Meet Our Hall of Fame: North Carolina State University Streamlines Supplier Management
Megan Catt and Sharon Loosman talk supplier management
In December 2023, we celebrated the inaugural Vendor Management Appreciation Day to honor the unsung heroes of vendor management. We also recognized some of our standout customers as part of the festivities by welcoming them into our newly minted Hall of Fame.
PaymentWorks inducted Megan Catt, Supplier Information Manager, and Sharon Loosman, Director, Procurement & Business Services, both of North Carolina State University, into the Hall of Fame for their incredible ability to uplevel vendor onboarding and management.
We wanted to dig deeper – to learn more about what compelled the move to PaymentWorks and how things have been going since. So, we sat down with Megan and Sharon about all things vendor onboarding and management.
Here’s what we learned!
Initially, Megan and Sharon were using a bolt-on tool for supplier management, which enabled the campus to search for suppliers to see if the supplier record was active and in the financial system at any time. The hard part kicked in when it was time to pay that supplier.
Here’s why: NCSU is an R1 university with 12 colleges, each with tens or hundreds of different departments. Moreover, each of those departments may have their own bookkeepers. So, each bookkeeper from each department might be working with the same supplier but collecting the necessary supplier information independently.
Not only did this cause redundancies and unnecessary work, but it was a pain to manually collect and enter all of that information, as Sharon explains below:
Additionally, since the central AP group (of two to three people) was in charge of vendor records, bookkeepers would have to funnel all supplier information to that group. Those two or three people were responsible for all supplier information verification. As you might imagine, that took a ton of time.
A way to centralize operations and potentially offload some or all of that verification process would be huge.
Another key point was that decentralized supplier onboarding meant there was more sensitive data floating around than needed to be.
Add to that some vendor impersonation fraud attempts and things start to get hairy. Just imagine receiving a healthy amount of emails and calls to the AP department requesting updates to banking info. Sharon speaks more on that below:
Undoubtedly, some were legitimate. But others weren’t. How do you sift through and verify everything while onboarding new suppliers, managing 40,000+ existing suppliers, and remaining compliant?
It’s a big ask.
An internal auditor suggested sourcing an outside group for supplier onboarding and management.
One of the biggest benefits of implementing PaymentWorks as a centralized, automated supplier management tool is that it frees up time for people to hone their skills and develop additional expertise in areas like fraud prevention.
For example, the Red Flags Rule mandates many organizations to implement and document identity theft prevention programs built to detect “red flags” associated with identity theft. Schools like North Carolina State University must note potential red flags in daily operations, document steps to prevent crime, and prioritize other ways to mitigate risk and damage.
With centralized supplier onboarding and management operations, NCSU was able to elevate the training of procurement team members with red flag training across the university. The result is enhanced levels of expertise and greater protection against fraud threats.
In tandem with fraud-specific training, Megan and Sharon have also spearheaded broader training in the PaymentWorks platform and supplier onboarding best practices.
They’ve designed robust training documents and modules to help people do everything from completing a vendor invitation to answering nuanced vendor questions. This has also allowed them to certify team members to ensure that everyone who uses the platform is armed with the necessary information. But it has also streamlined things even more by anticipating and proactively answering questions ahead of time. Sharon provides more color on this below:
Megan and Sharon have gone above and beyond to prepare internal users to get the most out of PaymentWorks’s platform. They have organized educational guides by types of vendors, a general guide for campus users, and a robust implementation guide on providing vendor assistance.
What’s more, these aren’t just static documents. They have updated the campus user manual several times based on feedback they’ve received from users. Their goal is to constantly fill any knowledge gaps to help users better help vendors with the PaymentWorks platform.
This goes a long way with just two folks handling supplier onboarding. They’ve already onboarded roughly 16,000 vendors and have another 30-40,000 to go. Empowering users to get vendors onboarded efficiently has a positive ripple effect throughout the entire system.
Between a knowledge base that answers frequently asked questions and PaymentWorks’ How To articles, Megan and Sharon feel they have a plethora of tools to which they can direct people to answer their most pressing questions.
Another key point that Megan and Sharon are excited about is the growth of the virtual card program.
