4 key takeaways from SynerTrade’s Paris customer panel

In Spend Matters’ last article on SynerTrade’s recent conference in Paris, we talked about how SynerTrade has heard the call of the digital procurement revolution and is readying itself for the revolution by turning its source-to-pay solution into a platform that, through an enhanced API, can easily integrate best-of-breed partner products to provide customers with the tools and intelligence that SynerTrade doesn’t have (as no single vendor can do everything, and the best know enough to not even try).

In this article, we are going to skip ahead to discuss the four key takeaways that the customer panel left us with. (We have already discussed the SynerTrade platform in depth last winter in our three-part PRO series (Part 1Background and Solution OverviewPart 2Product Strengths and Weaknesses, and Part 3Summary and Competitive Analysis), and you can dig up most of the thought leader insights from Duncan Jones and Chris Sawchuck from the Forrester and Hackett Group websites.)

Measure and Track Quarterly — and React

The old adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure is an old adage for a reason — you truly can’t. Otherwise you have no indication of how effective your management is. But, most importantly, when you see a KPI beginning to trend in the wrong direction, get on it immediately. Analyze the KPI — is it still the right KPI for the organization? If so, why is the trend in the wrong direction? Once you figure that out, do something — immediately. Don’t wait for a dip to become a drop and revenue or customer satisfaction to plummet before taking action — that’s too late.

Don't Go Too Fast with Tech

Big Bangs are called Big Bangs for a Reason

Despite what many big vendors and implementation partners may continue to tell you, they haven't learned much since the early days. Many still believe that they have learned all the lessons from their previous failures and that this time they will, they assure you, get the process right. But every year, we read about yet another very public supply chain system failure because these overconfident vendors and partners haven’t learned all the lessons, and very, very few project managers in IT have enough experience to even put a plan together that could work in a perfect world — but since there is no perfect world ...

The best companies do a staged implementation. For example, in S2P, they start with S2C, or P2P, then roll out the most critical functionality to the senior teams, help the senior teams work out the kinks and make adjustments to the specific organizational processes, then roll out those basics companywide. Only then do these vendors add in the remaining functionality piece by piece.

For example, in S2C, they might start with supplier management and core sourcing, then add some CLM, and then deep analytics, but not a full suite from day one.

Start with Something Simple That Works and Delivers Value ... Progress with a Clear Vision and Reason

Building on the last insight, you need to zero in on a core piece of functionality in the core module that's not only going to be easy to use, but that will also start to deliver value within a quarter. For example, a new, streamlined, tail-spend procurement platform with guided buying, quick-RFX or other functionality that can quickly deliver identified savings. A new supplier management platform with integrated risk data and community intelligence. Etc. The sooner you get an ROI, the sooner you get buy-in, and the sooner you can slowly start rolling out more advanced functionality.

Progress Takes Patience: Technology-Supported Processes Reduce Timeframes for Transformation — But They Do Not Eliminate Them

Even though today’s technology can often automate 95% of tactical processes in a matter of seconds, it can still take hours for someone to learn these processes in the system, days to remember how these processes work, and weeks to get used to them — and that's assuming the organization has great change management. (Otherwise, the hours become days, the days become weeks, the weeks become months, and the organization will be lucky to see any ROI in a year.)

Don't expect you can do an S2P rollout in a year and actually use everything in a large global organization in a year.

As the Hackett group will attest, it takes most organizations five to eight years to get to world-class in procurement, and that's because you just can't do the transformations and tech rollouts necessary any faster due to the limits of your workforce. But, as per our last two best practices, if you properly stage the rollouts, you will start to see a return in a quarter, and the return will not only be there every quarter after that, but continually increase. And that's success.

Take What You Want!

(Yes, the author remembers he said there would be four takeaways, but this bonus one is actually a takeaway implied by the last three.)

Don't let an S2P vendor or implementation partner bully you into a whole system if you don't need it (because you already have best-of-breed P2P, for example), or bully you into implementing it faster than you are ready for it (because it's easier for them). It's your organization, and your success, so take what you want when you want it — just like you can always go back to a truly all-you-can-eat buffet, you can always go back to a good vendor for more later.

This is all great advice, and kudos for SynerTrade for not only picking the customers who would share it, but supporting those customers — even if the first service that those customers ask for is to help them support their buyers on an existing in-house platform that the customer can’t get rid of for one reason or another but can't make the most of, and sometimes even use, without the right help or system augmentation. (SynerTrade will happily help a customer find the right partner, and even manage that partner on the customer's behalf, if the customer needs support on an existing system as part of an S2P process.)

While some vendors will only do a rip-and-replace if you do a complete rip-and-replace all at once, SynerTrade realizes this can be too much for your buyers and will do it piecemeal — whatever it takes for your organization to succeed.

Its willingness to be extremely flexible in implementations is another reason SynerTrade is a gem in the S2P space and what will make it valuable for your organization.

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