23 May The Secret to Getting Internal Support for Vendor Self-Service
Don’t Ignore Human Psychology
When your spouse or companion comes to you excited about a new idea, do you immediately accept it? Maybe. Or, maybe — if you have celebrated a few anniversaries — you want to know more first. Your first thought is how this is “good for us” or “good for the family” or just “is this good?” Or maybe — for a few of us — candidly the question is, “How is this idea good for me?”
Before we get to meddlin’ too much here, let’s shift the scenario to work. Say a fellow manager of another group puts forward a new idea in a meeting that is great for her team, but is going to impact you and your group. There are a few things you want to know before you sign on, right?
Exactly how is it going to impact you? What’s it going to mean in terms of your staff’s time and effort, and how are they likely to perceive it? How does your support make you look? It makes sense for that other group, but what does IT think? What does the controller think? Does it really make sense for the organization? What if the benefits don’t materialize?
You naturally must ask: What’s in it for us? And what’s in it for me?
The same holds true, of course, when you flip that around — when you are the one with a bright new idea.
If that idea is vendor self-service, there’s good news: you can gain the internal support you need. But you have to show how vendor self-service is going to help the other stakeholders. They want to know what the benefits are for them.
You see the benefits of a vendor self-service program that allows vendors to look up their invoice statuses themselves. You are convinced it’s the way to go. But you realize the decision is not simply up to you. What you’re proposing will to some extent or other impact IT, purchasing, and your boss.
So, you have to know what’s in vendor self-service for them. What’s attractive about it from their particular point of view or responsibility? How will it benefit them to support you in this? They are going to ask what’s in it for them, whether out loud or just to themselves. You want to be ready to tell them.
You’ve already explained to them the benefits of vendor self-service from your and your vendors’ perspectives:
- 80 percent of vendor inquiries are “easy” questions that despite their simplicity, are taking AP’s time to look up and reply to; vendor self-service means those inquiries go away. That means significant time/cost savings for AP. (For a cost analysis, see Making a Case for Vendor Self-Service Portals.)
- For vendors, it means easily getting answers right away, when they want them, without having to involve someone else in the process; it saves them having to wait for an answer to an email or voice mail. For the 80 percent of straightforward questions, they get an answer now, when they want it. They’re happy.
So, good for AP and for the vendors!
What about internal stakeholders critical to supporting the idea? What’s the benefit to them, given their particular responsibility? How will it make their lives easier or enhance their position in the organization to support implementation of vendor self-service?
For purchasing, there are a couple of important benefits. First, just as for AP, it will eliminate calls and thereby save time. Not every vendor calls AP with his or her inquiry. Often vendors call their contact in purchasing, who then has to call AP, adding another layer of interaction to get a simple question answered. According to an APP2P Network survey, a median 40% of calls come through purchasing. So, the purchasing manager has staff time and resources at stake as well.
In addition, purchasing wants the company to maintain good relations with vendors to make interactions smoother and provide a degree of leverage in renegotiations. A self-service program that makes vendors happy is a win for purchasing. By supporting you, the purchasing manager solves a couple of problems and looks good to their manager and their staff.
What about IT? It always has a full plate and new initiatives often hit an IT hurdle. But vendor self-service has a very light IT footprint. In the best self-service solutions, all that is required of IT is initial due diligence and security check, then to set up the regular data transfer. That’s it. They get credit for setting up a system that saves the company time and money and they don’t commit to a big, scope-creep development project!
As for AP’s boss, whether controller, finance director, etc., the benefits of establishing vendor self-service to the organization should be readily apparent (show him/her the numbers!) and getting all onboard in order to realize those benefits goes in the “win” column for him or her.
To make this happen, you have to do the homework: track and document the metrics, pull reports and articles together, prepare and make the case. But make the case through the eyes of each of your partners in the decision-making process. Understanding and communicating what’s in it for them will get them onboard. And when you’ve done that, you come away looking good as well!
To see how InvoiceInfo’s vendor self-service solutions can benefit your operations and your company click here to request more information or call (678) 335-5735.
 If you’re not convinced, your lack of conviction will cause you to fail to gain the support of others. But the fact is our culture has moved to effective, satisfying self-service in many areas, and the expectation to have that same experience in business settings continues to spread, especially in the younger generations that now make up the vast majority of the work force! For more, see Articles and White Papers under InvoiceInfo’s Resources.