Why You Need to Push Your Business Through the Pain of Transformation

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Spend Matters welcomes this guest post by Conrad Smith, senior director of global procurement at Adobe.

I’m a marathon runner. I’ve run more than 25 marathons in the last 10 years. I try to run every day, even in the rain or snow. My goal is to run a marathon every year until I die.

Running transformed my life. It was hard at the beginning. I would run three or four miles a few times a week, and feel both elated and exhausted. In those early days, even short runs felt difficult, full of sweating and trying to catch my breath.

Transformation is my main passion in work, too. Over the past few years, I’ve stayed focused on transforming the people, processes and systems in Adobe’s Global Procurement department. I don’t just like to turn the crank — I like to make things better every day. Like running, this level of transformation can be painful at first, but it’s worth it. Here’s how, and why, you should be pushing for transformation in your people, your processes and your systems; in procurement, or whatever else you own.


There’s not much point to systems and data if your team doesn’t have the ability, the emotional intelligence or EQ (think stakeholder influence), to leverage that data into key relationships and projects.

Digital transformation is crucial, but data on its own can only take you so far. To really unlock the value of data, you need a team of people who can discover insights, and your organization needs to empower and expect its people to make those discoveries. That means finding ways to help each of your team members develop their skills so they can tap into their full potential. Sometimes it also means talking with the people who don’t fit your team’s culture and encouraging those people to move on.

Your team members are the ones who are making that transformation happen, on the ground. They’re the ones coming up with the innovative ideas and sometimes even doing some of the basic coding. My team members are my greatest asset. Their individual transformations have been remarkable.

Tighten up your team, and the rest of the transformation will follow naturally.


Even with a top-notch team in place, you’ll need to reengineer your business processes — the ways you handle documents and approvals, stakeholder influence, meetings and all the other activities that make up your daily work.

We find that stakeholders can be resistant to new processes for a whole host of reasons. They think a new process will get in the way of the relationship they have with their favorite suppliers. They believe they’re good negotiators and that a new procurement process will slow down those negotiations. For all these reasons and more, some stakeholders will put a wall between the ways they handle procurement and the ways we could help them handle it better.

Once you implement a new process, and it stabilizes, and people see how much better it works, they’re sold. A year later, those same people are saying, “No, we can’t change this; this is how it has to be!” — and they’re talking about the new process; the one they thought was such a bad idea just a few months ago.

Don’t be afraid to switch things up — or to encourage your people and stakeholders to try a new process. Just that willingness to do things differently is a huge source of innovation and efficiency.


Too many people assume changing systems will transform their business. Make sure you avoid the temptation to start with system changes. Starting with people and process changes will give you a strong foundation to support needed changes to the systems. Without that foundation, you risk making systems investments that don’t stick and don’t have organizational support.

If you want a seat at your stakeholder’s table, you need to have answers for them. If your team can’t answer questions about data or processes that aren’t working well, or if you have a reputation for being unresponsive or slow, your stakeholders aren’t going to come to you for their next big deal. Instead, they’ll do everything possible to work around you.

To provide those answers, you need hard, relevant data. That’s where systems and technology come in. Once you’ve got the right people in place, and they’re thinking in an agile way, reengineering your processes as necessary, you’ll find that the technology aspect of digital transformation is easy to integrate and implement. A well-organized procurement system generates the data and insights to guide and influence stakeholders.

Teams, processes and systems tend to slow down and harden over time, and that’s dangerous both for your business and for the clients who depend on you. Transformation can be hard to get moving at first, but it’s worth it, because, like running, once you get those joints moving and those muscles pumping, you’ll take your team and your business to places they’ve never been before.  

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