SciQuest NextLevel: Dispatch 2 (Lessons From Stanford–Driving Adoption Without Mandates – Part 1)

Even though I only spent a day on the ground at SciQuest's NextLevel event, I came away with reams of digital and mental notes about driving procurement adoption in environments where certain non-procurement buyers scoff at being told what to do (and are allowed, in essence, to thumb their nose if someone tells them how to buy and from whom). Indeed, in many university purchasing environments, it's impossible for procurement organizations to obtain a mandate that enables them to require eProcurement adoption and compliance with frontline buyers (e.g., researchers, administrators, etc.). Yet some schools, like Stanford, have created ways of driving adoption in a culture where the only power procurement has is that of indirect influence and enablement. The Stanford P2P compliance story is fascinating and has lessons for everyone, from other universities to private sector organizations hoping to get more from eProcurement programs.

As backdrop, Stanford is quite a big and diverse place, even by university standards, complete with wide ranging undergraduate, graduate and research programs and institutes. And it's one where purchasing decisions are virtually entirely decentralized, often resting not only within departments, but with specific researchers and administrators within them. To sum up the Stanford purchasing environment by the numbers, the venerable Palo Alto institution annually spends roughly $800 million and processes 209,824 purchase orders, 181,271 p-card transactions, 106,362 reimbursements and other checks and 395,620 invoices. Aside from SciQuest, Stanford is an Oracle shop with Oracle iProcurement, iSupplier, purchasing, A/P and related back-end systems. On the SciQuest side, Stanford uses Spend Director, Order Manager and Settlement Manager, yet it still processes non-catalog spend through Oracle.

Despite this proliferation of systems, there are also plenty of options that requisitioners have -- including choosing to bypass the systems entirely. Because of this environment, Stanford's purchasing leadership opted to focus on how to maximize adoption with carrots and education rather than sticks. They also made the choice to measure the impact of their investment in P2P internal marketing across three different metrics: users, transactions and exceptions/issues related to transactions. The results of their efforts, which we'll go into more detail in Part 2 of this post, speak for themselves. But they start with reaching 103% of the potential buying audience today (they break 100% because of purchasing delegation amongst departments/users). And today, 80% of orders that could go through the SciQuest "SmartMart" environment do, relative to 55%-60% just a few years back.

How did Stanford drive these numbers? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, where we'll investigate the tactics they deployed to drive adoption in an environment where compliance was truly optional.

- Jason Busch

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