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As you evolve along the e-commerce maturity curve—moving from reactive mode, where you mainly respond to customer requests, to proactive, where you initiate actions that optimize your e-commerce capabilities to increase value for you and your customers—it’s important to put measurements in place to track progress and document success. And an e-commerce scorecard is a great tool to help you do it.

 

How can an e-commerce scorecard benefit your business?

An e-commerce scorecard gives you a highly effective way to share key metrics that reveal the success of your e-commerce strategy. Why is this important?

  • Enhances buy-in and support at all levels of the organization. When you share measurements, you increase visibility and appreciation for the value of e-commerce at all management levels—including the executive level. For example, hard numbers demonstrating how much of your company’s revenue comes through e-commerce can make management take serious notice. Similarly, when you can show how much money you’re saving on every electronic order that comes in unassisted (like the cost of 10-20 minutes of sales agent time per order) and how much faster you’re getting paid (by five to 15 days or more), executives can better understand the extraordinary potential of e-commerce to lower sales costs and reduce days sales outstanding.
  • Hones your strategy to drive better results. Besides making it easier to socialize your initiatives internally, publishing a clear set of measurements helps you and your team focus on what you really want to accomplish. With the right scorecard metrics, for example, you can see where you need to improve to achieve your goals and meet—or exceed—service levels provided by your competitors. And based on this data, you can make rational decisions about where to invest further. Measurements can also be the key to securing new budget for e-commerce initiatives; the more executives see tangible proof of the value of e-commerce, the easier it is to get funding for e-commerce improvements to grow your team, enhance your e-commerce capabilities, and move further up the maturity curve.
  • Helps you benchmark and improve your market position. Measurements help you objectively assess how competitive your business is relative to other suppliers. For example, you can evaluate whether your services are at least on a par with best-in-class suppliers, and identify and promote specific areas where your performance and capabilities differentiate you from other sellers—which can be critical to finding and keeping customers and driving up sales.

 

Tomorrow: Getting started strategies

If you don't want to wait, go to our Supply Lines group to read the full article.

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Yesterday, we posted a blog that had tips on working with Sourcing Managers.  Today, we'll discuss the last two tips.

 

Tip #7: Don’t take your customer for granted once you finalize the contract. Too many sellers view a signed contract as the end point of their efforts. Yet getting the business is only the first step; keeping it is something else again. Cement relationships by watching for new opportunities to help the customer cut costs, work more efficiently, and make their life easier. If you don’t, you may lose their trust and ultimately, their business. “If a competitor points out ways my current supplier could be saving me money or bringing value-add that they didn’t tell me about, I may bid out that business and award it to someone else, whereas if my current seller had brought it to me up front I’d stick with them,” Sherrill says. “For example, if you’re providing e-catalogs for other customers, or using EDI or pCards or things like that, you should proactively say to us, ‘Do you want to use EDI? Because we can do it; please set us up.’ That’s always better than us having to reach out to you.”

 

Tip #8: Do follow good financial practices. For example:

  • Don’t invoice without a purchase order. Though the best practice is not to render service till you’ve gotten a PO, internal users will often ask you to move forward while promising to get the PO in the system. While that may be okay to a certain point, be sure to get a PO before sending your bill. “Invoices that don’t reference a PO delay the payment process and cause other match exception problems,” Sherrill says. “Instead, they need to insist that the end user gets the PO to them so they can reference it in the invoice.”
  • Know the buyer’s back-end AP processes and automate when possible. Dealing with the myriad ways sellers want to submit invoices creates headaches for buying organizations, so make it your priority to learn and use their preferred method. If e-invoicing is an option, be sure to offer it, since it saves you and your customer effort and expense and greatly increases accuracy.
  • Manage your cash flow effectively. Do whatever it takes to ensure that your bills are paid in a timely fashion and your other cash flow needs are met. “We’ve had suppliers come into our office and wait for AP to print off their check so they could pay their subcontractors and prevent legal action being taken against them,” Sherrill says. “That doesn’t look good.” Resources like Ariba Receivables Financing and dynamic discounting can help you get the money you need when you need it.

 

This post is part of the current issue of Ariba Supply Lines. Ariba Supply Lines is a quarterly newsletter that provides valuable tips, best practices, and the latest thinking to take your online business relationships with your buying customers to the next level.

To subscribe to this permission only newsletter, please click here.

