Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Barbara Ardell of Paladin Associates, Inc.
eSourcing has been around for well over a decade and is among the most powerful procurement solutions compared with other enterprise applications. Despite many successful implementations, there are far too many examples of eSourcing initiatives that took too long, didn’t meet expectations or fizzled out after the initial push. This dilemma motivated a white paper, "Revolutionizing eSourcing Adoption” (free download; registration required), which examines this challenge in detail and offers some fresh solutions.
To address this challenge, it’s important to understand why eSourcing adoption is so elusive. There are quite a few possible explanations. eSourcing requires behavior changes across the organization, introduces greater rigor into the sourcing process, challenges incumbent suppliers and creates “buyer transparency”—the buyer’s exposure to much greater scrutiny.
Is there a possible solution? I recently came across Influencer, a book and training course that teaches a change management methodology, and was impressed that it wasn’t just the same old change management approach. Influencer offers some unique aspects that make it superior to traditional efforts:
- It emphasizes that organizations are comprised of individuals, and therefore individuals’ behavior must change. Individuals and organizations require tailored actions to affect change. In addition, typical change efforts focus solely on the ultimate goal of eSourcing adoption rather than the behavioral changes that lead to adoption. These ineffective approaches rely heavily on verbal persuasion aimed at getting commitment. But Influencer teaches that commitment is only the first step.
- It focuses on vital (high-leverage) behaviors that lead to rapid and lasting change. Influencer zeros in on behaviors that really count. A vital behavior might be an inexperienced user consulting with an eSourcing expert before beginning his/her first event. That one act could stack the deck for success.
- It identifies crucial moments when individuals decide to change or not. A crucial moment is the point where the right behavior, if enacted, will lead to the desired result. Resistance from an internal stakeholder or a key supplier might be a crucial moment. You need to anticipate and strategize to combat this resistance.
- It seeks examples of unexpected successful behavior change and analyzes the reasons for success. Perhaps one division or location has demonstrated success. What are they doing that can be applied elsewhere?
- It applies strategies that broadly target Six Sources of Influence™, which focus on personal, social and structural motivation and ability. Most change efforts address only one or two influences sources. They often assume that motivation is the culprit or focus on training when ability isn’t the real issue. Research demonstrates that combining multiple sources of influence increases success tenfold.
Methodical diagnosis of vital behaviors and application of multiple influence strategies make all the difference. Here are some examples of specific influence strategies:
- Personal Ability – eSourcing training is necessary, but typically insufficient. Engaging an internal or external coach who is readily available can help fill the gap.
- Social Motivation – Seek support from your organization’s opinion leaders because the rest of the population won’t adopt eSourcing without them. Remember, you don’t get to decide whether to engage opinion leaders. By definition, they will always be engaged either for or against you.
- Structural Motivation – Rewarding outcomes (as opposed to behaviors) can be risky as they may hide inappropriate actions. For example, a goal of 10 RFxs completed via eSourcing by October 1 could sacrifice quality for quantity. 10 RFxs reviewed with the eSourcing coach by October 1 would be more useful. Watch also for divisive incentives. You don’t want to foster unhealthy competition with negative consequences, like discouraging best practice sharing.
If you’re thinking about implementing eSourcing or revitalizing your existing eSourcing effort, consider how you can make long-term adoption inevitable:
- Apply Influencer. Identify vital behaviors and then combine multiple influence sources.
- Engage an experienced service partner. The right partner brings expertise and experience across multiple customers and industries. They can model best practices and stack the deck for success.
- Select an enabling eSourcing solution. Make doing the right thing easy. Choose a solution that is intuitive and easy for buyers, internal stakeholders and suppliers to use.