates mean you'll often be left in the dark. Your vendors come out with new functionality or services, but you don't know about it simply because it's not time for their yearly RFI.  

  • Inaccurate information: aside from the risk of not having enough information, there is the liability of inaccurate data. In the last 3 months, your providers have changed security or pricing information, but you make a selection or recommendation based on their outdated profile. False information means you're not only misinformed but your comparisons aren't truly apples-to-apples. 

  • Opportunity for fraud: when vendor lists and profiles aren't being effectively monitored, they can be an easy avenue for employees to commit fraud.

The liabilities of Word & Excel
  • "Crashing" applications are among the most frustrating things in the world. The problem with programs like Word and Excel is that they don't automatically save your work, meaning if they suddenly error or shut down, your hours of effort are completely wasted. 

  • Human error (keying data): too often a Word or Excel file is the 10th place we've copied & pasted something (over from other documents, emails, etc.), and each effort is an opportunity for error.

    See these true horror stories of how Fortune 500 companies were sued, and had a $100 million error all because of faulty spreadsheets. This article by Selerant said it well: 

    "Typically, vendor data is received by several different ways, such as spreadsheets, emails, and actual paper communication," explains Selerant CTO, Jacopo Colombo. "Manually entering all of the data creates several issues, not the least being data accuracy. One error can lead to a significant cascade and can result in non-compliance, serious cost controls, delays, and quality control."

    The more times information is entered and reentered (even copy & pasted), the more room for error. 

  • Reinventing the wheel: any time your team spends looking for information, transferring documents, or recreating work is time you're not spending on core business. 

The whole point of a Vendor Profile is to help you shortlist your vendors for specific projects, and we can't effectively short-list with outdated or inaccurate information. 

Why you should take advantage of your RFP365 digital vendor profiles    

Vendor Profiles in RFP365 behave much like the RFPs you normally issue. You craft questions, invite participants, and view results. But unlike an RFP, these Profiles never close.

Digital Vendor Profiles Example.png

(Above is what your digital vendor will profile look like in RFP365

And because a profile is only as good as its accuracy, offering vendors a convenient way to directly update their information is absolutely vital.

Which is why we've given them all the power. 

Okay not all the power, but we have made it possible for the suppliers themselves to manage their profile information. Why? Because great Supplier Relationship Management requires processes that make life easier for both the Purchaser and the Provider. 

The provider can update their profile any time, and you can see the last time it was updated, and prompt them to review and update their info if it's been awhile. 

It's a win-win, because by helping them keep current, you help yourself stay accurate. 

Creating effective vendor profiles starts with asking better questions (more on that below), and finishes with empowering your vendor community.

Advantages of digitizing your vendor profiles 

  • Check the date: see when profiles were last updated so you're sure you always have the latest and greatest information. 

  • Segmentation: tailor your profiles according to your unique categories. For example, the aforementioned Benefit Consultant uses our platform to configure and update their company profiles according to different components of HR technology (payroll, HR, Benefits).

  • Centralization = sustainable: putting all your information into an online digital profile means everyone has access to same data, and it's updated directly. No copy and paste, no errors. 

  • Transparency & history: and because everything is updated in one place, it's easy to track who made revisions, and you can track the whole history of each vendor. 

  • No more tiring RFIs: since vendors can update their profiles anytime (after launching new features/services, updating pricing, etc.), you always have up-to-date data. Meaning you don't have to send out annual RFIs -- which makes everyone happier. 
  • Set permissions & authorizations: unlike in Word and Excel, in an online profile you can control who has access, making it easy to manage permissioning and stay compliant. 

  • Get information faster: so why should you make your vendor profiles digital? The same reason we make anything digital, to get what you you need, faster. 

By transferring your critical data out of stagnant files and into a living document, you can truly monitor your vendor management. In other words, going digital gives you more control, not less.

Learn how to set up your digital vendor profile here.


Quickly qualify vendors  

One great way to use your new digital profiles is setting up a questionnaire for qualifying vendors. 
Qualifying isn't a new concept, several companies require new vendors to fill out Word documents forms (we've seen our share). But by getting these questions out of stale Word docs and into a simple Vendor Profile, you can easily gather and track the characteristics of each of your untried providers. 
Your goal is to ask questions which will establish specific differentiators, highlighting what makes each vendor unique. 

Questions should be specific and detailed. Try framing inquiries with a focus on numbers and percentages so you get a more quantitative idea of who is the best fit for your needs. 

Remember, your ultimate goal is to ask questions which will help you short-list. Picture sitting down to make your selection, what questions are going through your head?

  • Are you wondering if vendors work within a specific industry bracket? 
  • If they offer specific services?
  • If they have a certain accreditation?

Make those thoughts your explicit profile question criteria. Then create custom drop down menus and checkboxes so you can quickly sift through data. (Ex. "Do you offer X, Y, Z features? Select all that apply"). 

This combination of dynamic information management and targeted questions is the secret sauce of effective vendor management. 

Learn how to set up your digital vendor profile here.