Applying a Change Management Method for Successful Technology Implementation

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The success of a new procurement technology adoption has a lot to do with the organization’s behavior. Getting members of a procurement organization onboard with the new technology and ensuring they are willing to change their daily habits and processes is key. But it can be a difficult task.

One form of change management companies are applying to technology adoption projects is the “Influencer” method, which focuses on changing behaviors. It’s also a method Barb Ardell, vice president of Paladin Associates, teaches as an Influencing Change Practice Leader. Ardell presented on the Influencer method at the recent Spend Matters and Institute for Supply Management’s Global Procurement Tech Summit. In case you missed the presentation, weren’t able to attend the conference or just wanted to learn more, we reached out to Ardell to share insights on how the Influencer method works for companies trying to implement new procurement technology.

Spend Matters: How do you apply the Influencer model at companies trying to successfully implement a new procurement technology?

Barb Ardell: Technology implementation challenges are less about the software, per se, and more about getting people in the organization to change their behavior. Influencer focuses on changing behavior. It really works for any type of behavior change, including technology adoption.

SM: Can you walk me through the major steps of the Influencer model to achieving a successful technology adoption process?

BA: There are three components to the Influencer model, applied in order:

  1. Clarify Measurable Results — What do you want to achieve? This should be a “S-M-A-R-T” statement, which stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. A procurement technology example might be 85% of all sourcing events run through the e-sourcing solution by end of year.
  2. Find Vital Behaviors — What are the few behaviors that will lead to the greatest amount of change? Think the Pareto Principle. Most change efforts focus first on things like strategies, processes, technology, policies, organization structure and reward systems. Successful influencers don’t start here — they start by identifying and focusing on vital behaviors. Research shows that focusing on a few vital behaviors can drive your desired change. Sticking with the e-sourcing example, a vital behavior might be consulting an e-sourcing coach when feeling pressured to execute a sourcing event quickly.
  3. Use Six Sources of Influence — How will you motivate and enable change? The “Six Sources” do double duty. They are first used to diagnose why the desired change isn’t happening or isn’t likely to happen without intervention and then provide a systematic framework to develop strategies to overcome the resistance identified. Research shows that using four or more sources of influence targeted at vital behaviors will improve results tenfold.

SM: It seems successful procurement technology adoption has a lot to do with getting the organization and individual team members on board with using the solution, which can be a challenge. It includes changing their daily habits, behaviors and possibly perceptions of how they do their job. What are some main ways to tackle this challenge?

BA: This is where we employ the “Six Sources of Influence” to drive the desired behavior change. We need to “gang up” on the desired behavior change by using multiple sources of influence targeted at the vital behavior to impact both motivation and ability. You need both motivation and ability for change to occur. The Six Sources model identifies three types of forces that impact motivation and ability: personal (individual), social (others) and structural (things).  

We tend to rely very heavily on “carrots and sticks” to motivate change. This is much less effective than tapping into personal motivation (values, beliefs and emotions), and social motivation (peer pressure). If there are skill gaps (ability issues), you need to address those specifically, as focusing on motivation when there are ability issues only results in frustration.

SM: One of the steps in this Influencer process is to “ensure that doing the right thing is the easiest.” But how does one prove that using a new technology, which may be unfamiliar to the procurement organization’s team members, will actually make processes easier?

BA: Actually, the technology sometimes results in more work for some constituents, although it has overall benefit for the organization. That’s the challenge. I encountered this when I served as procurement’s representative on Procter & Gamble’s first ERP implementation in the late ‘80s. We knew this would result in more work for the manufacturing staff. This is where you need to tap into individuals’ personal motivation — for example, get a commitment to being a “best-in-class” organization despite the additional work.

SM: How important is coaching and training in this process? Without it, will a technology implementation project ultimately fail?

BA: These are both very important. Recall you need both motivation and ability for a behavior change to take place. When change isn’t happening, we often ascribe the problem to one of motivation when, in fact, it might be an ability issue.

For example, when I was working Procuri, a former e-sourcing provider, we saw various levels of adoption across our client base and wanted to understand why. At first, we assumed that it was a motivation issue and the organizations must be “stogy” or resistant to change. But what we found on further investigation was that, in many cases, the clients lacked an underlying strategic sourcing process and related skills, and they were too embarrassed to admit it. Add to that the fact the e-sourcing enabled greater transparency and it’s no wonder they had an adoption problem. Their sourcing folks were lacking in skill and confidence and now they had everybody and their brother looking over their shoulder! The solution was to provide training — not on the software but on the strategic sourcing process and skills. Once the skill level went up so did the confidence, and adoption followed.

SM: Overall, change management can be a challenge. How does the Influencing Change model of change management stand apart from other strategies?

BA: I was drawn to Influencer because it was clear to me that it is both different from and superior to anything I’d seen in the way of change management in my long business career.  Recall that organizational change is the sum of changes in individuals’ behavior. Traditional change management takes very much of a project management approach focusing on things like strategy, systems, process and structure. While all of these are necessary, they are insufficient as they don’t get at the underlying organization culture, norms and status quo behaviors. This is the organizational inertia and resistance that undermines your change effort, and this is where Influencer focuses. Influencer is also very well researched, and based on 50 years of social science research.

SM:  Also, do you find companies you work with are receptive to this change management strategy?

BA:  I am frankly shocked at how many organizations are unwilling to commit resources to change management, despite the potential consequences/pay-out. One of my favorite business quotes is, “Why is it we never have time to do it right, but always have time to do it over?” It seems as if too many organizations rely on “wishin’ and hopin.’” That’s not a strategy!

Perhaps the reluctance stems from the fact that traditional change management has left us wanting in terms of the degree, the speed and/or the sustainability of the change it delivers. Therefore, people are skeptical about the investment. That’s where we can rely on the research that shows that employing the Influencer approach can improve your results. The feedback we get from clients is that the methodology delivered by individuals with vast industry and subject matter expertise is a winning combination.

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