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Yesterday, we covered the benefits of contract management. Today, we'll share best practices for implementing an automated solution.

 

1. Build a template that’s easy for users to adopt. By designing a wizard-style template to guide various users along a customized path, you can ensure they see only the appropriate tasks, documents, and approval workflows. And to make sure the flow you create will really work, you first need to “know what your process is and get it down on paper,” Martz says. Answer these questions:


  • Who’s asking for the contract?
  • Who will use the system, and what will their roles be?
  • What dollar thresholds
  • Who needs to see which documents, and when

 

You can also gather metrics on how long tasks actually take and use this identify bottlenecks if the process isn’t moving quickly enough, providing a good timeline for your contracts overall.

 

2. Promote contract visibility throughout your company. “Make sure all stakeholders, not just those in sales, really understand the implications of sales contracts,” Dwyer advises. Role-based access along with dashboard self-service search and reporting tools give users the visibility and resources to use CLM effectively.

 

3. Manage risk at the contract and engagement levels. It’s essential to track and understand what’s going on within all contracts—not just some of them, or only those in your own department. You can establish an alert system to help users monitor status and ensure you don’t miss deadlines, fail to fulfill terms and conditions, or overlook legal mandates. For example, automating physician contracts makes it much easier for the Cleveland Clinic to stay compliant not only with internal policies, but state and federal requirements as well, despite rapid growth and a sharp increase in the complexity of healthcare regulations.

 

4. Move from tactical to strategic contract management. “Don’t think of this as just another series of processes that unfortunately you have to do day in and day out,” Dwyer says. “Think about it as more strategic: ‘Hey, if we do this the right way, there’s going to be tremendous value across the organization.’” For example, you can take advantage of the centralized contracts repository and data analytics to inform your negotiations on upcoming contracts. “It’s always interesting to be able to dig into that information and say ‘We signed this contract with this organization four years ago, what were the negotiations like last time, or what was the pricing like last time?’ All that information is very important,” Dwyer says.


 

Learn more

For more information about how automated contract management can deliver value to your business, listen to the full session on the Ariba Slideshare site. To learn about the Ariba Contract Management solution for sales contracts, go to this web page and download this datasheet.


To read the article in full, click here. For latest insights and best practices for collaborative business commerce, go to our Supply Lines group.

Do you want to know more about Punchout?  Do you have challenges with Punchout?  Learn more about Punchout from one of our Ariba Supplier Solutions Providers, PunchOutCatalogs.com, in this blog post by Matt Fisher.

Introduction

 

This post is a humble attempt to help Ariba suppliers/sellers by:

  1. Describing what a punchout catalog is
  2. Walking through the typical punchout flow
  3. Identifying some of the advantages and challenges of punchout
  4. Providing additional sources of information for your organization to become punchout capable

 

Preface

 

Even though I’ve been helping suppliers and buyers conduct business electronically with each other since Ariba’s early days in the 1990s, this is my very first post on Ariba Exchange. With every visit to the site, I’m increasingly impressed with the growing sense of community and look forward to contributing and learning from you all.

 

We’re all experts at something, and while supplier enablement is admittedly my one area of expertise, I sincerely acknowledge that there’s always more to learn from people. With that said, all of us who have worked with punchout catalogs know that no two definitions of  punchout are the same, and it’s different every time we try to explain it to someone.

 

I offer this first post to the community and welcome any and all feedback as we continue to help each other.

 

1)    What is a Punchout Catalog?

The majority of large corporations and many government agencies use some kind of eProcurement solution like Ariba Buyer to streamline and control the millions or billions of dollars of products and services that they buy every year. The employees in these organizations are being asked to use these eProcurement tools to create purchase orders rather than simply using their credit card to buy directly from suppliers’ B2C eCommerce sites or in a physical store. By driving spend through these tools, buyers gain control through approval rules, visibility through reporting, and bargaining power by driving business to contracted suppliers.

 

The preferred way for employees to create purchase orders is to use catalogs. Catalogs make it easier for employees to create accurate and detailed purchase orders that are most likely to be fulfilled without issue by suppliers. Employees would prefer to use catalogs and simply add what they need with a few clicks rather than being forced to manually type in all the required information in a “non-catalog” purchase requisition.

