The 8 Laws of Successful Supplier Transitions: Part I

Today’s guest post is from Brian Seipel, an information technology and marketing project analyst at Source One Management Services, a leading procurement services provider with over two decades of experience delivering procurement success.

There are plenty of reasons your organization may choose to switch suppliers. Perhaps your incumbent’s quality is slipping, or their prices aren’t as competitive as they once were. As you’ve grown, perhaps your incumbent supplier isn’t able to scale with your organization or keep up in emerging areas of your business.

Compelling signs to switch, however, aren’t always enough convince the top brass to move. Why not? Because transitioning to a new supplier is a scary thing, especially if the incumbent is a key supplier.

Finding potentially huge savings and better capabilities during an RFP is all peaches and cream — until you get to the home stretch. The process of transitioning away from your comfortable, “known-quantity” incumbent becomes real and, if not managed properly, could end up costing you time and money.

Transition Risks

Plus, there are plenty of risks. We’ll start by putting a name and face to the organization’s fears. Any number of things can go wrong during a transition, with the major pitfalls being:

  • Business Disruptions
    Poorly managing transition resources takes time away from daily business activities. This can bleed into other departments if IT, finance, or legal personnel are brought in.
  • Poor Knowledge Transfer
    Dropping the ball here could set implementation back if the new supplier has to reinvent the wheel.
  • Resistance to Change
    End users are accustomed to your current supplier — they don’t know (and won’t automatically trust) that they’ll get better service or support somewhere else. The only certainty they see is that their workflow will be disrupted.
  • Missing Production or Implementation Milestone Targets
    Understaffed new suppliers growing into your business, misunderstandings about transfer roles and responsibilities, poor understanding of scopes, and other miscommunications can delay transitions or cause poor performance.
  • Waning Interest
    Upper management may be highly involved on both sides while hammering out a deal. This often changes once the ink dries, leading to stretched timelines and missed milestones.

Now, we’re not saying that any of these things are going to wrong, because every organization’s mileage may vary, and the threats your organization may face could be entirely different. But outlining the risks is the first step in managing them — building a strategy to mitigate them comes next. That’s the subject of our next post.

Thanks, Brian.