When inviting tenders from suppliers, you should always ask: “If your existing supplier withdraws their service, how would you ensure business continuity?”
Your company may be obliged to review and retender its supplier contracts from time to time. Or maybe you’re not happy with your existing print supplier (or agency or props supplier). Nevertheless, divorcing them and finding someone new can be a real headache.
After all, that marketing agency or print manufacturer might have let themselves go a bit. But at least they understand your quirks. Your likes and dislikes. Even if they don’t always go along with them.
Add to this the risk of a failure in supply if the divorce gets messy, and you could be moving from a business continuity issue to disaster recovery.
Let’s say you put £25 million in print a year through your main print supplier. That’s a lot of work for them to lose, and they’re unlikely to be happy about the loss.
They may hold significant assets and imagery of yours that suddenly become difficult to find. Their presses might suddenly become very busy. They may just tell you they’re not interested in a smooth transition to your new supplier, helping to bed them in and handing over the work project by project.
If they simply walk away, can your new supplier pick up the pieces on day one?
New supplier responsibilities
We’ve transitioned in the region of £250 million of print to our supply chain over the past five years. That means we understand how much incumbent suppliers vary in their willingness to play ball with smooth transitions.
We know that an airtight disaster recovery plan to ensure business continuity is essential during a handover between suppliers. Our experience has given us a certain expertise in business continuity – and your new supplier should have that expertise, too.
Requests for proposals (RFP) tend to focus on normal delivery conditions. However, you need to know before you appoint a new supplier how they would cope under extraordinary conditions.
Business continuity plan
Whatever timescale you agree with your new supplier, you should receive guarantees that they can activate their business continuity plan immediately should the supply chain fail.
This should include:
• Full production capacity and capability from day one
• Plan in place to transfer stock to a fully operational warehouse in a timescale that causes no disruption to logistics
• Pre-agreed and named transition team able to be in place from day one
• Ability to deploy any software required to replace an incumbent’s, should this be required
Following this immediate response, you need to ensure that the potential supplier also has a tested plan in place that covers areas (in the case of print) such as materials availability, communications, stock information, data requirements, and much more. Different types of supplier need to cover different areas.
Probably most importantly, they shouldn’t charge you a premium to deliver early. At the proposal stage, ensure their commitment to being fully transparent and guaranteed pricing in the event you trigger the disaster recovery plan during the transition.
Ideally, you want a civilised divorce from your incumbent supplier, where no one talks about disaster recovery.
Nevertheless, if you don’t interrogate your prospective suppliers’ business continuity plans during the RFP process, you may be courting disaster.
People talk about ‘Death by PowerPoint’, but the biggest killer in marketing is not PowerPoint, but its Microsoft stablemate: the Excel spreadsheet.
Among the numerous big brands and retailers we consult with about helping them make their marketing operations more efficient, the most commonly occurring statement I hear is, “can you do anything about all these spreadsheets?” – usually accompanied by pulling out of hair and a sallow-faced, wide-eyed look of despair.
As it turns out, there is something we can do about it – but more about that later. First, what is it that makes marketers refer to their campaign spreadsheets by such affectionate names as the Spreadsheet of Doom or the Squares of Despair?
The first horror is version control. When companies run their campaigns and allocations via spreadsheets, there’s necessarily a requirement for several departments to be involved. Legion are the stories of departments all working off different versions, leading to the wrong assets being briefed, the wrong amount of print being ordered, and the wrong allocations being sent to stores.
Excel almost encourages easy mistakes. Delete one figure linked to a formula, and you can throw whole rows of important data out.
Checking and checking
There are also tortuously long checking processes to ensure all the information that has been put into a master spreadsheet by everyone from legal to HR to procurement is accurate and matches up.
“I’ve got a marketing degree,” I was told recently, “but I’ve just spent my afternoon running my finger over a spreadsheet.”
When you couple Excel issues with communications via email, with all the lack of visibility for anyone not in that particular chain, emails going into junk folders, and people never being able to find the right email, even when they have a vague recollection of receiving it, you have a recipe for errors and vast unnecessary duplication of effort.
Some of our recommendation to companies looking to us to help drive efficiencies is about process; the rest is about technology.
In an efficient marketing operation, the two go hand-in-hand. Manual campaign planning, email briefings and approvals, assets held on suppliers’ hard drives, store allocations spreadsheets (and guesswork) – all of these and more can be replaced by an efficient and flexible MRM platform.
Everything you require to run your operation is in one place, accessible to anyone with permissions, and with only one version of any data – the one within the system. All briefings, amendment and approval information is held in an easily accessible part of the software, rather than in the middle of a virtual forest of emails.
With the right MRM system, you can say goodbye to the Spreadsheet of Doom altogether – and get on with doing all those nice strategic things you dreamed of when you were doing your marketing degree.
Until next time
About Simon Ward
Simon Ward ITG – Simon is the founder and CEO of pioneering technology-led marketing company, Inspired Thinking Group (ITG). ITG delivers best-in-class marketing software, procurement and studio services to dozens of blue-chip clients, including Audi, M&S, KFC, PUMA and Heineken.
Simon Ward SP Group – Prior to ITG, Simon founded SP Digital in 1998, and in 1999 bought SP Print to form SP Group, creating innovative marketing and point of sale displays for some of the world’s best-known retailers, including M&S, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Calvin Klein.