 

There are typically two types of catalogs:

A.     A relatively simple spreadsheet that lists supplier products or sometimes simple services, e.g. Ariba’s CIF file.

B.     More complex punchout websites that are similar in functionality to the common online ordering website. Punchout sites         have a special ability to integrate with customers that use eProcurement systems like Ariba Buyer.

 

For the less technical business owner, account manager, or sales rep, a punchout catalog is an online ordering website that your large customers can connect to in order to find the information they need about your products or services. Sounds simple enough?

 

For the more technical IT manager, website administrator, or consultant, a punchout catalog is a customized eCommerce shopping cart that integrates with eProcurement systems through a series of HTTPS posts transmitting predefined cXML documents that allow for secure authentication and ultimately the transfer of item information from the site’s cart to the buyer’s purchase requisition. Whew!

 

It’s an impressively technical solution that provides a deceivingly simple result: customers are able to get into your site securely, get a quote for what they need, then transfer all the information they need.

 

2)    Typical Punchout Flow

Here’s an attempt at walking you through the typical steps when a user (your customer) wants to buy something from you using your punchout website:

 

1.  Log In

  • Users log into the company’s eProcurement system (e.g. Ariba Buyer).
  • Unlike typical business to consumer (B2C) eCommerce, the customer will never log into your punchout site directly from the Internet, e.g. http://www.yourstore.com – it will always be accessed via the eProcurement system.
  • This is a huge advantage for suppliers as there is no need to administer hundreds or thousands of individual usernames and passwords – this is all handled on the buyer side.

2.  Browse or Search

  • The users browse or search through the potentially numerous catalogs to hopefully find the link to your punchout website.
  • Keep reading for a tip on how to increase the probability of getting found.

3.  “Punch Out” to Website

  • When users click your punchout link in Ariba Buyer, they seamlessly enter your punchout site. At first glance, it may appear that the customers have simply been forwarded to your website; however the users are actually still in their Ariba Buyer sessions – there will be an Ariba Buyer-branded frame at the top of the browser window.
  • This is where the term “punch out” stems from, as users are still in Ariba, but they’ve now connected out to your website for the sole purpose of grabbing the information they need to complete their purchase request.

4.  Transfer Cart Contents

  • Once customers have punched out to your website, they’ll search or browse for their desired product or service just like a typical online shopper would.
  • The checkout process is different, however. When users decide to checkout their carts, instead of the site prompting them for shipping and billing information, they are taken back to their purchase requisitions within Ariba Buyer, and the items that were in the punchout website carts now magically appear in the right spot within their purchase requisitions!
  • Note that customers have NOT actually purchased anything from you yet – remember, they need to send you a purchase order, so what they’ve really done is simply gathered a quote themselves with the help of your punchout site.  True customer self-service!

5.  Submit for Approval & Transmit Purchase Order

  • Once users have finished adding items to the purchase requisition, they are required to enter/confirm additional information such as shipping address, account(s) to be billed, and internal notes such as justification explanation, the requisitions may require approval before purchase orders are finally transmitted to the supplier.

One common misconception is that punchout suppliers must now switch to receiving purchase orders via cXML and start transmitting invoices via cXML as well. While this is a best practice, buyers typically don’t care HOW you receive your orders or transmit your invoices, as long as you fulfill the orders quickly and invoice accurately.

3a) Benefits for Suppliers

 

These are just a few of the main ones and I’m sure many of you can offer others:

 

  • Control the Shopping Experience (Or At Least Part of It)
    • Suppliers that simply provide local catalogs have absolutely no control over the shopping experience beyond the content of the catalog. On the other hand, a punchout allows complete control over the shopping experience and catalog content once customers enter your site.  Suppliers tend to find punchouts more empowering as they can actually see what their customer sees.

  • Update Catalog Content As Needed
    • When it comes time to update your product catalog, if you are using a CIF file, you’ll need to ask coordinate with your buyer to ask permission to make the changes then rely on them to upload the file into Ariba Buyer.  With punchout, you are allowed (and expected) to update your catalog yourself, without the customer needing to do anything.  It is a best practice to at least notify your customers of any notable changes.

  • Upsell and Cross-Sell
    • One way to take advantage of your punchout site is by upselling and cross-selling. If a customer is looking at a camera, suggest that they look at two others in an effort to push more preferred items.  If a customer has added a camera to their cart, suggest additional items they may have forgotten such as a case and tripod!

