Many supply chain challenges can be overcome by working more closely with partner companies. Of course, to achieve this, you need to bring suppliers on-side and prove that your suggestions hold water.
There are a number of strategies to follow and arguments to make in this context, so here is a look at a few of the most compelling points to put across when discussing workflow integration with suppliers.
Embrace external platforms to avoid technical complications & improve interoperability
One common sticking point for companies at different points in the supply chain is that the systems chosen to facilitate workflows can vary wildly. This creates all sorts of potential conflicts and compatibility issues, as well as presenting all organizations involved with a significant technical conundrum to combat.
Suppliers may find the idea of cross-pollinating hardware and software insurmountable, so the best way around this is to make internal systems accessible externally with an Application Programming Interface (API) that is managed on a third-party platform.
By exposing your API through a platform, you can approach integration in a way that is essentially hardware and software agnostic. No matter what server setup or tool package a supplier might be using, the right platform can bring these together and make your in-house data available to them with ease.
There are other benefits that your business can glean from such a scenario as well, namely that you will be able to provide API access to multiple suppliers in one fell swoop. It is simply a case of choosing a platform that meets your needs, and showcasing its benefits to the suppliers whose workflows you want to integrate.
Emphasize the appeal of cloud-powered solutions
Streamlining the integration of workflows with suppliers through your choice of API and platform is all well and good, but sometimes a focus on the more technically complex benefits might not win over your target audience.
This is where talking about the tangible, comprehensible benefits of moving workflows to the cloud and breaking down the barriers between the platforms you use is worthwhile.
From improved scalability, which means that peaks and troughs in demand throughout the year are easier to accommodate, to greater affordability when compared with purely on-premises setups, the potential presented by the cloud is almost endless.
It is also a good idea to talk about the ability to take a hybrid approach so that suppliers do not feel that they need to completely ditch legacy systems and software all at once in order to get onboard with what you are suggesting.
Commit to comprehensive security
Another hurdle to workflow integration with suppliers is thrown up by questions surrounding how security will be handled.
Partners may be hesitant to combine tools and resources, or at least make them interoperable unless they know that by doing so they will not be risking a greater exposure to cyber threats or the potential for regulatory reprisals.
It is your job to lay out clearly how you intend to ensure that security is maintained at the highest levels, especially when it comes to things like access management. Once again this can be done with the right use of APIs and management platforms, so that data is shared safely and is only available to those that need it.
Amplify the advantages of automation
Arguably the most important perk of workflow integration is the opportunity this provides to automate processes that were previously manual in nature. This applies to internal workflows between departments, as well as to any external link-up you have with suppliers.
Automation is a much-discussed topic and is no less relevant here than anywhere else. It means that the tasks that team members used to spend tedious hours of their day doing by hand can instead be completed in seconds by software, and this is all the better if multiple tools are involved.
From allowing inventory data to be updated on the fly across both your and your supplier’s systems, to creating alerts and notifications when predetermined events occur, all sorts of aspects can be automated. This saves you cash, boosts productivity, and enhances employee effectiveness, among other things.
Ask about their pain points
At the end of the day, suppliers will only be convinced that workflow integration is the way to go if they know that taking this path will help them to overcome the problems they face at the moment. If it just seems like something that will benefit your business and not theirs, then the attraction will be lessened.
This means that it is sensible to reach out and ask what obstacles they have to overcome at the moment, and then shape your arguments for integration around this feedback. This will also show that you are receptive to their input and want to work together to achieve your collective goals.
About the author
A growth hacker at heart, Jess helps SaaS companies rapidly scale their inbound leads through lean marketing strategies. She views content marketing and advertising as the perfect concoction of growth, and loves to write about her insights and experiences.