How Project Teams Can Improve Collaboration With Vendors

Project teams often have issues when collaborating and communicating with vendors. Though vendors may need access to critical information, they can’t be allowed free rein of the system: data still has to be protected. With an inefficient system, vendors may find themselves jumping through hoops and waiting a long time to complete their role in each project. 

Here are a few ways you can establish a better relationship with your vendors. 

Create Business Processes for the Management of Data

Begin by creating written processes for the transfer of data. It should be clear what data is confidential and which data should be shared with vendors. There should be classification systems for documents, as well as authentication solutions for those who access it. Data should be encrypted while it’s protected, and proper password hygiene should be used for encryption. This process should be reviewed during the vendor selection and onboarding process.

Written business processes create the foundation for accountability. If there are data-related issues in the future, these business processes will ensure that there are clearly outlined consequences. Employees will more readily follow data management plans if they understand that that there are potential consequences for data breaches and data leaks. 

Using a Collaboration Solution Such as Slack

Slack is an all-in-one collaboration solution, which makes it easy for vendors and employees to communicate. Through Slack, vendors and employees can instant message, speak through shared chat rooms, and voice chat. Documents can be shared through Slack, and everything connects through a centralized, consolidated architecture.

With Slack’s conferencing and chat room features, the entire team (including vendors) can be communicated with at the same time, and vendors and employees can be kept on the same page. Conferences can be held with dozens of people at a time, and video chats can be used to make communication clearer even when vendors are in another geographic location.

As a productivity solution, Slack makes it much easier for vendors to get the information they need quickly. It can be secured and authenticated, and data can be distributed solely to the vendors and teams that need the information. Slack can also be directly integrated into thousands of solutions, including vendor management solutions, project management suites, bug tracking and defect management tools, and enterprise resource planning products.

By integrating Slack throughout your business processes, you can ensure that vendors are kept notified of any project-related changes, and vendors are never kept waiting for important information. Slack has internal options for improving document management and security and makes it easy for vendors and employees to communicate with entire project teams at once, and see when individuals are available. 

Invest in a Contextual Security System

Contextual security systems can identify potential data breaches, by recognizing information that should be secure. Financial information, social security numbers, and other personally identifiable information can be recognized by these types of systems, and employees will be alerted that this information is being shared with someone who may not be entitled to it.

These types of security systems are becoming more popular now that confidential data is more frequently traded through instant messaging, email, and chat rooms. Employees make mistakes, and any employee could mistakenly forward confidential information at some point in time. A contextual security system protects employees from carelessness and negligence. 

Audit Your Collaborative Process and Improve It

Any business-related process has to be regularly optimized. Audit your collaborative process to identify potential issues with it. Were there any communication failures? Any delays? Each project may have several points of failure, during which vendors could have used additional information, or which vendors received the wrong information.

Once issues with the collaborative process have been discovered, they must be unraveled. Determine what could have prevented these issues from happening to begin with and introduce this into your new communication processes. Over time, your collaborative process will become better and more effective, and you will find it easier to work together with your vendors. 

Evaluate Performance With Your Vendors

Vendors often have the greatest level of insight regarding whether they’re being communicated with effectively. From time to time, reach out to vendors and ask them to evaluate your company’s performance. Were there times when they didn’t get the information that they needed? Did they get the information that they needed, but not within the time that they needed it?

Vendors are professionals who have their own communication systems. Consequently, they may have useful suggestions regarding what can be done to improve performance, which can give your team and your employees direction. 

Improving communication and collaboration can make the entire process of working with vendors must easier. Project teams must trust vendors to pick up the ball and run with it: once communication has been established and secured vendors can complete their work. By improving collaboration, companies can make things easier on their vendors—and this will improve relationships and productivity throughout.

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Rich Butkevic

Rich Butkevic is a PMP certified project manager, certified Scrum Master, and runs Project Zendo, a website for project management professionals to discover strategies to simplify and improve their project results. Connect with Rich on LinkedIn