Online portals have proven to be a net benefit of the high-tech information age. Hosted on websites, portals essentially provide users 24-7 access to virtually endless amounts of information on related topics. In supplier diversity, the online portal increasingly has become an effective tool to match up diverse suppliers and corporations doing business within supply chains.
For the diverse supplier, the portal aggregates information that outlines how to do business within a coporation's supply chain. Therefore, the corporation is able to not only share its available opportunities with potential suppliers, but the portal also allows the company to demonstrate its most attractive qualities, acting as an outlet for self-promotion.
Some specific benefits of supplier diversity portals include:
- One-stop registration for diverse suppliers
- General supplier qualification requirements
- Information about sourcing and contracts
- Information on sourcing companies
For diverse suppliers, registration is the key to getting started on the corporation’s supplier diversity portal. Typically, the diverse supplier will see clear instructions on how to register into the corporation’s database; doing so entails entering such information as general company details, website address, federal tax identification number, executive and primary contacts, business and financial information, and products and services. Diverse supplies also can upload documents, such as business, diversity, and insurance certifications.
Once registered, suppliers will have username and password access to the full portal site. They can update their profiles, for instance, and in some cases, they may even be able to conduct billing and other financial transactions.
As a one-stop shop, registration presents a snapshot of the new potential supplier to the corporation. When contracting opportunities become available, procurement officials often go into their registration databases to identify potential suppliers.
Perhaps one of the key unknowns for diverse suppliers is understanding what it takes to do business within corporate supply chains. A good portal will answer that question, even explaining the corporation’s definition of a diverse supplier within its program; for instance, it may stipulate that the diverse supplier must be a privately held firm in the United States that is 51 percent owned and operated by individuals in categories that may include women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, veterans, and other groups. Requirements may also spell out categories of supplier engagement within the supply chain, such as a prime supplier (Tier 1) or Tier 2 supplier, and what the requirements are.
Generally, supplier requirements offer insight into the types of suppliers the corporation is seeking, such as those that are financially sound, that will be responsive to the corporation’s lines of business, or that have the capacity to actually take on business with large corporations. Companies want to engage suppliers that offer products or services that will help them not only improve operations and create savings but also meet their corporate standards.
Sourcing gets to the bottom line of supplier diversity. Once the diverse supplier has registered and is vetted into the corporate supply chain, seeking opportunities to bid on jobs and contracts is the next step to take the relationship to the next level. Many portals list specific contracts ready for bidding, which diverse suppliers can access and review once logged in.
When seeking business within corporate supply chains, diverse suppliers know that the more they can learn about a company and how it operates, the better their opportunities are to secure business. One of the greatest intangibles of online portals is that it can serve as a repository for company information, highlighting company culture, background, history, financial information, and corporate events.
The best portals provide an overview of this information and more. For instance, they may feature supplier diversity personnel, awards, partner organizations, calendars, commitment statements, and the like. Others even link to press releases and company news. All of this information is invaluable for the diverse supplier seeking to get a full picture of a potential business source.
The Future of Supplier Portals
The importance of matching diverse companies and corporations through an online portal cannot be understated. This is why CVM has developed its vision for the future for portals: a "multi-tenant" portal platform called ASCEND powered by CVM Solutions. It is able to host all of CVM Solutions clients’ portals on a single domain, thus attracting potential suppliers to one easily navigable page with the ability to streamline supplier registration, information update, and many other processes.
Going forward, expect the ability of portals that serve the needs of supplier diversity stakeholders to continue to evolve.