How to automate vendor management with a vendor management system

How to automate vendor management with a vendor management system
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How to automate vendor management with a vendor management system

This article is part of our vendor management guide.

Your employees only represent 58% of workforce spend, with the rest going to external resources, according to recent SAP research. That’s a clear hint that vendor management and supplier management are going to take up more of your finance team’s time in the years ahead.


While many finance leaders, senior HR executives, and SMB owners know procurement and vendor management are key operational responsibilities, many are left with questions about how to best formalize this process. Thankfully, there is, thanks to vendor management systems, or VMS.


In this article, we'll explain what these systems do, what features finance teams and owners will likely value the most, and how built-in automation features can improve operational efficiency.


What is a vendor management system (VMS)?

A vendor management system (VMS) helps finance teams to manage and procure suppliers and vendors. By introducing automation to the vendor management process, they allow you to make orders for services, centralize vendor invoicing, and manage your outgoing payments and overall vendor performance.

How can a VMS help me?

A solid vendor management platform will help you see—and control—who supplies your business. You’ll be able to modify contracts based on actual needs. And you’ll be able to ensure vendor and supplier spending reflects the actual service your team's experience. Thanks to automation, many of these vendor management workflows can be automated, including:

Measuring vendor performance


Businesses turn to contingent workers and external service providers for various business functions because they need specific services they can’t access in-house due to bandwidth or budgetary constraints. But the risk of engaging outside parties needs to be balanced with the rewards of high performance. The best VMS will help the business understand how vendors and suppliers are delivering on their promises. They will help you see:


  • If project milestones are being achieved
  • If the work or service quality is as expected
  • If phased payments are being released too soon

Preventing shadow IT through automated insights


Shadow IT is when unauthorized technology solutions are bought and used for various business processes across your company. Shadow IT can go unnoticed at first, but as it becomes more widespread it can cause significant problems, such as overspending, IT inefficiencies, and data risks. The right VMS will allow you to automatically identify and collect all your company’s vendors and contract owners in one place, and keep them updated in real-time.

Streamlining vendor payments


B2B payments are a complex task for modern accounts payable teams. Decades ago, most people the business had to pay were either located in the same building as you or at least the same continent. All that has changed with:


  • The growth of highly-skilled international supplier bases
  • The emergence of alternative payment methods
  • The regulatory challenges of cross-border payments


A vendor management solution that ‘talks to’ or complements your financial management software can help to streamline B2B payments and rein in some of this complexity.

Automatically tracking vendor spend


Keeping track of spending across all your vendors becomes harder and harder as your business scales. Finance teams have the unenviable task of staying on top of this growth to ensure that spending is tracked. This is why good vendor management software can prove so useful. Structured vendor management lets finance teams see:


  • How much money is being spent on individual vendors and and in total across vendors
  • Proper explanations of the goods or services you’re paying vendors for
  • How these payments are being made, whether that is by card, bank transfer, or wire
  • Which vendors get paid the most often and at what intervals


A good VMS will help you track vendor spending in a way that makes it easier to take action on negative or positive trends, like overpayment or value-for-money. And that should put you in a stronger position during any vendor negotiations.

Managing third-party risks


For CFOs and heads of finance, contingent workforce management is a key aspect of risk management. Because if one of your vendors makes a mistake, it's the business that often has to face the consequences, whether that’s regulatory difficulties, customer complaints, or negative brand impacts. A VMS can help you prevent this by ensuring you have all the financial and tax documents that vendors need to provide, along with any licenses or insurances.

Complying with regulations


When it comes to external freelancers and vendors, doing some initial due diligence is not enough. For example, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency requires all banks to know who their vendors are and to manage any third-party risks that come from working with external suppliers. That means monitoring:


  • The strengths of individual controls
  • Compliance with laws for service level agreements
  • Performance metrics and other contractual terms


Critical vendors should be risk assessed at least annually—and a VMS can help simplify compliance management, contract management, and much more.

Look out for these features when choosing your VMS

If you’re a seasoned head of finance, you already know all about vendor management best practices. You’ll also know which VMS features do little to support these approaches and which are mere window dressing. A modern VMS should help you:


  • See important vendor information and supplier costs in real-time
  • Check which teams depend most on outsourcing and contingent labor
  • Prevent payment bottlenecks at month or quarter-end


Let’s look at some other features that can prove useful to finance teams working on high-workload teams.

Centralized procurement and approval


When Ramp launched its vendor management platform recently, we mentioned that most of our customers are managing hundreds of subscriptions at once. And that’s just subscriptions. Many are also managing high volumes of vendors and suppliers, too. Procurement can become unwieldy if it’s not bound by a formal process that finance teams and department heads can quickly (and easily) follow. Look for VMS that helps you centralize and simplify requests and approval processes in minutes, not weeks.

