The supply chain has its issues and challenges that are specific to procurement, payment and quality control, among others. But, in the end, it all boils down to relationships, which are based on trust and communication. The problem lies with gathering insights about that supply chain and its relationships that are actionable and reliable.
Clearly, there is room for improvement. As a Gallup study noted earlier this year, as many as 71 percent of organizations are willing to switch suppliers.
Earlier this month, ClientLoyalty, an enterprise relationship management software company operating in the cloud, introduced a relationship management platform that serves both sides of the same supply chain coin: buyers and suppliers.
The platform functions across two modules. One is a performance management solution that is geared toward buyers, while the other, a client success management solution, focuses on suppliers.
The key to stanching such attrition that is signaled by the Gallup survey? According to ClientLoyalty CEO Kent Barnett, data sharing, up and down the supply chain, can help save and improve relationships between enterprises and their suppliers —becoming what he termed “a strategic relationship with data.” He likened the process here, with a focus on B2B relationships, to the fabled Six Sigma techniques and analysis that help manufacturers gain insight in how to improve their processes. “These are strategic relationships based on data sharing,” said the executive, who noted that, traditionally, key performance indicators (KPIs) “have been spreadsheet-oriented and not easy to share” and, as such, the value that lies in feedback becomes lost.
Suppliers lose customers, said Barnett, and buyers, with any number of suppliers tied to their businesses, may lose track of true performance. “There is very little use of data in collaboration across the supply chain,” said Barnett, “and data, for these companies, resides in a lot of locations,” which leads to inefficiencies and missed opportunities.
The improvement of relationships between buyers and suppliers, said Barnett, operates with the ClientLoyalty platform as a two-way street, with benchmarks and “direct feedback across multiple parties” transversing both sides of the buyer-supplier relationship. The process is one Barnett said could be seen as similar to performance reviews that typically take place within enterprises, with a 360° viewpoint that takes into account peers, customers and higher-ups and provides a holistic view of performance.
In providing a similarly sophisticated view of performance, ClientLoyalty takes a cue from “social sentiment,” where Barnett said the software “scrubs social media sites for reputations” via algorithms, which gives feedback that can amount to an effective way to conduct risk control. A poor reputation can offer warning signs of poor performance.
For buyers, the collaboration means that performance improvement ideas can be floated to suppliers, and with benchmarking, accountability becomes somewhat quantitative (so the three legs of the strategy are direct feedback, social sentiment and data that is directly tied to operations). For suppliers, the benefit is in client retention, said Barnett.