The pandemic and global geopolitical tensions continue to affect global supply chains in unpredictable ways, resulting in longer sourcing times and a need to onboard new suppliers.
Many reliable suppliers have become more unstable in recent years, forcing businesses to reassess their needs and find alternative sources in a short amount of time. More recently, organizations have found the need to increase their overall number of suppliers to fulfill specific requirements, which means a huge increase in sourcing transactions. This complex process, if not designed properly, can slow down transactions, lead to poor supplier onboarding experiences, and be executed incorrectly if handled by inexperienced employees.
Even though suppliers go through multiple requests for proposals on a regular basis, each buying organization has a different set of processes, which often drives the need for a certain amount of hand-holding so that vendors can navigate correctly. E-sourcing, the process of soliciting bids through an online portal, isn’t always intuitive for suppliers that aren’t used to working with different software platforms. They might end up filling out data incorrectly or submitting bids in non-compliant ways, slowing the sourcing process.
Even today, many suppliers and buying organizations rely on paper invoices, which can make it difficult to digitize important data and ensure that it’s inputted correctly into software systems. In addition, during a typical source-to-contract stage, suppliers are often operating in different time zones, further increasing contract-turnaround time. Together these issues leave the supply chain strained, with industries finding it difficult to manage the havoc created by the pandemic.
There are, however, technologies that can help shorten the source-to-contract process for all parties. A digital adoption platform (DAP) can ensure that suppliers are onboarded quickly, and that all suppliers are kept up to date on new functionalities of the underlying software. With so many data fields to fill out correctly or documents to submit during the proposal process, a DAP can help guide an end user every step of the way. Contextual pop-up windows, embedded within the supplier platform, show exactly what to input in a specific field, and offer tips to ensure that data is submitted in the proper format. This not only speeds up the source-to-contract process, but also allows an organization's tech-support team to address inquiries through automated digital guidance.
Selecting the right supplier is only the first step of the process toward a lean and agile supply chain organization. Poor internal user experiences and inefficiencies in the procurement process can cause additional delays. Typically, an employee fills out a purchase requisition form to seek budgetary approval internally. Often the form is overly complex for an employee who isn’t requesting goods and services on a regular basis, or a new manager who’s unfamiliar with the company’s approval process. A DAP can prove useful in situations requiring assisted guidance or content search, eliminating the need for employees to rely on other team members or call their IT support desks.
Another example of a complex process is three-way matching, which compares the supplier's invoice, purchase order and goods-issued receipt in order to reduce fraud. It can be costly and time-consuming to ensure consistency among all three of these documents, especially if one or more wasn’t filled out correctly. This is another area where a DAP can reduce errors.
While some macro and external supply chain issues are beyond an organization’s control, there are technologies and tools like DAP to help make the source-to-pay process smoother.
Sumeet Kumar is vice president of sales for strategic accounts at Whatfix.
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