Daily Archives: January 8, 2024

10 Great Questions to Pre-Qualify a Vendor Before Onboarding for a Deep Dive, Courtesy of Certa

A recent article in the SCMR by Jag Lamba, the CEO of Certa, a Third Party Risk Management (TPRM) vendor headquartered in California and focussed on compliance, risk, and ESG had some very good questions to ask before engaging with a US vendor, but some of them were very US-centric and others took a platform based approach. (You certainly need a platform, but certain areas, like security, go beyond the platform.)

But if we generalize these questions, they are relevant for everyone, and make it clear why you need a Third Party Risk Management (TPRM) platform that goes just beyond key suppliers/vendors, and beyond product and service needs. (And if you’re wondering what you need a TPRM, check out Part 4A and Part 4B of our new Source-to-Pay+ series where we are currently focussing on Risk Management.) They’re also industry independent and can allow you to short circuit a time-consuming industry (product/service) specific diligence because if the third party fails any of these questions, why would you bother going deeper? Just move on to the next contender!

  1. Does the vendor meet the needs of its customer base?: Any major negative news headlines? Any drops in financial performance? Any grumblings on Glass Door? Any of your counterparts in local groups or associations using them and bad mouthing them?
  2. Does the vendor have the operational capability AND capacity to serve you?: If you need a modern machining process or a vendor who can produce a minimum of a million units, don’t bother with any vendors that don’t have the process or can’t produce a million units.
  3. What financial and sustainability reporting process are they subject to? : The best way to ascertain their ability to stay compliant with financial and other regulatory (like ESG) requirements is to review the government reports. (They may [white] lie in their marketing, and then claim you misinterpreted, but they’re not as likely to lie to the government who could fine them, criminally charge them [in some countries], or shut them down.)
  4. How do they approach security?: Not just cyber security, but facility security, personnel security, and information security. Over half the attacks come from the cloud because it’s easy when you leave a security hole, hackers don’t have to leave their basement, they can attack you half a world away, and face no repercussions because there are no extradition treaties and the local authorities just don’t give a f*ck if they aren’t doing any criminal activity in their country. But when that fails, their local counterparts try to break into the facilities — if the vendor stores unsecured physical copies of critical IP, local backups of sensitive IP on unsecured USB/Zip/Thumb drives, or a lot of money on site — all someone has to do is walk in with a workman’s uniform, enter the backroom to check the wiring when no one’s in it, stuff something in their workbag or pocket, and, buh-bye. If your personnel are not trained to detect social engineering attempts, then someone’s going to have a little chat with them, something like “Hi, what do you do? Oh, is that your doggie in the picture, what’s your doggie’s name? My doggie’s name was Scooter. You know it’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m a Scorpio. What about you? So you were born in 1979 and you’re a goat like me in the Chinese zodiac? Cool! Hey, you know that I was just reading that most people use their birthday and pet’s name as a password. I thought it was only me. What, you do too? Aww, so cute. Well, nice meeting you.” Network access granted! And then if you’re not ensuring all personal, confidential, or sensitive IP is clearly marked, only stored in locked filing cabinets, always encrypted, and those files only on secure, encrypted, network drives, hackers are going to easily find those files accessible from limited access accounts with weak-passwords accessible by brute force.
  5. Do they do business with any entities sanctioned in your country?: If so, they are probably a no-go. You don’t want to be only one degree of separation removed from a sanctioned entity. (And, of course, they shouldn’t be sanctioned — because you shouldn’t be considering them at all if they are!)
  6. Would you have a backup plan if their suppliers or partners they relied on got sanctioned?: i.e. if you need to locate a complete production line in one geography, and there is only supplier of a key raw material or part in that geography, maybe you’re looking in the wrong geography
  7. What is their viewpoint on diversity?: great suppliers encourage diversity and look for good people that represent the entire cross-section of humanity in the area in which they operate; they don’t have arbitrary goals or the one Token black in the C-suite to check a box; they hire all races, cultures, religions, ages, etc., train them all, and then promote the best (and, over time, they build a diverse management team)
  8. Are their objectives aligned with your objectives?: If your objective is quality and distinction for the wealthy, and their objective is cut costs no matter what, they are probably not the supplier for you.
  9. Do they have a sustainability program. And is it sensible?: In some jurisdictions, they not only have to report down to “Scope 3”, but stay within a limit for overall emissions, or get in (financial) trouble (with fines, etc.). And if you have to report as well for doing business with them, or to satisfy the regulatory requirements of a region you operate in, and they can’t report to you, that’s not good. Not good at all.
  10. What level of risk will they add to your business?: If you’re happy with the answers to the first 9 questions, before you dive deep into certifying their products and services, their production lines and capacities, etc., ask this first. If the risk is too great in general, it might be a no-go before you start. And this is why you need a comprehensive TPRM platform to do a preliminary assessment.

And yes, Certa is one platform that might be able to help you, and one you should add to your RFP invite list if you don’t have a TPRM. We will note that they’re not the only one (and this could be relevant if you are in the EU and need a local provider), and that we’ll list others in Part 10 of our Source-to-Pay+ series, but close by stating that you should not overlook Certa. They’ve been around for a decade, have raised over 50M, likely integrate into whatever you’re already using in your Source-to-Pay process (with integrations to 100+ platforms and data feeds), have pre-built solutions for Compliance / Risk / ESG, and have a number of Fortune 500 clients.