Collaborating across companies isn’t as easy as you would think
We recently customized our CorasManage product for a large telco customer. The customer had a very specific challenge: How do we collaborate and share information with third-parties who are outside our firewall? It doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Specifically, allow us to create and post RFPs online so our potential suppliers/vendors can respond with proposals telling us what they can do and what it will cost. Then allow us to select a vendor and notify everyone of our selection. After selecting a vendor, allow us to provide transparency throughout the life of the program so we can easily track progress and deliverables.
I bet everyone reading this can relate in some way! So why is it so challenging to accomplish this?
It’s challenging because the systems that typically accomplish this are internal to your company. They contain data and information you don’t want third-parties to access. Simply giving third-parties access would expose your proprietary data and information. No way are you going to let that happen. You have to find another approach.
So, how did we address this challenge for our customer? First, we used CorasManage out-of-the-box to accomplish 80% of what the customer needed. CorasManage addressed all of the features the customer needed for tracking and reporting on the program and all the deliverables. So that was easy.
But, it still didn’t address the issue of collaborating across the firewall. So, as a second step, we created a unique, web-based portal for each vendor. The portals leveraged a CorasManage feature that allows for a dual authentication setup. This means internal people log in one way and external people log in a different way. It handles the separation of data through a connector framework that allows you to only share certain data and information. The portal is a simplified interface that allows third-parties to respond to RFPs and complete deliverable tasks, without having access to any other of the customer’s data. So, each vendor now had its own secure portal where our customer could collaborate with them and track progress and deliverables. And, by keeping the portal streamlined and simple, we were able to deliver an experience that did not require any training for either the customer or the third-parties. Another definite win!
The portals and the secure separation significantly cut the time and effort for the customer. Before we implemented the portals, the customer built the RFP in Word, sent it via email to the vendors, gathered the results, pasted the RFP responses into a system to capture them for later use, emailed the results, and sent instructions on what deliverables the vendors needed to create. Then they would have to send reminders, track it all on a spreadsheet, create reports for leadership from the spreadsheets, send them around via email, and on and on. It was an error-prone and painful process that wasn’t fun for either party. Now there is a single place for both the customer and vendors to see what needs to be done and when.
So collaborating across companies with third-parties does not have to be hard. It just requires a different approach!