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Your wife hates her Christmas present; and your suppliers hate your portal

man-giving-gift-to-woman-in-front-of-christmas-tree

Now that we are all done with Christmas, do we ever think about how people who are close to us react to their present? The closeness of the relationship often means that candour is often in short supply. No-one tells you how they feel if they value the relationship and know that criticism will lead to an unfavourable reaction.

  • Your wife hates your Christmas present, but she isn’t going to tell you this because she knows that you went to a lot of effort and spent quite a bit more than you should have on it.
  • You Mum hates your beard, but she doesn’t say anything because she knows that you will be offended as it is now part of your identity.
  • Your kids hate your cardigan, but they know that you disapprove of their clothes, so they keep quiet on this one.

 

Suppliers hate your portal, too

Just like your wife and kids, your suppliers don’t always tell you exactly what they think. You won’t always get brutal honesty from formal channels such as supplier surveys or supply chain summits. They value the relationship too much. But look at things from their perspective:

  • Their Accounts Receivable team may have a dozen different portals to deal with: with different capabilities, URLs, user interfaces and passwords.
  • Supplier IT departments also look at the proliferation of customer portals with alarm: each one has to have its own test protocol, and is another hole through the firewall which must be watched.
  • Supplier Sales teams don’t even have access to your portal, so they cannot get any feedback about what you like and don’t like

A portal reflects the power in the relationship

…and don’t your suppliers know it. It is not really a case of “build it and they will come” but more a case of “they will use it or else”. It also doesn’t respect their process. Their Accounts Receivable teams want to access multiple accounts at once not sign on to each one separately.

Everyone loves a portal as it is easy for the portal owner, but hard for the other guy. The power only flows one way: buyers have it and sellers don’t. Take a look at it in reverse. Customer portals are just one of many sales channels for your supplier, there is no coercion: you won’t often hear “If you don’t use my sales portal I won’t take your order”

A Business Network benefits both sides

If each side wants a portal, but only one side has the power to enforce usage, how can this work? The answer is to move from the coercive nature of the “me-to-many” portal to the collaborative “many-to-many” Business Network. A many-to-many network shows consideration to your supplier. You can invite them to a system that will provide additional benefits, as they reach out to their other customers, and potentially use it to find new business. A supplier is more likely to want to invest in integration technology if they can reach 20 or 50 of their large customers rather than just one. So by joining a network your are likely to meet suppliers who have already made several steps down the road to collaboration.

Just as with your spouse: people who value the relationship are unlikely to give candid feedback: so it’s up to you to be considerate. Next year, buy her something she actually wants, not something you think she should have.

About the author
James Marland
Vice President of Network Strategy - Ariba (Twitter: @JamesMarland)

James is responsible for defining and rolling out strategies for the Network with particular focus on Europe. He joined Ariba at the launch of the Ariba Network in 1998 after previously being a Solution Consultant at SAP America. In addition he ha... Read More >>>

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