  • Become “Stickier”
    • When buyers invite you to integrate your punchout website, they’re investing time and effort in you. It’s in their best interest that the integration is thoroughly tested and your website is as user-friendly as possible. Once integrated, they typically are not in a rush to do it all over again with another supplier anytime soon.

  • Market Your Punchout Abilities to Other Customers
    • Now that you’ve taken care of the immediate need to provide a punchout solution to one of your customers, use your new capabilities to your advantage!  Issue a press release. Email all your other customers to see if they are using eProcurement. Update your Ariba Supplier Network profile. Consider joining the Ariba Ready program. Definitely contact Ariba Connection Solutions and express your desire to service additional Ariba customers: http://www.ariba.com/solutions/connection.cfm

  • Provide Enhanced Functionality
    • When you have a punchout site, you have the opportunity to continuously add value. Rather than just provide the bare minimum requirements that your customer has requested, go crazy with value-add functionality! Strive to provide the best punchout possible. Your buyers might even agree to announce notable new functionality to their users, improving your exposure. My next post will include a long list of impressive ways that suppliers are adding value for their customers.

 

3b) Challenges for Suppliers

 

Again, here are just a couple of challenges, however there are more:

 

  • Getting Found in eProcurement Searches
    • The truth is you’re essentially at the mercy of your customers when it comes to how easily your punchout link can be found. You can’t highlight your link, make it bold, or have it float to the top. You might be fortunate enough to be the only listing under your category, or you might be one search result in a listing of thousands. Once the punchout site is up, ask your buyer how best to advise customers on how to find your punchout link.
    • TIP: Suppliers should provide buyers with a list of recommended keywords to help increase the likelihood of your punchout link to be found within Ariba Buyer (e.g. if you’re a printing company add keywords like “business card, letterhead, letter head, envelope, notepad, note pad, print”).
    • NOTE: Instead of providing your buyer with a simple link to your website’s homepage, a more advanced option might be to provide individual links to every category (aisle level punchout) or even every product (item level punchout). This combination of a punchout website with a more detailed catalog file is called level 2 punchout. There are pros and cons to level 2 punchout that I’ll save for another post.

  • Deciding How Best to Go Punchout
    • If you already have an online ordering site, you have three options: try to do it all yourself (DIY), partner with an integrator to outsource at least the new cXML punchout piece, or simply license a turnkey punchout capable shopping cart.
    • This is often a difficult decision to make, especially if you’ve invested substantial time and money in your existing website. The most common approach (in my humble experience) has been to go with the option with the least risk and unknowns: a second site that is already punchout capable. I’ll save this option analysis for another post as well.
    • If you don’t have online ordering capabilities today, then the option is clear: go with a solution that can address all of your customers, both those that are asking for a punchout catalog ASAP and any other customer that may want to order online but not necessarily via punchout.

 

4) Where to Get Help

 

Ariba provides suppliers with useful documentation, live webinars, and third party solution providers:

 

1.  Ariba Supplier Network Help Page

2.  Ariba’s Live Demos

 

3.  Ariba Supplier Solution Providers

 

About the Author

Matt Fisher is the founder and COO of PunchOutCatalogs.com, the longest standing Ariba Supplier Solution Provider, providing suppliers with Ariba certified punchout capable solutions known for their extremely consumer friendly look and feel and a long list of feature functionality, implemented by experienced professionals.  Visit www.PunchOutCatalogs.com for more information.

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In the past couple of days, we  shared how social media monitoring helps capture key customer information for process improvement and helps prioritize the data that is relevant to your company. Next...

 

How do I pick which monitoring tools to use?

The broad array of available tools gives you plenty of flexibility; many companies use multiple solutions to meet their goals. The ones you choose will depend on parameters like your business size, requirements, level of traffic, and budget (though many excellent listening tools are free, so don’t let money be an object).

 

A quick online search will give you a good idea of what’s out there, and new options appear regularly. To get started, you can check out this list of 50 top tools for social media monitoring, analytics, and management; this blog on 5 top free monitoring tools; or this 2014 comparison of 10 top monitoring tools, which includes handy tips on what to look for during the selection process.

 

How can I get more customers engaged in my social channels?

If monitoring tools seem premature because you’re still building your social media presence, you might want to explore these Supply Lines articles about how to engage customers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also read “Making Your Brand Contagious: Seven Success Strategies to Engage Your Customers in Social Media.”

 

To read more helpful articles, check out Supply Lines group.

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