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How to overcome e-procurement platform adoption challenges

Research shows that 90% of procurement software rollouts fail. Indeed, e-procurement software adoption is not easy as it requires precise planning and often results in major changes to a company’s standard procurement operations. Whether these changes lead to great success or failure depends largely on the approach to a new procure-to-pay (P2P) platform implementation.

Read on for step-by-step guidance on dealing with the software adoption challenges and what to do to make the system transition process quick and easy for everyone involved.

What challenges can be expected in the e-procurement platform adoption

Knowing what adoption challenges are waiting for you during e-procurement platform implementation is key to avoiding failure. Let’s look at the main pitfalls you may encounter when investing in a P2P solution.

Stakeholders’ disapproval

New system implementation affects people from multiple departments, but it’s often initiated and decided upon by someone at the C-level. While top management might see the need for an e-procurement platform from a strategic and economic perspective, it might not be as clear to the end users. In some cases, the end users may be completely unaware of the new platform and are forced to change their entire workflows without any preparation. The disrupted routine leads to a lack of cooperation, confusion, and great user dissatisfaction among employees, making it extremely hard to close the implementation successfully.

Poor onboarding process

Managers, employees and suppliers who are expected to use the procure-to-pay system determine its adoption success or failure. During the first months of implementation, all parties involved will accumulate a lot of questions, clarifications or suggestions. Therefore, the quality of the initial system introduction, onboarding and availability of documentation are detrimental to the system’s adoption success. Without proper training and support, your colleagues may resist change — especially if new solutions are introduced without prior preparation.

Complex and non-user-friendly software

e-procurement systems are not meant to be changed often. Companies generally opt for multifunctional software solutions to have room for growth. Ideally, a procurement platform should be future-proof and scale as the company’s internal processes shift. However, complex systems often come with equally complicated and confusing interfaces that can negate all their great features and benefits. It takes time to get used to such a system, and as employees with valuable user knowledge may leave the company and new employees join, the learning curves grow steeper. Working with an e-procurement solution becomes even harder if it includes many extra features your organization doesn’t need. In such a case, you may end up with even slower procurement processes, unnecessary expenditures and errors due to complexity.

Lack of integrated systems

Different departments and external vendors may have independent internal systems, tools and processes in use. Thus, they may insist on following established processes when a new system is introduced. Unless all involved departments and suppliers are encouraged to optimize their processes and can connect their tech stack and data with the new system, enforcing a single procure-to-pay solution is almost impossible. Non-integrated systems create room for confusion, delays and over-buying.

How to ensure successful procurement software implementation

Despite the challenges that some companies face when purchasing and implementing procurement solutions, the cost and time savings these systems provide cannot be ignored. According to The Hackett Group, digital transformation enables procurement organizations to reduce process costs by 30% and have 29% fewer staff. Let’s look at the time-proven steps to help you on the platform adoption journey.

How to ensure Successful Procurement Software Implementation

Identify your needs and current process downsides

A procurement solution will only work if it fits your company’s needs. That’s why an in-depth audit of your current procurement and procure-to-pay process may be required. Identify gaps in your business workflow, supplier relationships, strategic sourcing and cost management, and transform them into system requirements. Effectively matching your current operational problems to potential solutions within a procurement system will allow you to successfully argue for, evaluate and drive change with the right stakeholders.

Communicate with employees and partners

Your purchasing, accounting and other teams have different goals, so create a culture and policy to encourage dialogue with all departments and employees to keep your e-procurement process running smoothly. In addition, consider the needs of your existing and future suppliers, so you can retain productive and mutually beneficial relationships and improve collaboration. Involve cross-department stakeholders in defining the implementation success criteria and system expectations to show them the potential benefits of using the new platform that will resonate with them.

Choose the right e-procurement software

After identifying your company’s needs and gathering feedback from all the stakeholders, use the valuable information to choose the right procurement tool.

Here are some tips for you to keep in mind:

  • Take advantage of the free trials and demos that software vendors offer and, most importantly, do not hesitate to ask any questions related to the platform usage and its implementation.
  • Write down all the challenges your company currently faces and ensure that the new solution will help you solve them and enhance the established operation that works well.
  • Look carefully at the software reviews. What features are people satisfied and dissatisfied with? Are you willing to put up with the disadvantages of the software, and are its advantages really valuable to you? Spend Matters Solution Map is also a great reference point to compare different vendors.
  • Think about the systems your organization is already using and the ones you’ll need in the future. The right e-procurement solution should support seamless integration with those.
  • Ensure security. Carefully read the user agreement and use a cloud service that encrypts your files. Make sure that the company providing service is ICO and SOC certified. Compliance with GDPR is also a decisive factor.

Start the implementation with care

Assign specific people responsible for implementing your procure-to-pay system, collecting feedback and contacting support in case of questions. Prepare instructions and collect training materials beforehand. Schedule training sessions for teams in advance. Choose the right time, so the trial doesn’t occur at a busy time like the end of the quarter. Run a pilot project for one department or test group using a free trial.

Decide on:

  • Goals and success criteria of the trial
  • Number of people that will test the system
  • Data to simulate the purchasing workflow
  • The time frame of the trial

Then collect valuable feedback and adjust processes that may hinder implementation.

Continue with stakeholder education and involvement

You should understand that implementing an e-procurement system is not just about the technical side. Much of successful implementation has to do with stakeholder management. Involving all the relevant teams early on will help you get important user feedback and suggestions for the system. Having internal adoption champions inside each department will significantly help bring everyone up to speed. Training and providing necessary information through videos, handbooks and FAQs will reduce challenges for colleagues, vendors and suppliers as they adapt to the new system. Read this Case Study for a great real-life example of a thoughtful and well-paced procurement system implementation.