Wow… just… wow.

You know how when film critics are talking about movies they say, “If you see only one movie all summer… make sure to watch ‘blah blah blah.'”  Well I have to make the same claim for the Supplier Portal webinar from yesterday.  If you sit through only one webinar all year long, you have to download the “What is a Supplier Portal Anyway?” webinar from Josh Morrison and Mary Schaeffer.

Seriously though, you will not regret it.  The link is right here:  Supplier Portal Webinar

OK, I understand that this webinar was co-presented by a Lavantine, Josh Morrison, and many of you may claim I am just hawking my Lavante bias, but seriously this was a master class in how we should be looking at supplier portals.  What works; what doesn’t; what are the pitfalls of the craze; and what is the upside of actually solving this whole “Supplier Portal” riddle.

I was merely an observer of the webinar.  I sat in for the first couple minutes with the intention of leaving to another meeting, but I couldn’t leave because the material was so good.  Josh, who spent the previous 20 years heading up AP/P2P and Strategic Sourcing for a Fortune 50 company (and he’s a member of frickin’ Mensa!),  and Mary Schaeffer, who runs one of the most highly regarded consultancies in the AP market (if you do not know her work click here) really delivered.  The two presenters struck a perfect balance where Josh laid out the ambitional map (i.e., “these are the new levels of value you can get from a portal“) and Mary outlined the cautionary tales of lagging behind.  (i.e., “adopt a portal solution to gear up for risk and to get ready for the regulations – because they are here, and more are coming.”)

Attendance was great.  We pulled in about 300 folks.  Bam!  (Marketing folks, amirite?)  That tells me the topic was on point.  Only seven attendees dropped off before the end.  That tells me the material was firing on all cylinders and kept the crowd engaged.   Probably the most telling stat was the attendee engagement we saw coming through the chat box.  This was without a doubt the most engaged crowd I have ever seen in a webinar.  We had over 30 attendee comments come in during the presentation.  (Apologies if we did not respond to you comments during the presentation – we will soon)  During the webinar debrief we realized we needed to do a follow up webinar on the comments alone.

Not every comment was of the “thank you, can I have a copy of the slides” variety; we actually saw a little emotion coming through the crowd.  For example one attendee wrote the following, “how do you ‘sell’ the portal to the suppliers?  …we get push back that they’re ‘doing our work’ and that they don’t have time or resources to go into multiple customers’ portals, much less keep track of how each portal is different.”  This is an incredible question and brings up some very important points of concern.  In reality, this question alone sparks a whole other webinar or blog or white paper.  In response to this question, I’d offer that the industry has to settle into a larger market-serving portal strategy.  Yes, the whole market can be instrumental in pushing this forward.  Think about the cell phone network analogy.  Do you remember that only 15 years ago cell phone networks were fragmented and you had to pay more to call into another network?  In more extreme cases you couldn’t even call another network.  Eventually the market demanded the solution to be simplified.  The same thing will eventually happen in the portal space as well (and I know just the firm that is doing it!).

Anyway, not to go too far on a tangent…like I was saying before, I am always impressed when webinar attendees feel welcome enough to challenge the material and pose strong questions or claims.  I feel like this webinar was a winner.  This was a balanced look at a topic that is getting a ton or air play right now and we sent in two of the industry’s best experts to discuss it.  Many people sent glowing remarks, but many others are still wrestling with the material and the mere thought of portals, portals, portals!

I invite every one of you to download and listen (for free) for yourself.  Send any questions and start a dialogue.  This is a fun topic and we are all just getting started!