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If you’ve done some research on automating your supplier management processes and you’re investigating where to start, you’re likely to be thinking about what to look for in a supplier portal. It’s less complex than you might think, and we’ve pulled together the key features that make for a highly usable vendor portal. 

Standard features

There are several standard features that you would expect to find in a supplier portal. As you do your research into different platforms, check that all the options that make your shortlist can handle the following:

  • Purchase order management
  • Quotation requests
  • Share demand forecasts
  • Quality notifications
  • Supplier KPIs

 

Intuitive user experience (UX)

A supplier portal should create a feeling of ease and familiarity from the first touch to the last – you want to encourage people to use it, not set them a challenge. This applies not only to your external suppliers but your internal teams, as you should expect your Purchasing department to be logging in regularly to access and interact with easily digestible data. To achieve your goal of improved collaboration, it’s essential that the UX is right.

 

Clear, customisable dashboard

At-a-glance clarity is essential for your portal users to get the most out of the software. Are the analytical graphics easy to understand and clearly displayed? Can you set up bespoke views for different categories of user? As you assess different systems, involve the staff who will use the system day to day to gain some unbiased feedback regarding the pros and cons from a user’s perspective.

 

Compatibility with existing tech

If you’re already running SAP ERP within your business, you’ll want your supplier portal to be able to operate seamlessly with it. That`s likely to limit your options, as third-party supplier portals usually require complex integration. Make sure you only shortlist the systems that can be easily integrated with SAP ERP or, even better, are delivered natively within your existing environment.

 

Document upload/download

The purpose of your portal is to keep all of the relevant documentation online, securely and in one place. Look for a portal that will enable this, with the functionality to ensure that all users can see the latest, most up-to-date version.

 

Easy onboarding

The registration process for suppliers needs to be customisable to your needs so you capture all the supplier information you need straightaway. It should be simple to get set up from your suppliers’ perspective too.

 

Once suppliers receive an invitation to register, can they go through the process at their own speed without the need to contact you via any other mechanism? This process should be fully automated, with clear calls to action throughout and the capability to send reminders when actions remain uncompleted.

 

Set up and support

What advice does the portal provider give regarding set up, from cost to likely timescales? Is training necessary? Will ongoing support be available, and what budget will you need to allow for this? Check if your package will include new features as they become available, too.

 

Self-service capability

You’ll want your suppliers to have all the information they need at their fingertips, for their convenience and your own. By the same token, your own team will have queries regarding supplier process protocols. How easy is it to find the right information quickly without resorting to other channels such as email or telephone?

 

Scalability

Scalability can be an important success factor for a supplier portal – will it be able to manage increased demand as your business grows? The flexibility to respond to changing needs and accommodate growth will help to ensure that your supplier portal is future-proof.

 

Compliance

Making sure that your products are fully compliant with all the relevant regulations means having full traceability of materials. You’ll want your portal to act as a repository for all the necessary documentation to demonstrate that your suppliers are compliant at this stage of the supply chain, from materials declarations to ethical trading policies.

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