Procurement technology and user adoption – Padraic Phelan of Enrich tells us why it matters

Padraic Phelan is Consulting Director and Procurement Transformation Lead for Enrich. Enrich focuses on helping businesses get the most out of their Oracle E-business suite and Fusion investments, whether that is in the implementation and integration phase, in making it easier for users once implemented, or even in providing outsourced services around the Oracle systems.

Phelan has an interesting background, starting in finance and then moving into procurement with a focus initially on the analysis and data aspects of the function. He worked in procurement for Britannia Airways and travel firm Thomson, who became part of the larger TUI group, where he was Head of Purchasing, helped to set up a European centralised procurement function, and led major Oracle implementation programmes. He became Director of Purchasing and then Commercial Director for the City University in London, before joining e-three in  2011 (e-three, a UK based consulting firm, merged with Enrich in 2013).

Enrich published an interesting short paper on system user adoption (it can be downloaded here) a while ago, so we thought it would be good to talk to Phelan about the topic in more depth.  It does not perhaps seem the most exciting topic in the procurement world, but anyone who has been through a major P2P implementation will know how vital it is.

 Padraic, what exactly do you mean by user adoption? Is it as simple as ‘getting people to use the technology’? And why does it matter?

It is an over utilised term but poorly understood, and relates to systems being used, but used properly above all. It is a critical success factor to drive return on investment from the implementation of any system. Data to support better decision making is the outcome procurement is looking for from P2P systems - ‘fact-based intelligence’ as we say. If the system is not used, you don't get the return, and any data you use is probably partial or inaccurate. So such data won't be credible if the processes and systems behind it are not adopted and used properly. That’s why adoption is so critical.

So what causes poor user adoption?

There are a number of reasons, and they are often more complex than is first apparent. We often find that users simply don't know how to use the system, training is not adequate, or there is a lack of understanding about when, how or why to use it. Occasionally we see a flat refusal without much reason, but it is more often around a lack of understanding in our experience.

So you don't often find users are just simply being awkward b*****ds?

Well, difficult people do exist. But when we work with clients, it is about making the system easy to use and making sure people understand their own role. That goes a long way, and there aren’t many inherently difficult folk around really!

Who should be responsible for user adoption – is it really a procurement task?

Ownership of the process is a key issue. We find it works best when IT, finance and procurement work together on the P2P implementation. Finance has the interest usually that they want to automate the whole P2P process and get better finance data. IT needs to be involved in the setup and configuration, and integration issues. But it is generally procurement that has the strongest vested interest in really using the data.

So issues such as the categorisation and structure of data in the system are of most interest to procurement, but that is an area that often nobody really owns. The user interface is also key and that often also does not have a clear owner, so does not get enough focus in the implementation stage. And we know that if people find it difficult to use the system, if they find it difficult to find what they want to order, then they won't use the system. So procurement certainly needs to take a leading role in adoption, but work with those other functions.

More in part 2 ...

First Voice

  1. Alun @ Market Dojo:

    We have often found that a large barrier to adoption are ‘work arounds’. For example we find one of the biggest challenges to the full adoption of eSourcing is email. However in reality this issue just falls back to us providers to make a system that people ‘want to use’ instead of ‘have to use’ and we need to bring the benefits to the end user and not only managers.

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