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Supplier Diversity Blog by supplier.io

How to Start Your Supplier Development Program

how-to-implement-your-supplier-development-program-827092-edited.jpgSupplier development is a natural extension of your supplier diversity program. Through targeted efforts, you can help your suppliers stabilize and scale, ultimately strengthening your supply base. Sounds good, your C-suite says, but how much will it cost us? Good news: Supplier development doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.

You’re probably already doing supplier development

Do you ever arrange introductions between suppliers and customers? Do you educate suppliers about your corporate culture and procurement process? Have you ever sponsored a supplier’s attendance at a local supplier development council or networking event? Congratulations—you’re already participating in supplier development!

Of course a truly effective supplier development program is one with defined goals and tasks. This can be as formal or informal as you’d like. Start by looking at what your supplier diversity team does on a daily basis and identify tasks that fall under the supplier development category. Examine how those tasks could be improved through the lens of supplier development. Finally, establish goals to help you track and focus on metrics in order to reveal what works best for your company and your suppliers. Now you have a framework for your supplier development program. Next, it’s time to define the tools that will help you reach your goals.

Technology saves time and money

When it comes to effectively managing your supplier development program, technology is your best friend. Automating mundane tasks like data verification, sending routine communications, and locating suppliers saves time and money that can be better invested elsewhere.

Consider that not every supplier is a good choice for your supplier development program. You want to use your resources wisely, to get the highest ROI, which means most of the time your “less than best” suppliers are the ones who will benefit the most from supplier development. Sometimes even a potential supplier is the better choice, with an eye toward future integration into the supply chain.

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Data enrichment saves time and money when identifying which suppliers would most benefit from supplier development. Using verified data from reliable sources, you can identify which of your current and potential suppliers are certified diverse and/or small businesses, allowing you to confidently select candidates that align by purchasing category, spend, and strategic relationships. With a supplier locator tool, you can search potential suppliers by location, industry, revenue size, diversity category, and more with just a few clicks of the mouse.

A supplier portal saves your team additional time by automating processes like vetting suppliers and reporting Tier 2 spend. It can also serve as a communication hub. Keep in frequent contact with suppliers through automated messages about reporting deadlines, upcoming bidding opportunities, changes to procurement processes, company news, and more.

When you automate tasks with reliable technology, the time available for meaningful communication and relationship-building increases. Use your newly cleared calendar to schedule face-to-face meetings with suppliers to discuss their goals and how you can support them. Or plan a summit and invite selected suppliers to meet with procurement managers. With effective tools working for you, the possibilities for your supplier development program are endless.

Consider a consultant

If all this talk of supplier development sounds great, but you simply don’t have the physical resources to set up or manage a program on your own, consider bringing a consultant on board. Experienced consultants can help at every stage of a supplier development program, from establishing a new initiative to identifying areas of growth and improvement to managing the program on your behalf.

Whether you need help defining scope and establishing the framework or creating and tracking metrics aligned with your business objectives, a consultant can create a bespoke solution.

Supplier development is the next step in growing your supplier diversity program. Start by identifying ways you already do supplier development, find the right tools to streamline tasks, and consider enlisting experienced consultants to help establish or grow your program. Your supply base is waiting.


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The team has a long history in driving innovative solutions in supplier diversity. We believe that companies deserve solutions that are effective and provide measurable value and results. Started more than a decade ago, supplier.io has rapidly become a prominent provider of supplier diversity solutions to leading corporations. We currently support customers in automotive, healthcare, insurance, retail, manufacturing, education, and banking. One in five Fortune 50 company relies on supplier.io.