Supplier Collaboration And The Art Of The Network: It’s Time For A Digital Revolution

Alex Atzberger

The beauty of digital transformation is that it allows us to reimagine the way business should be done. Take your interactions with your suppliers, for example.

Many large enterprises have thousands of suppliers. Truly managing such a large supplier base is difficult; detecting risks within this network is even harder. In the same vein, adding new suppliers and later certifying and approving them can be painstakingly slow. Managing the performance of suppliers and collaborating with them on forecasting and other joint processes are often done in separate systems.

Taking advantage of the supplier market not only requires faster cycles, but more transparent, efficient, and, above all, intelligent processes. Improving supplier collaboration is not just a matter of making information more accessible and sharing it across a wider audience of users. It’s about tapping into the network effect and connecting buyers and sellers to a digital marketplace that adds value to all participants.

Supplier collaboration is prime for a digital revolution

B2C experiences typically govern most of our work behaviors. And when you think about it, it makes absolute sense: Familiar technology leads to user adoption, which then drives program success.

In today’s digital economy, networks are generating most of these B2C experiences. Starting with simple status updates, today’s social networks are now platforms for media, sharing, informational communities, and academic and educational channels – in other words, networks are virtually everywhere. Fortunately, they are incredibly immediate in terms of transparency, efficiency, and intelligence. As they grow in capabilities, they become more valuable and essential to our daily lives.

Supplier collaboration in the digital age is not that different. While most businesses may have started with sharing purchase orders electronically, a network allows them to tap into rich capabilities for supplier collaboration such as the discovery of new suppliers, performance ratings, certifications, payments, and much more. And since suppliers are part of that network, they can scale their business across multiple buyers through one platform. Efficient, transparent, and scalable – as more suppliers and buyers join the network, these values increase for everyone.

Procurement is a key driver in this digital transformation as it brings a new buying experience to employees and enables the business to work more strategically with suppliers. Take Loblaws, for instance. As Canada’s food and pharmacy leader, it has a network of corporate and independently operated stores in communities across the country. By using the power of a supplier network, the company created a strong centralized process to secure savings and mitigate risks with its largest vendors. For Loblaws, the change was significant, if not impressive. Employees can order supplies within three keystrokes, taking the purchase process down from nearly a half hour to under one minute. And consolidating 30,000 separate orders into one solution has given the company the visibility it needs to manage end-to-end procurement activity across the entire enterprise.

Digitize the supply chain, make procurement simple

By digitizing supplier collaboration, every business can radically change how it controls costs and increases process efficiency, as well as its value proposition to customers. However, like anything else, new ways of work do not come without ruffling a few feathers along the way. Using digital technology as the on-ramp, chief procurement officers can prove the ROI of this approach to set the stage for a much larger transformation of the supply chain and their business.

To hear more about Loblaws’ approach, watch the replay of the SAPPHIRE NOW session “Digitize Your Supply Chain and Make Procurement Simple with SAP Ariba Solutions.”





Alex Atzberger

About Alex Atzberger

Alex Atzberger is the President of Ariba. Prior to his current role, he was the Chief of Staff, Office of CEO, driving SAP's Board governance, alignment of Corporate functions to CEO priorities and CEO operations during SAP's transition to a sole CEO model under Bill McDermott.