Professional services firm EY will look at changing its processes to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to enter its supply chain.
At the launch of the firm's SME Development Initiative, EY head of supplier relationship management Amanda Spencer said large organisations needed to engage more effectively with SMEs to harness innovation and agility.
“The supply landscape is changing, with the rise of the contingent workforce and gig economy,” she said. “We need to embrace smaller suppliers in order to move forward.”
The company surveyed more than 40 SMEs across marketing, HR, technology software and hardware providers to greater understand the barriers smaller suppliers faced when trying to work with the firm.
It found that its processes often ruled out smaller suppliers which had a “valid product or service to offer”, with 45% of EY’s smaller partners coming through internal recommendations and networks.
SMEs were also “frustrated” at only being involved in one-off transactions to “meet a specific demand”, the report said.
To remedy some of these frustrations, EY is launching an online tool – Clientshare – to improve engagement and communication between buyers and small suppliers.
Those small businesses surveyed also reported “prohibitive” bureaucracy, with complex terms sometimes forcing smaller suppliers to take “higher risk simply to maintain the business [and] not appear ‘difficult’,” it added, with some needing legal help which they “cannot necessarily afford”.
The scale of larger companies’ operations and changing seasonal demands also presented issues, it said, with many small suppliers feeling that their “expertise is disregarded and capacity becomes more important than their ability to do the job”.
Spencer said the firm would try to find ways to “help smaller suppliers meet targets” by using the Clientshare tool to link them with larger suppliers with more capacity.
She conceded, however, that for all its efforts to help SMEs, EY had to continue prioritising compliance. “That is our business, and our reputation depends on it,” she said.
“But could we be better at explaining it [compliance] to you? Can we be better at highlighting the areas that are flexible and non-flexible? Yes we can.”