If you needed to know the status of one of your vendor accounts right now, how long would it take you to find it? How many steps would be involved in finding your answer? If your path to vendor information and coordination feels difficult or complicated, chances are your company is due for a vendor management software upgrade—one that's more in line with your workflow.
Here are a few tips to ensure you make the right provider choice— both for the present state of your business and for growth in the future.
Communicate Your Needs to a Provider— Not Vice Versa
If you don't step into a provider negotiation with a clear plan— or at least a bullet list of components— there's a chance that you won’t end up with the capabilities you need.
Jennifer Lonoff Smith of CIO recommends that you set parameters before a meeting with vendor management providers to keep the focus where it should be: on you. Work with the employees that will be using a system to define what a software solution must do, what you'd like it to do, and so on. This way, rather than wasting valuable time and energy sifting through a marketing blitz to get to what you need, you'll be building a solution on your own framework.
How Much Hassle?
When selecting a provider for your vendor management software, it's natural to focus on what the software can do, but how much effort it demands is an equally important consideration. Lane Shelton of CIO cautions that something as little as uninformed software asset management can throw a huge wrench in the works of business flow. Here are some questions that will help determine if a software solution is a good fit for your company:
- How quickly and thoroughly can employees be trained to use the system?
- How long will the training require?
- Who will provide the training?
- How do we receive assistance if there's a problem?
- How many users does a license cover?
- How often does the license need to be renewed?
Potential Provider Termination/Switch Scenario
- Who retains rights to the data we've entered into the system?
- Can data or history be exported into a readable format?
- Will our data be destroyed if the partnership is terminated?
There will likely be other organization-specific questions you'll want to cover in your negotiation, but these three sets offer a solid base of information to use during your decision-making process. Information readiness in and of itself can be a test factor. If your potential provider stumbles with their answers or fails to provide them in a timely manner, it may be time to shift to the next name on the list.
Protecting Your Assets with the Right System
A birds-eye view of your vendors— from the smallest groups of temp employees to larger, permanent partnerships— is absolutely necessary for up-to-date snapshots of your operations, ROI and efficiency as a whole.
When too many touch points cloud the overall picture, you lose your nimbleness and ability to react quickly and positively to changes in the marketplace or within your own walls. CIO's Stephanie Overby reinforces the need for vendor management in a modern business climate, citing that outsourcing procurement alone falls short of this necessary transparency and opens gaps in closed loop reporting.
Vendor management software frees up time and resources, period. The right software selection helps reinforce both communication and efficiency efforts company-wide and offers decision-makers an accurate report of where your spend and manpower is ending up.
If your questions about vendor coordination and output only lead to more questions, it's time to start getting better answers with a customized solution and a better software provider relationship.