Supply chain partner selection in a travel constrained world
In March, many companies paused plans to assess new supply chain partners. Our traditional processes of tenders, meetings, and site visits were disrupted, and consideration was given to waiting out the process. By April it was clear that we would be living with the impact of Covid-19 for many quarters and like many other areas in life, we would need to find new ways of working in a travel constrained world.
This is as difficult for suppliers and providers as it is for decisionmakers, but we are seeing that decisions are once again being made. We continue to be involved in supporting several of these assessments and processes – with a view on how it is being managed by providers and decisionmakers alike.
It turns out that many of the best practices in normal times can be adapted for a travel constrained world whether in the technology, healthcare, pharmaceutical, retail or other industries.
- Clarity on Scope is more important than ever
We have always said that if you go searching for a partner without a clear scope, you risk buying from the best sales person, rather than finding the best partner. Completing the work up front on what is required and what success looks like will help all parties to be clear on requirements and how they can be best met. Sharing physical product samples can also help provide a more visual connection to the business.
- Video tours – rooted in place – linked to process
Traditionally a facility tour can take 30 to 90 minutes with explanations about health and safety, security, a walk through the process from start to finish. It includes a chance to meet team members, ask questions, view metrics boards, and point out areas of differentiation. It also provides an opportunity to explain where the new business could be housed and to visualise the flow for customers. The best virtual tours that we have seen follow a similar format (but in a shorter time) – bringing customers on logical stops through the facility, and walking them through the process, explaining what they would see if they were there in person and inviting questions.
- Let the team drive the process
Sales people are important but customers will want to meet the team that will be running their business. The confidence building process comes from letting the subject matter experts demonstrate their knowledge and passion for a prospective customer’s business. Beyond the initial presentations – look for opportunities to have subgroups connect on technical areas for more detailed conversations.
- Governance and executive support
Getting an early understanding of ways of working – meeting cadence, KPIs, reports, reviews – will help set expectations for how the future relationship will operate. It provides for an effective way to communicate and to manage issues as they arise and to plan for improvement and growth. Walking through the process beyond a decision and into implementation will also provide assurance on the path to a successful onboarding of a new client relationship. Clarity on escalation paths if needed from both teams will help as will having visible executive support to provide assurance that resources will be made available.
- Culture and fit
Probably one of the most difficult areas to assess through this process is the cultural fit between organisations. We miss out on many of the normal social interactions over a lunch or a dinner. Where possible spend some time on the context of both organisations, their origins, their values and provide some background on similar customer stories and how those relationships have developed. These can also be supported by choosing appropriate customer references and giving an opportunity to have these conversations.
The usual mechanics of a tender process can be adapted to the current circumstances and there are ways to get assurance and set up for success. With current restrictions, if it is possible to facilitate even a limited site visit as part of the final selection process, we believe that there is still great value in making that happen.