They soft-launched PaymentWorks with a focus on existing vendors that accepted virtual cards. The goal was to keep those vendors on virtual cards as they onboarded to PaymentWorks, which was possible with the platform’s registration form.
NCSU also executes annual campaigns that aim to convert existing vendors to virtual card payments over alternative payment methods. PaymentWorks allowed them to grow the virtual card program by 50%. It’s super easy for vendors to select the virtual card option on the PaymentWorks registration form at the point of onboarding, allowing the university to capture new vendors as they come on board. And it’s something both are really proud of:
Megan and Sharon say they have two main priorities for this year. The first is the virtual card program highlighted above. The goal remains to move existing vendors from ACH to virtual cards.
Additionally, the team will be analyzing current vendor records. With 40,000 vendors, Sharon notes only half may have been paid by the university within the last five years. The ability to archive older vendors has dual benefits. Firstly, you can keep the vendor master file clean.
Secondly, vendors that return can be treated as new vendors when onboarded, providing the opportunity to select a different payment method and update vendor information. PaymentWorks handles the heavy lifting with verification and tokenization, reducing risk and keeping operations clean.
We also asked Megan and Sharon how they envision the ideal state of supplier management. It’s no surprise that their first thought was having a knowledgeable user base. By prioritizing user education and helping the entire university understand the goals of risk mitigation and a smoother vendor onboarding experience, everybody wins.
Campus users then have insights into why using a platform like PaymentWorks is important, especially when it comes to preventing fraud. It also instills a sense of preparedness into users, who recognize that a little planning goes a long way. There’s more alignment on timelines and general expectations.
Another point they were sure to highlight is the idea of a smaller vendor master file – and a greater percentage of that file that is onboarded through PaymentWorks. They understand the value of doing this, both from a risk mitigation perspective and to provide a more streamlined onboarding experience for vendors.
Centralizing and automating vendor onboarding and management has elevated the experience, both for internal users and vendors. One of the biggest benefits, according to Megan and Sharon, is the ability to take advantage of the network effect, which Megan explains below:
Sharon underscores the importance of the network effect and how all of higher education really benefits from it, saying, “The more people in the education space we can get onboarded, [since] we all use the same vendors, [the more the network effect can help us].”
In short, once a vendor is onboarded into PaymentWorks, they’re in the system. This makes it a million times easier for other universities who end up working with the same vendor.
Megan adds that the PaymentWorks Higher Education User Group (teaser: we’ll talk more about this amazing group in a later feature, so stay tuned) adds another component to the network effect. Essentially, colleges and universities have a one-stop-shop where they can go for everything from PaymentWorks implementation advice to best practices and answering vendor questions. Megan shares her experience:
It’s clear both Megan and Sharon are huge advocates for knowledge sharing among peers, which is why Megan speaks at conferences like the National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP) and why both consistently make a point to share their knowledge and experience of the PaymentWorks platform with other universities.
It’s clear why Megan and Sharon were inducted into the PaymentWorks Hall of Fame. They both share a passion for vendor onboarding and management that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
But they’re also people who have lives outside of work. Megan likes to spend time with her Shitzu, Yoshi, as well as her nieces and nephews. She’s also a fan of knitting in her free time.
Sharon is an avid traveler who takes full advantage of the breaks at NCSU to visit new locations. She also enjoys traveling for conferences.
Congratulations, Megan and Sharon! And thank you for being such amazing partners and friends!
We originally announced our inaugural Hall of Fame inductees as part of the 2023 celebration. If you liked this, stick around. There’s more where that came from as we move closer to Vendor Management Appreciation Day (VMAD) 2024.
It’s time for everyone to unite in honor of one of the most critical, under-recognized roles across industries: vendor management.
VMAD is a brand-new holiday geared toward unifying vendor management professionals and celebrating innovation in the field.
We’ve released gifts each month to help you supercharge your vendor management efforts. We’re also planning some awesome events so everyone can connect and celebrate the important, strategic role of vendor management.
Learn more here, and grab some free vendor management goodies.
Explore our blogs below. They’re filled with action items you can implement right away.