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For decades, email has been central to the way we work and communicate. Professionals all over the world use email to share updates, schedule meetings, consume information, and much, much more. It’s no stretch to say that for many of us, working without using email would be close to impossible.

But in recent years, many of the tasks that we used to rely on email for have been replaced by improved software solutions. Instead of going back and forth trying to find a time to meet with someone, you just book a meeting using their Calendly. Salespeople use ever more advanced CRM systems to manage their pipeline, and internal teams communicate on platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams. 

But in the world of Market and Competitive Intelligence (M/CI), many CI teams still rely heavily on email, particularly when it comes to managing third-party vendor deliverables. The modern M/CI team  tends to work with many external vendors simultaneously, on projects that encompass everything from gathering field information to highly specialized research. 

In a recent study Cipher commissioned with Forrester Consulting we found that four out of five M/CI teams in the life sciences industry work with third-party vendors. And because email is the tool most often used to manage these relationships, there are a lot of inefficiencies in this process: 67% of firms pay for the same or similar outsourced CI activity more than once, and over half of the firms we surveyed have no visibility into the past performance of their third-party vendors.

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The Problems with Using Email to Manage Third-Party Vendors

Email is a fantastic communication tool, and if used appropriately, has a central role to play in the way that M/CI teams work. But an overreliance on email can result in underperformance for even the most qualified M/CI teams. Let’s explore some of the key reasons that is the case.

Inefficient Alert Systems

Many organizations rely on external partners to perform alert monitoring and management on their behalf. If a company has many competitors, potential substitutes, or disruptors to keep track of, they might become overwhelmed, even with the support of M/CI technology. In this instance, they outsource the work to a third-party vendor.

However, a common challenge faced by M/CI teams is the way these vendors share alerts, which primarily occurs through email. The M/CI team that receives an initial alert email has to read this email, email internal stakeholders to build alignment and context, and then provide email feedback to their third-party CI service provider. Once all those emails have been sent (and replied to), a final piece of intelligence is produced, which is––you guessed it––emailed to the wider team. All these steps contribute to a lot of inefficiencies, miring everyone in their email inboxes when they could be working on higher-value analysis projects.

Lack of Structure Leading to Information Loss

At first glance, managing projects through email might not seem like such a big deal; it’s probably the way you’ve always done things. But take a moment and think about your email inbox. If it’s anything like ours, we bet there are all kinds of things in there, from scheduling details for your kids’ soccer practice to direct emails from your CEO, and everything in between. 

In the midst of all that chaos, it’s easy for information to fall through the cracks. You probably receive more than a hundred emails every day, and if we’re being honest, it’s unlikely you read them all. Something as simple as a colleague going on vacation can be the cause of a complete communication break down. The reliance on email, and consequent lack of structure, makes it all too easy for valuable information to fall by the wayside, languishing in someone’s email inbox, rather than being used to drive improved decision making.

This lack of structure also creates the potential for duplicity, as intelligence produced by previous engagements is not tagged or stored in a central database for easy retrieval or reference. Remember, more than two thirds of life sciences companies have paid for the same competitive intelligence activity on more than one occasion. A major driver of that? The lack of structure in how they manage CI reports, newsletters, alerts, insights and intelligence. 

Working with Vendors is Time Consuming

For many M/CI teams, working with external vendors is not only unorganized, but it takes a long time. It’s easy to feel like you’re constantly exchanging emails, never making meaningful progress towards the ultimate goal of the project. 

Adding to the complexity is the fact that many organizations have slightly different processes for each CI vendor. Each individual project will likely have its own timeline, deliverables, milestones, and review process. Keeping track of all of that, without any semblance of structure, is both difficult and very time-consuming. 

Even the process of distributing intelligence from a third party from a vendor to an internal distribution list can feel archaic. You might have to filter through a spreadsheet to assemble the correct list of email addresses, copy and paste them all into the BCC section of an email in Microsoft Outlook or Gmail, and then manually send your email. That all takes time – and low-value manual tasks like this represent a huge drain on your M/CI team's resources.

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Addressing The Challenges of Using Email to Manage Third-Party Vendors

If all this sounds familiar to you, you’re far from alone. Some of the world’s largest organizations are grappling with these issues, but because M/CI external projects have always been done this way, leaders don’t necessarily realize that there is a better way to manage these engagements. 

At Cipher, we recognized this challenge and sought out M/CI leaders who face this challenge. The result of our work are tools that solve these challenges and offer a better solution for M/CI teams to effectively manage relationships with third-party vendors. 

Meet the Knowledge360 Partner Portal

We recently launched the Knowledge360 Partner Portal to help our clients simplify the messy process of CI vendor management. The Partner Portal creates structured workflows for every element of a firm’s relationship with an external M/CI service provider, from soliciting Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to managing project deliverables and sharing intelligence

K360-Partner-Portal-Projects-ViewThe tool moves all these workflows from informal, unstructured email conversations to comprehensive, tailor-made workflows that help M/CI teams save time, reduce duplication, and more effectively take action from intelligence across their organization. One customer has realized a saving of more than 700 hours per year by centralizing various aspects of their vendor management process that were previously manually managed over email. 

M/CI teams can create a directory of all their vendors, streamline the creation of key documents and contracts, and manage all vendor deliverables and documents in one central location that integrates seamlessly with their existing Knowledge 360 platform. 

Moving your CI vendor management workflows out of your email inbox and onto the Knowledge360 Partner Portal. Schedule a demo today to learn more