Driving Adoption of Procurement Technology: Forrester Frames the Problem with a Mule Metaphor

At Zycus Horizon last month, my friend and colleague Duncan Jones of Forrester Research presented after Pierre Mitchell and me on the topic of driving broader and deeper adoption of what he termed “ePurchasing” technology.

Semantics aside, some of the lessons he shared are applicable beyond just eProcurement solutions. Duncan is a great storyteller, and the way he framed his argument is as important as the actual lessons themselves (as they can help procurement organization logically argue for the right set of capabilities from the ground up).

Duncan kicked things off by pictorially showing the challenge of working with asses – mules to be exact. They’re stubborn and won’t move when you want them to. In Duncan’s words, we can learn what it means to get a mule to move, as “brute force alone” won’t overcome resistance to ePurchasing program challenges. Trying to persuade a stubborn animal personality, loaded down with rider and supplies, to cross a river when it does not want to do it on its own volition—doesn’t work.

To extend the metaphor, users don’t necessarily know the path in front of them and resistance can “stand in the way of achieving P2P goals.” The challenges are many – and they add up. Frontline members of companies putting forth requisitions “lack time” and “demand usability.” Buyers (within procurement) “fear technology” and desire “control” at all costs – a classic “purchasing” mindset. And suppliers, of course simply “distrust” procurement in general. The sum of these concerns is a central piece of the adoption challenge.

One of the ways of making adoption easy, Duncan argues, is to give users what they want. He posed the rhetorical question of which option people are likely to choose from below:

First Scenario:

  • “I can pick which supplier I want”
  • “I get what I need, when I need it”
  • “Signing off on the invoice is easier than raising a PO”

Second Scenario:

  • “I have to use a supplier I don’t know”
  • “I can’t find the widget I need in the catalogue”
  • “I have to wait days for my PO to be approved”
  • “I don’t know if the supplier has received [my request] or whether it can deliver it immediately”

Take a guess at which scenario will lead to broader adoption of eProcurement and P2P initiatives, and you’ve got the next element of his argument – which I’ll explore in a later post.

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Voices (4)

  1. Market Dojo:

    John – Loving it. Maybe too much imagination but the basic premise is there. Perhaps you could use this in your Shotgun Training (The Talented Trainer – Most skills identified!). Jason – would love to hear more on the internal prediction markets.

    Too many software products follow the same pattern in overlaying features and complexity to end up with solutions that only a few people in the organisation can use (not to mention the challenges for suppliers).

    Software implementations are fundamentally driven from many different requirements, although one of the main incentives is for higher levels in the organisation to have more control and useful information at their fingertips. However, unless the software interacts with the user at a base level then the information is never inputted correctly and you end up with a software implementation that only yields only half the benefits.

    For example, we attended a P2P seminar today from one of our partners. Their users reinforced this issue. Their users, when raising requisitions, found that many just picked the first categorisation instead of the correct categorisation from the list of SIC codes. How do you encourage the user to use the software correctly, and also encourage more people to use the software?

    Gamification, although it might sounds rather tenuous has been quoted more and more regularly in the news. Constellation research (see http://goo.gl/9kimoN and to note a Spend Matters article http://goo.gl/aRdb2P) mentioned “Enterprise gamification is a user experience (UX) and consumerization of IT (CoIT) trend that will take the market by storm in 2012. Constellation believes that by 2013, more than 50 percent of all social business initiatives will include an enterprise gamification component.”

    It went on to identify the three core pillars that include “measurable action, reputation and incentives” and follows on to highlight “the term gamification unfortunately lacks the seriousness it deserves.” Failure to observe the up and coming technological trends are often why big businesses suddenly find strong competition where before there was none.

  2. Jason Busch:

    Ironically right before Duncan spoke at the event on which this post is based, Pierre and I talked about gamification in our talk as well. It can be as simple as internal competition in the lunchroom or breakroom to show which groups are spending less on indirect or a specific category and giving out prizes (offline) for the victor. But online makes it all the more powerful! While we’re at it, gamification can also extend to internal prediction markets as well, another great topic …

  3. Market Dojo:

    One could take a leaf out of the gaming industry. Gamification of software products is becoming common place. Users love to see statistics, leader boards, achieve awards so why not bring this mentality to the procurement world so they not only have to use the software but actually want to.

    1. John Shaw:

      Market Dojo,

      I love it, how about these off-the-cuff sourcing focused award categories?

      * The Speed Sourcer: Highest Dollars Per Hour Sourced
      * The Rock Squeezer: Highest Incremental Savings % on a previously sourced category.
      * The Relationship Maker: Biggest increase in responding qualified suppliers.

      A little bit of gamification could go a long way towards creating a reinforcement focused on solution adoption.

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