In this series of articles we are looking at why eProcurement in businesses has failed to live up to the enjoyable and simple experiences of home shopping. We now turn our attention to the staff who are being asked to engage in the activity.
Why is it that so many projects in business start with the premise, whether intentionally or not, that staff are not to be trusted and must be kept within very tight boundaries. What is it we fear? That an administrator might actually see the pens reserved for the Chief Exec, that a member of marketing might suddenly try to order spare parts for a machine tool, or, heaven forbid, someone might try to buy something from a company just down the road!
If you don’t believe me or you think that it's not true for your business, then just look at how many check points and reviews a single document has to go through before it gets out of the door, and even more so before it's paid for. In one organisation I was involved with, there were almost 90 different classifications of staff, according to the eProcurement system, and each one was able to view a subtly different sub set of products yet they all worked for the same organisation. Even with that a single transaction required up to six different (albeit electronic) signatures between shopping cart and payment.
The problem is that these controls hamper activity. Staff are not ignorant. They quickly pick up on this lack of trust and it seeps through into how they behave. With the economy the way it is, there is a desperate need for innovation and entrepreneurship from within businesses to make sure they survive and grow. If staff do not feel trusted by their employers then why do we assume that they are going to go the extra mile?
Sure, there have been a number of high profile cases of members of staff defrauding their employer or at least doing things they shouldn't, but the majority of controls employed are at best bureaucratic and at worst draconian. They start from a perspective that all staff are out to do wrong and as such they hamper those that just want to get on with things.
So what is the alternative, I hear you ask? Well how about starting instead from the premise that the majority of staff are trustworthy and want to do the right thing. Let’s face it, most staff are able to do far more damage to a business through improper use of social media than by ordering the wrong type of ball point pen. Sure, there are those who will seek out the loop holes that enable them to scam significant funds, but they don't do it by looking at the wrong catalogue or by choosing the wrong pad of paper. Let's face it, if they believe they are trusted, they are more likely to go the extra mile rather than bad mouth you on Facebook or Twitter.
What is required is a totally different way of thinking. Instead of trying to second guess everything that staff could do wrong, putting in tight controls to avoid them all and stopping staff from acting in innovative ways on behalf of the organisation (“Intrapreneurship”), just do the basics. Make sure that administrative functions of the system are restricted to a select few, educate managers on how to effectively manage budgets then LET GO and watch the business grow!!