4 Tips for a Successful Rollout of a New Vendor Program
August 20, 2015
Launching a program with a new vendor isn’t as simple as sending out an email that says ‘start buying.’ (Though it would be great if it were that easy.)
Depending on the breadth and complexity of the vendor program, it may take a bit of work to do it right. But when done the right way, the ROI on that new vendor relationship will be worth the effort.
Here are 4 things I’ve learned about rolling out new vendor programs that make the process go so much better.
1. Prepare Your Buyers for What’s Coming
Communication and expectation setting with internal stakeholders is the biggest weakness I find with most rollouts. You can’t simply change relationships, purchasing processes (and sometimes the underlying systems), and expect to succeed without great communication.
I recommend starting to set expectations 30-60 days in advance. A ‘coming soon’ email or memo, detailing the what, why and when, is an easy and effective way to do this.
Then, as the rollout approaches, get your staff comfortable with any changes to process they may experience. Provide opportunities to ask questions, understand new processes and attend training if required. And after the vendor program is rolled out, provide a process (managed by a point person) for people to get new questions answered and issues resolved.
2. Follow a New Vendor Implementation Plan
Your vendors should have a proven implementation plan they use for new customers. Work with them to refine it to make sure it fits your specific needs. And follow it to a tee.
A good implementation plan should cover pre and post rollout activities like:
Setting up the ordering system and process
Loading and confirming contracted pricing
Establishing workflow and business rules
Agreeing on invoice structure and billing dates
Developing and implementing training plans for stakeholders
Good vendors have this process down to a science, but know that you can’t plan for everything. Be flexible and prepared to make adjustments.
3. Build Adoption by Building Credibility
Once the program is rolled out, don’t forget to share your progress, successes and problems along the way. Being transparent in the process, especially discussing problems and how you’re resolving them, helps to build credibility and actually make the adoption go much faster and smoother.
4. Set Your First Business Review in Advance
As you begin working with your new vendor, you’ll identify ways to make the program even better. Don’t wait six months or a year to sit down and discuss these ideas. I recommend a 30 day check in, a 90 day refinement meeting and then a more formal, recurring 6 month form business review. These three check points, all within the first six months, will allow you to quickly make improvements and establish the foundation of a strong working relationship with your vendor.
Like anything that requires change, you get out what you put in. When you go to the effort of establishing a new vendor relationship, make sure to invest the time and energy to roll it out in the right way. The ROI will be so worth the effort.
Tom Rogers is CEO of Vendor Centric. You can reach Tom at email@example.com. You can also follow Tom on Twitter @TRogersCPA.