As technology continues to drive to the forefront of procurement innovation, more and more applications are being implemented to streamline sourcing initiatives, supplier and contract management, and KPI tracking across entire organizations.  Even with the most user-friendly software, there is a need to train employees and end users on these new platforms to ensure proper use and full optimization of functionalities.  Internally this is typically an easy transition as employee are incentivized to learn the software to both secure their position and reap the resource saving benefits of the software.

        As a procurement professional, I have had experience across multiple eSourcing platforms throughout my career.  I have worked both within eSourcing Suites created and licensed by my employer, and as an end user of a third party platform.  The benefits of administering an RFx through this software are clear.  Supplier responses are easily managed, maintained, and analyzed by the platform.  Comprehensive reports of supplier participation, questions, and cost savings can be generated at the click of a button.  Compared to manually compiling responses offline, the use of this software is a sourcing analysts dream.

        When deciding when the use of eSourcing software is appropriate for an RFx, another end user needs to be considered – the supplier.  Throughout my experience conducting events through these online platforms I have had at best suppliers begrudgingly agree to participate through the software, and at worst, flat out refusal.

There are a few key reasons that suppliers prefer traditional methods of collecting information and pricing over the use online platforms:

1.       It is easy to miss information.
Automated emails generated through these platforms often are filtered into spam or junk folders.
  As a result, suppliers often miss information. If their company is particularly diligent about filtering out spam, they may have to work with IT to locate emails and adjust the filters, wasting valuable company resources.

2.       Each platform is different, and training can be time consuming.
Even though the principles of an RFP, RFQ, RFI, and eAuction are similar industry wide, each platform operates under different nuances that require a walk through for first time users.
  For eAuctions specifically, since time and participation are critical for the success of the event, often a mock auction will be a requirement for supplier participation.  This is investing more supplier time and resources without a guarantee of gaining any business.

3.       Some suppliers are still old school.
Particularly in the MRO and Manufacturing spaces, some suppliers still operate under dated or non-existent technology and just simply do not have the knowledge base or means to participate in these types of events.
   With retirement coming later and later for many industry professionals, the motivation to learn a new skill-set for potential business may not seem to hold enough value.

4.       They may be unfairly disqualified.
Some platforms automatically prevent supplier participation if a question is skipped or if a response does not align with expectations.
  This opens a lot of room for error, and not a lot of room for productive discussion of supplier limitations to find alternate ways of mitigation.

5.       They make collaboration difficult.
It typically takes multiple employees within a company to respond to a request for proposal.
  For example, the proposal documents may need to pass through a sales representative for response to questions surrounding account management, engineering for technical questions, and quotation teams in multiple regions to provide appropriate pricing and freight costs to service a national company.  Usually these platforms allow for one login associated with each supplier response, and working “online” with multiple users sharing these credentials runs the risk of missed communication via email, and accidental response overrides.

6.       eAuctions are difficult for representatives with volatile schedules.

Aligning the schedules of a business development or account manager for multiple companies within an industry can be challenging, if not outright impossible.  Should a last minute schedule change prevent a supplier from participating in a live auction, the opportunity is lost both for the supplier and for your firm.

        Each of these valid supplier concerns can drastically reduce the quality of RFP responses.  Even if you are well known company with hundreds of millions in procurement spend, some suppliers may simply refuse to participate despite potential for a mutually beneficial partnership.  Recognizing these barriers is the first step to empowering your current and potential supply base to provide productive responses utilizing the technology that your company invests in.  With this newfound empathy, there is progress to be made.  Please stay tuned for Technology in Procurement Part II: EmpoweringSuppliers to ensure eSourcing Success.
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Jennifer Engel

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