Automated and real-time vendor expense tracking


Leading VMS will help businesses incentivize savings and value-for-money across the business, whether that’s in external consultant spend, SaaS subscriptions, or legal services. Looks for a VMS that will enable your team to:


  • Stop unapproved procurement and vendor negotiations before they go too far, with category spending controls
  • Help finance teams to close their books promptly, with time-saving accounting integrations and proper coding to help you identify which vendors are providing value for money or where others may be underperforming against agreed deliverables  


Ideally, you can then use real-time vendor spending data to do accurate reporting and financial forecasting.

Auto-categorize vendors


It’s getting harder to know about every vendor and supplier your teams have procured. That’s not good for heads of finance and their teams, because it sets the scene for wasteful spending. Or worse, duplicate spending. This is why categorizing vendors is so important. A good VMS will help you be more proactive with vendor management, by categorizing vendors by their services and results.

Block certain vendor spend with pre-set rules


A modern VMS should be integrated with your corporate card so you can set pre-approved spending limits to automatically enforce your company’s expense policies and keep supplier and vendor spending in check. So look out for the ability to set weekly, monthly, and quarterly spend limits, too.


This is critical for finance teams working in high-growth companies, where demand for vendor support can excel and outpace current processes quickly. It’s also key for SMB owners, who may need to quickly scale up or down their vendor lists based on seasonal demand. For example, with Ramp, you can issue vendor-specific virtual cards to control vendor spending at the category level (e.g. no spending on certain marketing activities or capped outlay on insurances). You can also completely block (or limit) spending on individual vendors, too.

11 vendor management systems to consider

Now you know what to look for, here are 11 VMS to consider.

1. Ramp


Our vendor management platform is the only one that's fully integrated with your corporate card so you can save across the board with an unlimited 1.5% cashback on all purchases and automatic notifications about cost-saving opportunities. Ramp automated vendor management can help your business to simplify and centralize procurement with a seamless approval process that saves your finance team lots of time, and keeps your internal project managers accountable. Ramp’s procurement services also automatically negotiates vendor contracts on your behalf as well, so you can be sure you’re getting the best prices.


With Ramp’s platform, you can identify and collect all vendors and contract owners in one place, get notified when the next payment is due, and track how much you’ve ever spent with each vendor.

2. Precoro


Precoro promises to provide cost-effective and easy-to-use procurement solutions to help companies reduce administrative headaches, lower costs, and increase productivity. Precoro’s features include purchases requests, approval workflows, budget management, and inventory.

3. SAP Fieldglass


SAP Fieldglass is a cloud-based VMS that helps organizations find, engage, manage, and pay external workforces. SAP was named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites in 2021.

4. Gatekeeper


Gatekeeper describes itself as “an all-in-one vendor lifecycle management platform” built on vendor management automation, artificial intelligence, and vendor-facing features. Gatekeeper provides an Employee Portal for internal users to request new vendors and compliance reviews, along with a vendor portal for managing tasks like non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and information security reviews.

5. Beeline


According to business technology review site, Trustradius, Beeline is a workforce platform with a dataset encompassing more than 30 million workers and more than $700 billion in talent spend.

6. Onspring


With an offering pitched more toward risk management, Onspring helps businesses manage ‘diverse vendor sets.’ Their third-party risk management solution (TPRM) supports customers with third-party risk assessments and mitigation activities.

7. NContracts


Much like Onspring, NContracts promised to help businesses take the risk out of vendor management. NContracts promises to help businesses stay informed and aware about vendors’ activities, with tools to monitor and communicate any risks to key internal and external stakeholders.

8. Venminder

Venminder describes itself as a recognized leader of third-party risk management. The platform allows businesses to organize, track and report findings on vendors throughout the lifecycle of the relationship. The company reports that its clients use the software for anywhere from 10 to more than 7000 vendor relationships.

9. Genuity


Genuity helps businesses to manage IT spending, software usage, contracts, and compliance. Genuity also promises to help businesses understand more about their cloud, license, and product usage, and any associated billing trends.

10. Oracle Fusion Cloud Procurement


Oracle describes its Fusion Cloud Procurement tool as ‘an integrated source-to-settle suite’ for strategic sourcing, better supplier relationship management, and simplified buying. Customers include FedEx, HSBC, and the University of Wyoming.

11. PRM360


The PRM360 website describes this platform as a ‘robust cloud-based procurement software solution’ for procure-to-pay processes. The platform helps businesses to create requisitions, manage inventory, track purchase orders (POs), and ensure vendors comply with relevant regulations.

Ramp: Vendor management made easy through automation


We know vendor management is a difficult part of running a business. And in the early days, prioritizing vendor contracts, supplier purchases, and cost-savings can seem like a needless activity. But when the number of vendors grows rapidly—and you start to deal with external partners based all across the world—you can begin to see that sound vendor management is an asset, not a liability.


Ask us how our predictive vendor management and real-time spend analysis can help you handle all vendor relationships with composure and certainty. With Ramp, you can:


  • Stop shadow IT
  • Track all vendor spend
  • Analyze upcoming spend
  • Make the procurement process smoother
  • Control vendor spending with cards
  • Get more favorable vendor contracts


Time for a faster way to manage your vendors and save money? Start using Ramp today.

FAQ

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