Demystifying the Modern Vendor Portal

Intro

A vendor portal is a software system leveraged by a business in conjunction with vendors, contract manufacturers, raw material suppliers, logistics providers and other third-party service providers to cohesively manage business operations. As a SaaS company building, selling, and operating a Supply Chain Platform that offers a next-gen vendor portal, we hear a wide range of opinions regarding vendor portal’s viability and impact. Our knowledge and experience comes from the fact that we’ve operated and managed a 200+ person factory in New Jersey, and have onboarded hundreds of suppliers around the world to our vendor portal.

Opinions of the Vendor Portal

We’ve encountered a tremendous number of differing opinions regarding vendor management, and how a portal can affect business operations. These can be largely condensed into several pros/cons:

Positive: When implemented properly, vendor management portals are transformational. Real-time updates with mobile notifications, vendor scorecards full of valuable KPIs, improved lead times, and service improvement are all positive side effects of implementing a vendor portal. Some industries and supply chain models lend themselves better to vendor portals, while some are more challenging.

Negative: When forced into a rigid way of working, vendors can feel handcuffed, and it can impact business relationships. Providing a top performing and cost competitive vendor an ultimatum of “use our vendor portal or we are done giving you business” is a sure-fire way to lose a top supplier. Many vendor portals even charge based on number of vendor users on the platform. Paying steep user license prices for vendors encourages a business to limit the vendors actively on the platform, which directly contradicts the problem businesses seek to solve.

At Suuchi Inc, we strongly believe in democratized access across the supply chain, and are HUGE believers of the modern vendor portal. That said, we made several critical tweaks to the legacy vendor portal offerings. Ease of use, accessibility, and pricing model are critical pillars the GRID addresses.

Ease of Use & Accessibility

  • Role Based Access – 95% of supply chain participants are external to an organization. Most supply chains consist of several types of vendors (raw material providers, contract manufacturers, quality agencies, logistics teams, etc). Within each vendor type, businesses can further categorize their suppliers, differentiating between a ‘regular supplier’ vs a ‘1-2x per year’ supplier. The best vendor portals should accommodate many types of vendors with several operational workflow options and predefined roles.
  • Permission Control – Not all vendors operate in the same way, and their access to specific fields, files, reports, and data needs to be controlled. Beyond role-based access, each individual user within the GRID needs field level permission control. An important distinction to make here is that personalization and permission access must be efficient and easy to control for an organization. Bulk creation of vendors, assignment of roles to vendors, and personalizing permissions sets is a must. The goal of investing in technology is to save time and scale lean, not add head count to manage the technology.
  • Text, Email, and Core Communication Integrations – No matter the size of the supply chain, there will be hesitant vendors who are highly resistant to changing the way they operate. This is normal, and we offer incredibly robust email, text, and other communication channel integrations to ease the transition. Purchase Order approvals, communication strings, exception management, production and pre-production updates, file uploads all can be facilitated through email integrations. The GRID can also be used by internal teams to update supply chain projects as a last resort.
  • Productized Integrations to Common Applications – Overseas suppliers leverage a wide-ranging suite of tools to run their business. Often, vendors export excel or PDF files and send them via email to your supply chain team. The GRID offers the option to import and map these files, or to integrate directly with the underlying systems. 
  • Language Translation – supply chains are global in nature…why aren’t most vendor portals? The GRID incorporates robust language translation software so that all communication and UI can be viewed in chosen language. 
  • Availability Abroad – lots of tech systems get blocked by firewalls. The GRID is accessible within China without needing a VPN. Mobile apps and browser access is seamless.

Mobile Intuitive UI – suppliers are typically on the factory floor and not generally tied to a computer, so there is a heightened use of mobile devices. We built the GRID with a mobile first approach to enhance the functionality and utility based on our own experiences in operating a factory in New Jersey.

Onboarding & Training

  • Personalized Training – vendors have the highest adoption scores when they get either 1:1 training with the software provider. That said, when thousands of different vendors exist within one organization, it can take a while to schedule individual training sessions. For this reason, we do not put a firm box around training and forums. We work with your team in both pre-sales and delivery to build the best training plan. 1:1 sessions, group workshops, and hybrid models are all available.
  • New Feature Enablement – Most cloud-based software push out regular new releases. The GRID team hosts regular public enablement sessions, publishes detailed emails highlighting enhancements, and ensures all vendors across all networks get what they need to do their job.
  • Train the Trainer Materials – as time goes on, vendor changes or additions are inevitable. The GRID platform continues to improve with each release. In addition to hosting regular public vendor training sessions, we provide each organization with detailed training materials. Whether onboarding new internal employees of vendors, the GRID training process is extremely thorough and easy to follow.

Pricing Model

  • Free Vendor Seats – we have the mindset that your vendors should never pay a penny for a vendor portal. It adds friction to the adoption process. Both your vendors and your vendors’ staff will fluctuate, and you should not be bound to a software provider to provision new vendor access.
  • One-Time Service Costs Should Not Become Recurring Fees – Many companies bill T&M @ $250-$300/hr. for training services which can make vendor portal projects cost prohibitive. These providers want you to come back to the well for additional services for additional profit. The GRID encourages training the right people in the best way we can, and robust vendor training packages can be included with all of our offerings.

Conclusion

Having access to a high-quality vendor portal is integral to the success of an organization. Vendor networks are complex and changing constantly, and are susceptible to supply chain delays and global disruptions. With the GRID, companies have a way to mitigate against these market forces and manage the full scope of your vendor production capabilities in an intuitive and powerful way. Contact us to learn more about how we can help!

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