P2P Implementation – Sound Advice from Xoomworks and AIB

At eWorld last week, one of the first presentations we attended came from Xoomworks Procurement, a UK consultancy that steers organisations through procurement transformation, hopefully to make it a valuable corporate asset. Their expertise lies in transforming sourcing and in procurement technology, and they give operational procurement support in terms of supplier management and visibility of spend, through to transactional control and supply chain financing. Delivered by Dan Butts, Xoomworks Principal Consultant, it was one of those presentations that gave good practical advice, based on a real-life project, courtesy of Brenda Robinson, Head of Accounts Payable at Allied Irish Bank, which is a Xoomworks client.

They have successfully carried out an implementation of both an Ariba and a Coupa solution – and she had first-hand knowledge of what it takes to ensure a good outcome. So it was a very well attended session, in fact standing room only at the back. (Of course it always helps to have an early slot, before attention and enthusiasm have a chance to wane.)

So the crux of the 30-minute session was to explore what are the most common reasons for P2P project failure, and what you can do to avoid them. Given that most of the speakers are also exhibitors at eWorld, it’s tempting for them to use their slots as a sales pitch, and we do see more and more of that, but they managed to keep it fairly independently informative, giving a more practical guide to how to deal with implementation challenges, without going into how Xoomworks stepped in to help sort things out.

It was also good to know that Dan himself comes from a background as a buyer, so he has seen that angle too. He got straight into outlining the five most common reasons why things go wrong.

  1. Integration delays
  2. Client resourcing
  3. Slow or non-existent decision making
  4. Lack of change management
  5. Problems with the master data

Integration delays – is the most common issue they find, where companies grossly underestimate the time that is required to implement and integrate a system or software.  Combined with this, waiting for everything to be documented and signed off before work commences, is another common delay.

Answer – get the integration resource involved way back at the sales and design phase, so issues can be spotted early on. Don’t be afraid to challenge the integration requirement: what do we really need and what’s the business case for that? For example, he cited exchange rates. Think about how often they change – once/twice a year? Is it really worth spending days implementing something just because it can be implemented, when you could spend 10 minutes twice a year uploading a spreadsheet instead!

Client resourcing – this has to be a joint effort: P2P projects can’t be implemented by external resource alone, it needs input from the business to push things along. Not resourcing the project properly will result in further delays and even completely undelivered tasks. Plenty of plans go awry because resource is not committed from the start.

Answer – be realistic about which tasks you take on board. Then make sure the allocated resource carries out those tasks: it’s quite common for someone to be juggling that task with their day-to-day duties – so they aren’t fully committed to the two days a week they need to be putting in. Give people realistic commitments and follow up on them in workshops and meetings. And it’s important to get senior management behind those meetings to ensure everyone involved knows they have to be there.

Slow decision making – the nature of a P2P implementation is that it requires changes to existing processes. Agreements have to be reached between stakeholder groups on new ways of working. Often people aren’t willing to make or commit to those decisions.

Answer – get the decision makers involved in the project. And make sure people with a direct line into the decision makers attend the workshops. Things can move quickly in a cloud-based implementation, so decision making must keep up. It’s better to have a decision and move forward, than not to have one at all. So, if, for example, at a project level, Procurement and Accounts can’t agree on something, make sure there is an escalation route in place – it needs strong governance.

No change management – no implementation of a system can succeed without change management. Communicating and training are important but not enough – the project touches many stakeholder groups so they must be interested and engaged with decisions, and be prepared to allocate the resource that is needed.

Answer – appoint a dedicated change manager – this can’t be an afterthought – you need someone who is assigned to make sure change management tasks are carried out, and that they have the time to do that. Let each stakeholder group know exactly what is expected of them, and consider how each is impacted by the change.

Master data problems – we all know the saying – you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out. Data must be clean – there’s nothing worse on day 1 of a rollout when an end user is faced with confusion and doesn’t know what to do. But cleansing data takes time – it must be done, and done well.

Answer – again – commit the resource. It’s a critical role so it needs the right resource. You need someone who understands the business, who understands how to cleanse 17 suppliers down to 2, or where there is duplication or just alternatives. It’s not a role for a graduate or intern (you are valuable too of course, in other ways), it’s not a data entry exercise. You need to get master data owners assigned. A lot of data has to go around the business to be approved, so make sure it goes to the right approver.

These were all good, solid points and the amount of questions asked at the end showed just how interested the audience was. It was an ideal opportunity for anyone considering implementing or going through a P2P implementation to pick some brains. We haven’t space to go through those questions and answers here – but it’s another reason why it’s worthwhile attending these events.

 

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