Guest Column | December 9, 2020

Why Retailers Need A Comprehensive Supplier Data Foundation For Digital Transformation

A conversation with Tealbook CEO Stephany Lapierre

Digital Transformation

Q: Please tell us why retailers need a comprehensive supplier data foundation to accomplish digital transformation.

Procurement teams in the retail space and beyond suffer from a poor supplier data problem. To have good data, there needs to be a process in place to make sure that your data is updated for accuracy, checked for duplicates, merged with other data sets… the list goes on. Not to mention, supplier records need to reflect the ongoing relationship between seller and buyer, sometimes across several different departments. Unfortunately, data inevitably gets siloed, becomes stagnant, and is often neglected. Managing it all is a big task for any person, team, or department. Companies sink millions of dollars into getting their data cleaned and categorized - over and over again.

To accomplish true digital transformation, your technology stack must be powered by a trusted foundation of quality supplier data. Data quality is the transformative piece and provides confidence during every step of the sourcing process because your team is then empowered to make data-driven decisions. When you have this confidence, you’re able to be flexible in the face of unforeseen challenges. You also can source in the face of disruptions, pivot quickly, begin new supplier relationships, expand your Diversity program efforts, and more—the value is unlimited.

Q: How would you describe a data foundation?

A data foundation is a robust, dynamic aggregation of supplier data that keeps improving over time. It is organized, clear, and can be filtered and further categorized to support an organization’s needs. A data foundation powers your pre-existing e-Procurement toolset and allows you to fully understand who your suppliers are, the current supplier market, and where you have room to expand and innovate. Specifically, our data foundation consists of five data pillars:

  1. Basic information about who a supplier is and what products and services they offer.
  2. Accurate supplier contact information of existing supplier partners or ones you want to business within the future.
  3. Risk factors in the marketplace and for an organization, including ethical, health and safety, or business sustainability risk.
  4. Key financial information such as DUNS numbers, Tax IDs, parent/child hierarchies.
  5. Certifications to meet spend goals like diversity, sustainability, and other corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Q: How does the foundation fit into the technology stack retailers already may have?

A comprehensive data foundation should provide data that integrates and flows into your other technology investments. This will not only enable digital transformation, but it also will improve the functionality of the tools you already use because feeding those tools quality data will increase the quality of your results. When it comes to data, if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. A supplier data foundation ensures that your technology stack is being fed good quality data so that you can use technology to its fullest potential.

Q: Can you give an example of how a comprehensive data foundation can help retailers increase their ROI?

Utilizing a comprehensive data foundation can increase a retailer’s ROI not just with new suppliers, but with the current software investments they currently have in place by driving more compliance with accurate supplier data and an easy-to-use interface for both internal and external usage.

In addition, by having additional suppliers in your bids, the opportunities for innovation and expansion become limitless. This is because companies are no longer dealing with the same suppliers who assume they have the job every time. Also, expanding the universe of suppliers enables organizations to bring the best and brightest opportunities to your organization.

Q: Tell me about Tealbook - is the company working with retail customers now?

During the early stages of the pandemic, industries were sourcing anywhere and everywhere for new or spare items. Different industries picked up new production goals (e.g., masks, hand-sanitizer, other PPE) and had to find ways and sources for the supplies they needed that were outside of their norm. While we do have ongoing partnerships with retailers, perhaps the most notable use of Tealbook in the retail space was this past March, when Brooks Brothers used our data to begin manufacturing PPE in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most of the manufacturing capability was there, Brooks Brothers needed to quickly find vendors to source the spun-bond polypropylene, citric acid, melt-blown polypropylene, and polypropylene needed to manufacture N95-grade masks. Tealbook allowed them to discover new vendors who were able to respond quickly and efficiently. We also provided the information needed to shift over their supply chain, including lists of all the viable suppliers and manufacturers of the products needed to shift production lines, and provided direction to testing facilities able to certify the output as N95 grade.

Q: Why is data so important to retailers?

Retailers can reduce risk by having suppliers parsed across different countries. For example, retailers with all suppliers located in China were the most impacted by COVID versus other companies that had already started to move suppliers to other countries like Vietnam, etc. Finding, monitoring, and maintaining data on these suppliers can be a real challenge, and ensuring that second and third sources are quickly identified can reduce other risks associated with political or environmental concerns.

In addition, people working from home rather than head office makes it more challenging to address business needs. Procurement needs to find ways to enable decision makers with good and relevant supplier information as well as collaborate and the business in a way that drives more value faster.

When information is hard to find, it creates friction of process and lowers business outcomes. Procurement leaders need to think about attracting talent that is more strategic and motivated to drive change, technology, and transformation. Powering this talent with good supplier data and user-friendly interface that allows them to drive more value will allow the organization to remain competitive.

Moreover, consumers are being more demanding about the brands that they buy. Retailers are looking for suppliers that reflect the diversity of their customers. They are also more sensitive than ever to buying from sustainable suppliers to increase trust and transparency with their market.

Q: How does Tealbook help with a better understanding of diversity spending?

Our proprietary Autonomous Data Enrichment technology proactively captures and maintains changing supplier information. This allows us to generate reports that capture diverse spend, as well as predict which suppliers have diversity certificates and which ones may qualify with some coaching. We continually find 20% more diverse spend for our customers than other solutions on the market.

By understanding the current state of your diverse spending, Tealbook’s data allows you to expand your diversity program and discover new suppliers.

Many suppliers may not be certified due to financial and resource constraints, so Tealbook provides accredited and simple self-certification to create a wider range of suppliers that retailers can choose to work with. We also offer the ability to look more strategically at Tier 2 suppliers that may offer more options for whatever your project may be.

Q: Tell us how Tealbook can help retailers think about both sustainability and ethical labor practices as part of their digital transformation strategy.

Introducing sustainability to your procurement strategy is very similar to introducing or expanding a diversity program. Vendors can self-certify as a sustainable business and you can get a full view of your sustainability spend in addition to your diverse spend.

Increasingly, retailers are under the microscope from their customers to follow sustainable and socially responsible practices. Tealbook can provide the insight and information companies need to make sure that manufacturing is handled ethically and responsibly.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Utilizing a comprehensive and agnostic data foundation enables retail procurement teams to get ahead of the curve before additional CSR initiatives are rolled out by company leadership. A fluctuating stock market, consumer demands, and innovations add pressure for procurement teams to be strategic while utilizing the challenging budgets finance often lays out. With a comprehensive data foundation, organizations can choose to utilize their data first, in the most efficient manner, with holistic supplier profiles.

Currently, retailers ask suppliers to register on their website which may have a lower rate of return, incomplete fields, or outdated data inputted as salespeople leave. A comprehensive data foundation acting as your supplier portal reduces the amount of effort on suppliers and provides more of a quick scan of their compact profile. From there, supplier information may sit in one portal and not be prevalent in your vendor master or available to review when sourcing new.

Keeping the door open to new suppliers outside of your regular suppliers also can reduce expenditures by enabling you to see what other industries are charging for similar products or services.

In the end, retailers that have confidence in their supplier data can accomplish whatever is necessary to stay competitive, agile, and prosperous.