Adoption – driving procurement technology change (part 1)

How do you get people to use new procurement technology, systems, processes? That’s a big question in many change programmes, and what has hit me from recent discussions with a number of senior people is where the ‘blockage’ often comes from. And it’s not, as you might expect, from users and budget holders; it’s from procurement staff themselves.

That surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t.  Do I use my ‘business contact manager’ feature on Outlook as I tell myself I should? Well....  making the effort to use new technology and change the way you’ve always done things is often a struggle.

So what can you do as a senior procurement leader with the desire to drive change? The key decision is whether to go for mandate or persuasion. IF you are in a situation where mandate is possible, then that would appear to be the easier option. Just tell people they will change, and take action if they don’t. One word of warning though; this runs the risk of de-motivating staff. And if the change, whatever it is, turns out to be unsuccessful, you’ll carry the can. “We told her it wouldn’t work...” will be the cry. So make sure what you’re doing really is desirable.

But very often organisations don’t have the option of a mandate. At the recent Empower event, an executive from a huge financial services company told me that they had almost 200 legal entities, and over 100,000 staff. How many of these were procurement people? No idea.  Did the CPO know who they all were, which country and office they were in? “No. There are probably several hundred. But there are many more part-time purchasers”.    So neither the devolved culture of the firm, or the practicalities of managing the procurement ‘function’, supported any real chance of mandating adoption of new processes, systems, or tools.  It would have to be persuasion.

Another manager responsible for implementing new procurement systems and technology in a large global firm told me of his problems in rolling out a new sourcing platform.  He said that he felt it was an age thing – their older procurement staff just weren’t interested in changing the way they had done things for many years.  They had gone through some major change over the last few years as well – merger and acquisition driven – which had perhaps made people, particularly the veterans, more hesitant about further change.

“Come back in 10 years time when I’ve retired”.  That was actually what one fairly senior procurement executive said to him when he was trying to persuade him to embrace the new tools. And one problem here was that it wasn’t just junior staff – some pretty senior procurement leaders weren’t fully committed, which I’m sure made it easier for more junior staff to also resist.

So if you have to use persuasion, rather than merely telling people what to do, how can you maximise your chance of success? We’ll take a look at that in the second and final part of this short series.

Voices (5)

  1. MarketDojo:

    In my experience there are several details in the system design that can help here. Firstly – give them a system they want to use, rather than just have to use (enjoyable user experience). Secondly – make the easy way (or lazy way) for procurement also the best way (well thought out system processes). This will help with the technology adoption and success.

  2. John Shaw:

    Following on Mike’s comment that change is the ‘soft’ part of Solution implementation; it becomes challenging, but critical to define what should be included in a successful change program.

    I propose that a simple tool by Prosci called ADKAR is a great litmus test for any change program. If you are evaluating an approach to a system rollout, list out all of the people impacted by the chance ask yourself 5 questions for each:

    * Does the program make them Aware of the drivers behind the change?
    * Does the program consider how to motivate them based upon personal desires?
    * Does the program give them the knowledge they need to succeed at the change?
    * Does the program give the right tools, ability and support they need to use the system?
    * Does the program measure progress and provide mechanisms for reinforcing positive behavior and removing barriers?

    Every time I’ve conducted this exercise we’ve been able to identify areas from Executive Awareness through User Adoption Measurement where we can improve a rollout program.

    John

  3. bitter and twisted:

    If you cant demonstrate that the new system is better…
    ,..then perhaps it isnt?

    In an ideal company, wouldnt the procurement bosses’ job be to manage the clamour for change from below ?

  4. Mike Pringle:

    Change involves the “What” and the “How”. The what is the hard aspect of change i.e. introducing new technology, the how is the soft aspect of change i.e. the human process of change. The reality is that most change programmes either underinvest in the human process of change or, indeed, even ignore it totally (e.g. mandating). For change to be embedded and sustainable in the long term, all programmes need to incorporate investment in the soft aspect of change.

    Raising CPOs’ awareness of this aspect and, in turn, raising the awareness of this aspect at the level of the Exec is a good starting point.

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