Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fixing the Supplier Portal - A Brief Introduction to some concerns in the Vendor Supply line for Larger and Mid-Sized Financial Companies.

Status = Draft under Review but shared for current economic relevancy on Expenses and Jobs facilitation:

I have observed Accounts Payable (A/P) and Vendor Management for years now on Expenses, with hands on expertise from the ground up, the knowledge and insight that grows  from working on a cross section of Fortune 500, medium and boutique Entities. Accounts Payable is of key importance and is a widely overlooked area in Accounting Operations considering that by my estimate 80% or more of your Financial Statements are being built out from A/P. As you gain experience working in the operations, management and re-engineering of Expenses you gain an appreciation for the key points where you can find efficiency and many people work around, rather than with the efficiency they can gain in Accounts Payable. Potentially becase it's better understood when you've worked with it.

Your Accounts Payable staff is a key and integral part of your Accounting Operations that benefits from the training and tools you give them to work with - we'll discuss it more on the road ahead. This Entry is Focused on Supplier Portals, as a starting point for Vendor relations and efficiency. A Supplier Portal is an origin point for Vendor Relations that subsequnetly evolve to create Vendor Expenses that will in turn be entered to Accounts Payable and at that point become a key part of your Entities Financial Statements through Expenses.

Correctly implemented Supplier Services Portals save Acconts Payable Operations time for Operations on IRS W-9 Form 1099 requirements (add efficiency on Taxes and Financials).

One of the efficiencies gained with the Supplier Portal is the automated ability to cover IRS W-9 Reporting Requirements in support of 1099s at the begining of the process. Historically W-9s have always been a drag point and time consumptive drain on resources as Vendor Management pursued Vendors to complete files on new vendors each year in the 1099 process. That's one improvement that is surely appreciatted by Accounts Payable and Tax Staff in Entity Operations. Like any process it's alway harder to get what you need after a transaction has expired - so where vendors had brief interaction following up on W-9s would become a time draining process, especially when your prime objective was other end of year needs. With the advent of vendor portals that mandate W-9s this process can be automated and add greater efficiency to poerations.

But what are the Challenges for the Supplier (Vendor) and the Entity in Economically Efficient sourcing (of suppliers)?, The Other Business Case for Efficient Portals - Matching a Buyer and Seller with better price points to save on resources through convenience and broadened competition.

Recently more directly using Portals from the perspective of an incoming Supplier, I became focused on the inefficiency of Supplier Service Portals in their current iterations. The Concept of a Supplier Portal is a strong one with great potential, however in execution Supplier Service Portals have a ways to go.  For the past couple of days I have been specifically dealing with this problem so I wanted to bring it in for consideration.

This entry is still in the work up phase, and  I'll draw in examples soon - but my own experience in business is really enough in sufficiency to readily support this one with prima facie evidence of experience with the portals. And the easy to reach economic inference that there is costly inefficiency still remaining to be engineered in the Vendor Services interface/ automation pipeline.

At the core of any Business are the Economics of Efficiency, it's the area that Management Consultants and Accounting and Finance Professionals continually revisit for re-engineering so it's suprising that such a fertile opportunity for re-engineering has not been covered yet - but then again not. Let's explore this a bit if we may.

Consider the Financial Services Industry where Technology takes a key role, and the match up between a Buyer and Seller is measured in nano-seconds for efficiency and time is at it's greatest value. This is the Revenues End of a Financial Services Business where the time value of information results in gains and losses and the leader with the best information insight makes the best gains on Trades. On the expenses end of this same Business is an archaic system of matching Vendors (Suppliers) to workflow that is only marginally improving in these challenging times.

In it's fundamental functionality a Supplier interface works as a portal to upload data - but what happens thereafter still seems an open area for efficiency Engineering in the match up of  a Buyer and Seller with Economic Efficiency. This is clear to understand when you consider that the connection between Vendors and a Financial Entity. Vendors drive Expenses at a fairly healthy level of Financial Services Expenses in the P&L behind Employment Costs and Facilities. Opportunities to find efficiency by connecting Financial Services businesses to Medium and Small sized Domestic Solutions can be a key step in added savings for Corporations especially with the current supply of Labor and the need to grow new start ups in the Economy.

The Re-Engineering of Supplier Services Portals can work to a dual benefit - in the first case to help the Corporation competitively shop for better value, second case to promote the development of competitive medium and small sized supplier services that can reduce Corporate Expenses and Increase Corporate Profitability.

In the greater pursuit of maximizing shareholder wealth, finding renewed efficiency and effectively utilized automation in vendor portals is an open avenue for continued engineering in challenging times to reduce costs through broader and more competitive options on supplier services / vendor support.

We will be workshopping this post but the essence of the post is to place the thought on the table for you better consideration - sometimes the observation is so fundamental  in it's truth that you dimish the point if it becomes overstudied - seeing is believing in this case and experiencing is knowing. We have seen it and experienced it as a process that while great in concept is ready for additional engineering to fully utilize and meet savings for Corporations through greater vendor competition, supplier diversity or what other title you may wish to place upon it.

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