How to keep tabs on your suppliers

16 October 2013
Stephen Ashcroft - January 2013Supplier intelligence is the purposeful, co-ordinated and ethical gathering and monitoring of your strategic suppliers and their positioning in the marketplace. This activity can be augmented by market knowledge gained from publicly available information about your current suppliers and new entrants into the market. There is a recognition some markets change, which limits sourcing from UK-owned or based organisations, for example in engineering and shipbuilding. The implications for buyers are both considerable and challenging. Twin themes emerged from the CIPS Annual Conference last week; risk and data. Gaining an insight to the personal and operational drivers of your strategic suppliers will help risk mitigation and reputation management. Even with optimum supply chain data visibility, there is a high-dependency on effective supplier relationships. No doubt technology vendors will have a system to resolve all concerns, but your own in-house approaches of predictive risk management should include:
  • Engage in dialogue with and seek feedback from colleagues about your suppliers (remember, none of us knows more than all of us!).
  • Use suppliers, resellers and their competitors, for example, press reports, trade shows, advertising, business publications, web sites.
  • Undertake informed internal analysis, for example media statements or financial analysis.
  • Purchase market intelligence from commercial research providers.
  • Monitor social media platforms including Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
  • Use informal networks and personal relationships.
You want to avoid this becoming a huge blend of gossip, additional bureaucracy and pointless information, so the following five principles will help you target your efforts.
  1. Determine what supply market intelligence is actually needed in your business to avoid being overloaded with information.
  2. Some information can be gained internally. Your colleagues for example, may be very valuable sources of market knowledge.
  3. Consider how to facilitate an environment that stimulates and encourages your organisation to collect and share supplier intelligence and market knowledge.
  4. Good supply market research depends on a sound concept and design. Market information is often useless, unless it is properly distributed, analysed, interpreted, evaluated and acted upon.
  5. Play by the rules. Avoid inadvertently gaining supply market information through unethical means.
Stephen Ashcroft is a purchasing and proposals coach at Brian Farrington. You can comment or connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter
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