By Jen Barnum

Vendor onboarding and records management can be a hassle. From timesheets to invoices, payments, contracts and more, there’s a lot that goes into keeping track of these relationships. The same vendor could be servicing different departments, and the associated data could be anywhere. Instead of going on a find and seek mission to locate vendor details and contracts, consider using a vendor document management solution. The results offer up one record and all the associated details you need in one location.  No more hurried phone calls or finger pointing when you can’t find what you need. The advantages are plenty. Just as your customers are integral to your business, so too are vendors. As an expert in vendor contract management for the past ten years, I’ve seen my share of platforms that claim to get the job done. Now, here I share some expert tips on choosing the right vendor contract management system for your organization.

First, a vendor contract management system is many things. It’s a software application that lets you manage contracts, terms, expiration dates, and related content in one place. It also lets you standardize vendor sourcing which is great because it brings consistency to your vendor process. What’s more is it gives you a way to track and monitor vendor successes and incidents. Finally, a graphical dashboard provides a bird’s-eye view of vendor compliance and performance. Of course, many software offerings will say they can do pretty much anything you set your mind to. But not all are created alike. Here are some key features to be on the lookout for.

Vendor Process Formalization

When searching for a vendor contract management platform, I recommend one that lets vendors input their own on-boarding information.  Once completed, a vendor document management system like OnBase will route the form to the right employee for review and approval before posting the results to your ERP master file. If a required document such as a W-9 or insurance form is missing, an automated request will be sent to the vendor. Why is this so important? Knowing your vendors comply means you are more prepared to protect your organization against financial and civil penalties, not to mention your reputation.

Details, Details, Details

Be sure to choose a vendor management solution that lets you record every little detail. This includes conversations, data, renewal dates for contracts, contract details, banking documentation, risk assessments – basically anything that you can think of! Doing so enables you to create a vendor scorecard and generate graphical performance reports. Here’s a helpful hint: You’ll want to be able to record things like vendor evals, and preferred vendor tracking to drive future purchases.

Compatible with Major ERPS

To make work even more straightforward, opt for a vendor management solution that integrates with your ERP systems using their native integration adaptors. This way you don’t have to spend more on customized interfaces.  The result? Your employees can focus on the work at hand because they don’t have to log into different applications.

Minimal Training and Straightforward Vendor Recall

Training your staff on how to use a vendor contract management system should be minimal as they access the same line of business application they have always used.  What’s different is what has become easier. If a draft contract comes in via e-mail, for instance, personnel can upload the attachment to the vendor contract management software. Anyone else viewing the vendor will see the contract the moment the upload takes place.  Key information such as contract expiration and vendor renewal dates should also be a part of the vendor profile.

Data Sharing

Another key feature to look for in a vendor management system is the ability to share data such as compliance information with vendors and third-party providers. ShareBase by Hyland, for example, offers a secure, cloud-based file sync and share system that lets you do just this while maintaining control over vendor materials.

In summary, the right solution will offer rapid deployment and an immediate return on your investment. That’s because what was once paper, is now automated. What was scattered, is now centralized. Disparate information is consolidated for instant recall.

Jen Barnum has been a marketer and customer experience professional at Naviant since 2003. She works with companies to digitally transform their processes while also developing solutions to help them stay competitive and increase customer satisfaction. Jen enjoys connecting people with information and making their day-to-day work lives easier using business process management (BPM) and document management solutions (DMS). Learn more about enterprise content management and document management solutions. @NaviantInc

Vendor management stock photo by designer491/Shutterstock