We often talk about the desire to automate and accelerate the sharing of information between trading partners. However, a major obstacle faced in the supplier community continues to be the internal sharing of information. It's one thing to obtain compliance requirements from retailers and ensure that contact information is current, but that's only the first step.
This information must be disseminated to the appropriate departments so shipments adhere to each retailer's requirements. Vendor compliance is typically the department that initially receives retailer requirements, but the folks responsible for actually addressing and complying with requirements must be able to access these documents quickly and easily.
A question we constantly see month after month for our supplier-only open forums involves the tools being used to internally communicate retailer requirement changes, shipment authorizations, vendor agreements and other documentation. We often hear crickets as suppliers go silent, hoping someone will speak up with the perfect solution.
In the RVCF white paper, Merchandise Supplier Survey: Compliance Management, we found that more than three in 10 survey respondents do not maintain a single, accessible document repository for information related to compliance and the research of deduction claims. That means these organizations are either e-mailing or delivering hard copies of these documents, or the documents simply aren't being shared with those who need them.
In 2017, there's no excuse for failing to use technology to simplify document sharing. As we pointed out in the white paper about compliance management, the tools are out there. Some have more bells and whistles. Some are more affordable than others. Some have more robust security features. There's a tool that suits the needs of every merchandise supplier. Here are some of the tools being used for internal document sharing.
Dropbox Business and Box make it possible to share files that are too large for e-mail, such as video, audio and large presentations. Documents are automatically synced and can be accessed from any device to allow for collaboration and editing by multiple users. Google Drive for work and Microsoft OneDrive for Business are secure, affordable solutions that also offer sophisticated features such as user and device management. While these cloud-based platforms are not ideal, they do represent an upgrade from the consumer-grade versions and can be helpful if a more advanced solution is not in the cards.
Some suppliers are setting up customized intranet or internet sites that are password protected to limit access to authorized users. An IT department can set up and manage a shared drive within the organization's existing programs and capabilities. Shared drives can also be set up within e-mail clients or as standalone drives.
Advanced Third-Party Tools
SharePoint, Hightail and Communifire are examples of third-party bolt-ons and software that offer features such as customization, organization, search functionality and task management to enable the highest level of collaboration in a secure environment.
SharePoint: SharePoint is a password protected content management system and information portal that allows organizations to store, organize, share and access information from virtually any location and device. This Microsoft solution offers a number of advanced document management and collaboration capabilities and is available as a standalone service or part of Office 365.
Hightail: Formerly YouSendIt, Hightail allows users to send, receive, synchronize and digitally sign documents. Files are uploaded to a shared project area, where the user can give the file a name, add context and project goals, and share with specific users. In addition to sending project contributors a link to access the Space, access codes can be added to bolster security.
Communifier: Communifire claims to be the first company intranet software that connects people, documents and projects. Intranet software is tailored to business processes without training or IT assistance. Dubbed the social platform for work, Communifire enables you to collaborate in real time with coworkers, customers and partners to build stronger relationships.
No More Excuses
According to the survey data presented in the white paper, Merchandise Supplier Survey: Compliance Management, more than a quarter of respondents said it takes their organization a week or more to communicate requirement changes to various departments. Only about one third can accomplish this in one day. The longer it takes to communicate changes, the longer it takes to respond, and the greater the risk of noncompliance.
This is just a small sampling of the document sharing tools available on the market. The goal of using these tools is to simplify internal communication, minimize noncompliance, and ensure consistency of information across departments. There are solutions for all budgets, all levels of expertise, and all service and feature requirements. The right tool, when properly deployed and configured, can simplify or even automate the sharing of data. Just make sure the tool you choose is capable of meeting your organization's security standards.
If you want to reduce the headaches associated with updates to retailer compliance requirements, you need to ensure that this information is accessible to all who need it. Sending e-mails and pushing paper back and forth are unacceptable. The technology is available to do the job for you. No more excuses.
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