How to scale your supplier agreement workflow

If your supplier agreement workflow doesn’t scale, it will cause problems for the business. How can automation help?

This deep dive looks into the supplier agreement workflow: who it affects, why you might choose to scale your workflow and the benefits of doing so. 

Generally, this deep dive looks at supplier agreements as the contract used for the selling of goods rather than services. Not the contract info you’re looking for? Check out our deep dives on vendor agreements and SaaS agreements

What’s a supplier agreement? | Who do they affect? | Why scale your supplier agreement workflow? | How to scale your supplier agreement workflow | Learn more

What’s a supplier agreement?

A supplier agreement is a contract that outlines the terms of a relationship between a buyer and a supplier (also known as the vendor or counterparty). These contracts are also referred to as buy-side agreements and commit both parties to do business with each other over a set period of time. Whether your business is a retailer buying items of clothing, or a food marketplace buying produce the terms defined between your business and the supplier are usually set out in a supplier agreement. 

Supplier agreements are similar to vendor agreements, but their language and the relationship they establish are different. Vendor agreements tend to be more tech-focused, defining terms for the selling of services, instead of goods. Supplier agreements generally have a broader purpose and the supplier in a typical contract of this type would have more communication with the buyer, with a view to securing repeat business and strengthening the commercial relationship. 

The supplier agreement is an important touchpoint between the two parties. For the supplier, the agreement confirms revenue. For the buyer, it’s a record of business spend.

What does end-to-end contract collaboration look like for the modern business? Find out in the ‘Modern contract handbook’.

Who do supplier agreements affect?

The supplier agreement process affects many teams, depending on the business, the supplies being purchased and the contract value. Business stakeholders may come from any team, such as marketing or sales. Generally, the list includes: 

  • The legal team, which is responsible for negotiations with the counterparty’s legal team. Their involvement consists of a lot of manual, low-value work, which will only increase as the business scales.

  • The procurement team, which owns the purchasing process, as well as commercial negotiations between the buyer and supplier.

  • The finance team, which is often led by the CFO. This team authorizes spend on the agreement, and owns the payment process. If companies don’t have a finance team in place, this responsibility is often handled at an executive level.

  • Contract managers, who are responsible for managing the agreement post-signature. Legal or procurement teams usually take ownership of post-signature management if the business doesn’t have a contract manager.

You need to optimize every stage of your supplier agreement workflow to free yourself up for the work that really matters

Why scale your supplier agreement workflow?

If (for the most part) you’re getting signatures on the dotted line, then scaling your supplier agreement process might seem unnecessary. But making your process scalable is key preparation for the long term, when your business is aggressively growing. And there are many benefits to using a scalable workflow early on:

1. It saves valuable time

As your company grows, so will the workload. The last thing you want is to waste time on low-value admin work, but that will be inevitable if your unscalable process involves manually inputting information, jumping between systems and hunting for signed documents. You need to optimize every stage of your supplier agreement workflow to free yourself up for the work that really matters. 

2. It enables self-serve

At a high-growth scaleup, while the commercial team might be growing by the hundreds, legal won’t grow proportionately. Without a scalable process in place, in-house legal teams can quickly get snowed under by low-value work and legal requests. As the business continues to scale, legal and procurement teams may end up juggling several supplier agreements at once. The only way to meet this demand is with a scalable workflow that allows teams across the business to self-serve on contracts. This allows legal and procurement to focus on higher-value tasks without losing oversight on the contract process. 

3. It unifies your workspace

Things change – especially in a growing business, where the company’s commercial redlines are likely to develop. But if you have to dig through shared drives when these redlines shift, there’s a greater risk of teams agreeing contracts with the wrong terms. This could have serious consequences for the business. A unified workspace, with all your contracts in one place, can help you save time and reduce risk by allowing you to reflect changes at speed and scale.

How to scale your supplier agreement workflow

Design the perfect supplier agreement template

Your template will be used to create all the supplier agreements, so it needs to be perfect. Take your time to get it right – make it simple, readable and user-friendly, and keep key terms front and centre, so users don’t have to scour the contract for important information. Remember, the easier the contract is to read, the easier it will be to sign. 

Codify your playbook

As the supplier, it’s important to make sure you’ve agreed to the points you’re willing to concede. Can buyers negotiate on higher-value contracts? How flexible are you on auto-renewal, where smaller customers are concerned? Once all this has been decided, codify the information in a playbook to empower contract creators to negotiate without legal’s involvement. Similarly, for the buyer, make sure you codify terms that teams should look out for and try to negotiate where possible, so the business doesn’t agree to something that could be a problem down the line.

Starting small works best in helping teams align and preventing anyone from getting overwhelmed by new changes

Enable self-serve on your contracts

Use a natural language Q&A flow to automatically populate key terms. This is a great way to get other teams up and running with contract creation. If your colleagues can self-serve contracts from a template, then the time legal dedicate to low-value contract work can be reduced to zero.

Establish an approval workflow

Although you’ve enabled teams to self-serve on supplier agreements, you probably still want legal to have sight of the negotiation process and retain approval rights – just to be sure that changes on either side haven’t led to a position that the business can’t accept. In a contract collaboration platform like Juro, you can access a full audit trail of changes, suggestions and activity, and stay in the loop at all times. 

Kickstart your project

The time has come to get started and get your time back! Starting small works best, by helping teams align and making sure everyone can get comfortable with a new workflow. Begin with a pilot phase – and iterate as you learn more about what works best for your business. 

Supercharged, scalable contracts

Is your business scaling fast? Do you feel like your manual contract process can’t cope with the high velocity of the business? Try Juro for free and enable your business to agree and manage contracts at scale, all in one place.

 

Topics: Supplier agreement

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