Managing vendors effectively in the time of Covid-19

26 February 2021

Vendor management in the time of Covid-19. Source: Shutterstock

  • The pandemic has created perfect nesting conditions for vendor fraud by giving rise to uncertainty, isolation, and lack of information.
  • Businesses have to look for new ways to keep supplies steady and fraud at bay. 

Depending on the kind of business you are in, the pandemic has made identifying, verifying, and onboarding new vendors difficult over the last year as global supply chains dry up and physical contact becomes restricted. Whether you call them suppliers, sellers, merchants, agents, or delivery partners, but navigating effective vendor management can be tricky, especially when supply lines have been thrown into disarray over the past year-plus as a result of the pandemic.

Regardless of the size, scale, or nature of a business, verifying vendor documentation before enabling access to genuine and reliable vendors has gotten the best of us all at some point. Some failure is inevitable, such as when NASA incurred losses of more than US$700 million due to a supply of faulty aluminum products for their satellite launch missions.

Of course, the pandemic has created perfect nesting conditions for vendor fraud by giving rise to a culture of uncertainty, isolation, and a lack of information. With all the drastic changes in working conditions and methods over the past year, procurement purchase teams will have to look for new ways to keep the supplies steady and fraud at bay. Even giants like IBM are trying to build technology platforms for vendors and suppliers who have pivoted from their traditional business models to address the erratic demand resulting from Covid-19. 

These platforms can be used by buyers to connect to new vendors outside their immediate supplier circle who might be in a better position to meet their needs. It is, however, crucial that the vendor validation process must be real-time, contactless, thorough, and potent enough to filter out the fraudsters at the preliminary stage.

Shift to digital

AuthBridge Research Services recommends businesses shift vendor onboarding to a completely digital model, which could save them time, increase efficiency and build scalability. It will also allow businesses to save precious resources that can be deployed to a strategic vendor relationship management with high-priority vendors. “By adopting a digital vendor onboarding process that is easily customizable, you can also make way for a standard onboarding procedure of global vendors,” it added.

Plans and backups

Above all, businesses should move beyond the traditional annual or semiannual reviews. Organizations can start with preparing vendor contingency plans and offboarding processes, especially for critical vendors. An offboarding process that includes cutting off system access, disposing of data, and collecting outstanding payments would also be ideal.

Another way to approach this is also by developing a new vendor management group or program focused on strategic, reputational, operational, financial, compliance, and security risks, with the goal of reducing costs and preventing future disruptions. Expand monitoring beyond cybersecurity and data to include compliance and other evolving risks, such as financial viability and business continuity status is also necessary.