Getting adoption and buy-in to eSourcing:thoughts from the Iasta ‘user panel’

I popped in last Wednesday to observe the Iasta "User Panel"  (part of their UK user conference) in the heart of London's fashionable and ridiculously over-priced Covent Garden.  Looking at the list of attendees, Iasta have made their strongest inroads in the UK in the retail and transportation sectors; a somewhat unusual mix!  But they obviously have some strong customer advocates for their suite of products, which are based around eSourcing and auctioning.

The user panel was not at all a technology based discussion or an Iasta 'hard-sell'; I must say I enjoyed it all the more for that and thought it covered some areas of interest to most procurement people.  The panel featured senior procurement 'super-users' from Centrica, Nationwide Building Society, and Home Retail Group (Argos/Homebase).  All recognisably real sourcing professionals, all passionate about their jobs, and all with what seemed like genuine success stories in which Iasta products had played a role.

One company was using largely that Iasta auction capability, but it was optional for the operational sourcing people as to whether they used it. Uptake was building steadily as those folk saw the benefits.  In another case, use of the sourcing platform was made compulsory for procurement staff, but a very strong programme of training, support and adoption management was put in place ( I liked the idea of having a competition to see who could come up with the most creative idea for an auction!)  In the third case, the impressive procurement transformation programme (of which new technology was one part) had led to the architects of that, including the panel member, being promoted to have oversight of procurement across the whole corporation rather than just one subsidiary part.

So there were, even amongst a small panel, some different implementation and adoption routes that had each proved successful.  New adopters obviously need to consider whether a mandated approach is going to work, or might it be better to work incrementally and win hearts and minds as you go?  There's no doubt that mandating use is quicker, but it will only work in certain organisations.  There also needs to be  recognition that users have to put in effort at the initial stages of implementation (to set up templates for instance); but they will see the benefits later.  That needs 'selling'.

Post implementation and initial adoption, keeping up that investment in training and support was a common theme, whether users are in procurement or business areas.  User groups are useful and panellists talked about users learning from each other and exchanging best practice; more effective than 'top down' exhortations!  On a slightly different note, another common theme was the benefits from auctions; with good results achieved even in categories where pre-event expectations were low.

So while the technology needs to be robust and appropriate, implementation and adoption won't work without considerable focus on the underpinning processes and, most importantly, the people.

In the second post tomorrow featuring this event, I'll talk about the effect that eSourcing or Auctioning processes can have on suppliers and supplier relationships.

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