How can businesses tame out-of-control supplier data?


Keeping supply chains running smoothly can feel like an uphill battle. It’s not just initially sourcing suppliers and getting the right deals that counts, but it’s also important to manage these supplier relationships on an ongoing basis. You’ll also need to be aware of industry challenges that might affect your business later down the line.

There is more pressure on businesses than ever to maintain sustainable supplier relationships. In March, Philip Hammond announced that big companies should appoint somebody who is responsible for reducing late payments to smaller suppliers, while these businesses should also publish payment practices in their annual reports. Even industry giants such as Holland & Barratt have been accused of supplier mistreatment, while department store chain John Lewis is taking greater care in vetting its own suppliers’ supply chains to ensure GDPR controls are being upheld throughout.

Failing to effectively manage anything from financial and trading information, to evidence of regulatory compliance, can cause problems in your supply chain. These need to be well recorded and updated frequently in order to protect current investments and ensure your business can meet sales and order commitments according to the law.

Of 250 procurement managers who we asked about their procurement practices, 45% agreed that on-boarding and managing suppliers is a labour-intensive aspect of their businesses, while 44% believe that a lack of procurement processes impact their ability to manage suppliers efficiently, creating barriers to business growth. This brings the accuracy of suppliers’ data under scrutiny, especially with many relying on error-prone manual processing.

Managing supplier data doesn’t have to be a painful process. The following tips will help your business carry out supplier on-boarding quicker and manage your pool of supplier data more effectively.

1. Go digital with your on-boarding processes

You can take away a large part of stress that comes with updating records from numerous suppliers by inviting them to self-serve using electronic tools. Using this, suppliers are not only encouraged – but required – to provide all financial data, documents and accreditations via a supplier portal, which automatically notifies your business of any changes made. This process saves time for both the supplier and its customers, as well as reducing the risk of avoidable disputes.

2. Simplify data collection

In order to ensure supplier data is managed effectively, it’s important to simplify the data collection process. With each supplier comes a wealth of data, leading to a lot of work. This can range from core financial details and legal information used to manage payments and contract details to additional evidence for proof of compliance to your business’ corporate, ethical and health and safety policies.
All these components can be factored into pre-configured Supplier Registration Forms (SRF) taking into account what you need from each of your suppliers. These can be configured for individual suppliers or used again for similar accounts in multiple languages and levels of complexity, turning a repeated chore into a single planned task.

3. Automate supplier compliance

While it’s a big job, maintaining an updated record of all supplier data can be made much easier. Once on-boarded to an electronic supplier management system complete with up-to-date data, your suppliers will receive electronic prompts to update information once it has expired.

These notifications can be customised for each supplier’s deadlines and configured to protect against fraud, and alerts can be triggered for internal stakeholders in the event of missing or changed information. For cases where a sensitive issue has been raised such as changes to bank details, payment can be withheld until the changes have been approved by appropriate personnel.

Getting to grips with supplier data doesn’t have to be the unmanageable task it is sometimes thought as. The benefits of successful supplier management reach all aspects of the supply chain process, and puts the onus on suppliers to keep their customers updated on changes to price, supply and sales criteria. Introducing technology that can aid key supplier management allows customers and suppliers alike to foresee their business’ futures and anticipate forthcoming positive outcomes.