If it was easy to know which supply chain sustainability vendor was your perfect match, you could save yourself months — or even years — of searching, researching, and generic sales demos. We know you’d prefer to skip to the good part and start seeing results, like reduced costs and risks.

To that end, we’ve prepared a few questions to help you cut through sales fluff and focus on the weaknesses that vendors are hoping you won’t notice. When you don’t know what to ask, it puts the vendor in the driver’s seat. Aren’t you supposed to be the one in charge? Here’s what other supply chain sustainability vendors don’t want you to ask: 

1. Are My Suppliers Going to Be Collateral Damage?

The backbone of any supply chain sustainability management solution is engaged suppliers who see themselves as partners in your program. But let’s be real. If you want them to engage, it needs to benefit them too. If your vendor doesn’t immediately mention that — it’s a red flag. Your supplier needs should be addressed by the company you are literally paying to address them. Avoid anyone making your suppliers pay them to use their solution — it’s a sure sign supplier engagement is not their top priority. Dig deeper into how a potential vendor addresses supplier needs by asking:

  • Do suppliers have to pay to use the system? 
  • Do suppliers get access to technical support? 
  • Is that support and software available in their own language? 
  • Does the vendor educate suppliers about regulatory requirements and changes?

At Assent, we recognize your suppliers benefit from engagement, education, and a personalized experience. It increases response rates and data quality, and results in a better-educated supply chain. You want the best from them, so help them out by working with the best supply chain sustainability partner. And we don’t charge suppliers a user fee, unlike some other solution providers…

2. Do You Even Know What I Do All Day? 

Complex manufacturing is… complex. A one-size-fits-all solution isn’t cut out for your supply chain sustainability management needs. If your potential vendors aren’t asking specific questions about the day-to-day challenges you have, you’re not going to get a solution that can solve them. You, and your business, deserve a solution that is going to make your life easier, not something made by software developers who have never set foot in a manufacturing facility. 

Did you know that 63% of manufacturing leaders say it’s harder for manufacturers to achieve supply chain sustainability than other industries? Don’t make it harder on yourself by going with a vendor that doesn’t have real-world expertise in your industry. 

Skip the cookie-cutter solution and find someone who knows how your industry works, inside and out. Verify: 

  • Does the solution handle the types of materials in your supply chain? For example, conflict minerals or chemical products.
  • Does the solution proactively track and report for the regulations specific to your goods? How will it protect you from disruptions when regulations are updated?
  • Does the vendor have someone on their team with expertise solving your specific challenges, and the insight to avoid them in the future?

Assent offers a team of experts with experience working in the industries we serve. We get what compliance officers, procurement professionals, and supply chain specialists need, because the people designing our software and providing expert guidance have been in your shoes. Our experts chose to join our team because we’re building the solution they wish they had. 

3. Do Your Experts Get Their Hands Dirty?

It’s easy for vendors to claim they provide access to compliance subject matter experts, but once you’ve signed a contract, you might find it’s a whole other story. If those experts aren’t going to dive deep into your program, it’s time to start lobbying for a second salary because you just became your own consultant.

Experts should do more than just lend credibility to a vendor, they should be part of the solution. A strong supply chain sustainability solution vendor will offer a combination of software, advisory services, and managed services, including access to in-house expertise. Find out if your vendor is just using “expertise” to lure you in by asking for examples of:

  • Subject matter experts helping to design a customer’s program.
  • How experts stepped in to solve a critical customer problem.
  • Experts’ direct involvement in services and support.

At Assent, we take the “partner” in supply chain sustainability partner to heart. Our experts are there to educate your suppliers, help you avoid disruption by looking ahead to regulatory changes, and make sure you understand the ins and outs of regulations. They’re constantly researching and engaging with industry associations as regulations develop, so they can share their findings and advocate for you from their seat at the table. And as part of our managed services, you get real experts digging into your data, solving problems, and alerting you to any hidden risks they’ve detected. 

4. Is Your Data Worth Anything, Or Is It Digital Dust?

The golden rule of software is “garbage in, garbage out.” If you feed a system low-quality or incomplete data, you’ll end up with reports that don’t help you solve anything. An incorrect or incomplete compliance report is as bad as having no report at all, so you can wave your market access goodbye as you throw your products directly into the trash. 

Will the vendor clean up and migrate your data? Or should you expect to see the same old typos and errors you already had? Worse, you could buy an empty database with no built-in intelligence. These glorified spreadsheets do nothing to improve your data quality and put you at risk every time a supplier sends data. 

Ask all potential vendors how they ensure you only get good quality supply chain data:

  • How do you ensure you’re contacting the right person in my supplier’s organization for data?
  • How does your software safeguard against incomplete or inaccurate submissions?
  • Does anyone check or review data before it enters your database?
  • Do you offer additional supplier screening for risks that might not be easily captured in a survey? For example, factors like beneficial ownership or forced labor indicators?

Assent is diligent with our data support to make sure your reporting and analytics are always accurate and reliable. 

5. Is Your Data Security More Like a Bank Vault or a Wet Cardboard Box?

Your chosen vendor should protect your data like their life depends on it. After all, they’re handling extremely sensitive information about your products, supply chain, and employees. 

Privacy and security are especially important when they’re handling confidential business information and employee personal identification data. Your due diligence should include screening a vendor’s security policies:

  • Does the vendor hold the gold standard in security certifications: SOC II and ISO 9001: 2015? 
  • Are data transfers encrypted? 
  • What are the vendor’s commitments for data backups and disaster recovery?
  • Does the vendor meet all applicable privacy legislation?
  • What physical or additional security measures does the vendor take? Do they follow ISO 27001 guidelines? 

All those security certifications and best practices we mentioned above? Yep, Assent has them. Data security and privacy are no joke, so don’t settle for anything less. 

6. Does Your Mission Control Compare to NASA’s?

Although they can’t agree on the percentage, Gartner and McKinsey have stated that 30–70% of enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects fail, mostly at the implementation stage. If you’re trusting a vendor to build you a rocket ship, make sure they have a plan to achieve liftoff. 

  • What sort of training and onboarding will I and my suppliers receive?
  • Do you transfer data from my old system?
  • If my existing data isn’t reliable do you provide data cleanup or collect new data?
  • Do you provide ongoing support post-implementation?

When we say Assent is a turn-key supply chain sustainability solution, we’re making a promise to be involved at every step of the process. You get an implementation mission control team with a customer success manager, a program manager, a data support specialist, and product trainers. 

7. Are We Going to Be the Next Dynamic Duo?

You’re always going to have a supply chain. Sure, it might change over time, but it’s always going to be there. So when evaluating vendors, don’t just focus on the short term. You want someone who’s going to be the Robin to your Batman, the Chewbacca to your Han Solo, the Mr. Spock to your Captain Kirk… you get the picture. Any solution you implement should mature alongside your business. We’re talking long-term sustainability, not just checkbox regulatory compliance. 

Deep sustainability is only possible when your vendor has a solution that centralizes all your supply chain metrics, including product compliance and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) indicators. Ask: 

  • How do you help me see beyond my tier one suppliers to ensure compliance?
  • How do you measure the success and maturity of my program? (Want to know your current program’s maturity? Take the self-assessment here!)
  • How do you plan to help get me to the next stage of program maturity?

Assent is the supply chain sustainability partner designed specifically to help you achieve the deep sustainability critical to your business success. We’re there to protect you from disruption as the regulatory landscape changes and to help improve your supply chain resilience year-over-year.

Final Tip: Don’t Take Our Word For It

Don’t just take any vendor’s claims at face value. Verify claims, ask for proof, and look at the receipts. A reputable supply chain sustainability vendor will undertake third-party audits and disclose the results. For example, Assent worked with Forrester, a leading sustainability firm to validate claims we make about our solutions. In a commissioned Total Economic Impact study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Assent, Forrester found our clients were able to realize an ROI of up to 304% in three years.

Ask the Right Questions, Get Real Answers

Armed with this list of questions, you’re ready to whittle your list of supply chain sustainability vendors down. We’ve already shared some of our answers, but we’d love to tell you even more. Go ahead — ask us these questions and see why we don’t shy away from the tough stuff. Take the next step and start a conversation with one of Assent’s experts.  

Lori Zoellner
Senior Director, Brand Strategy & Communications

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