3 Procurement Software Obstacles to Change
“Hooray! Change!” said absolutely no one ever.
We work in a time of rapid, disruptive change. Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s passé trend, and yesterday’s innovation is… well, who can remember yesterday?
Procurement is often in the driver’s seat for change management efforts, and we must deal with natural resistance to change as well as competition from other enterprise projects. The following obstacles are commonly – and uniquely – faced by procurement teams in the course of rolling out processes and technology:
Learning a New System
Why did you pick something that’s so hard to use?
Procurement wants people to know how to use our technology – after all, our ability to generate an ROI is dependent on broad adoption. Unfortunately, being overly generous with our time during training and orientation may have an opposite effect to what we intend and create the impression that the technology is hard to use. Well-designed procurement technology should not require hours and hours of training! It should be intuitive and self-explanatory.
Some users will be on e-procurement software all the time, others sporadically, and still others maybe just once a year. Suppliers may use it even less often, depending upon how much of the procurement process has been automated. Training should pair available channels (webinars, conference calls, self-driven online courses, manuals, etc.) with likely usage patterns. Don’t train everyone on everything – they don’t need the additional information and will be resistant to adopting the very functionality put in place to support them.
Kicking the Excel Habit
But I have so much more control when I use Excel!
Why do people seem to have so much trouble giving up Excel when presented with other technology? It’s not because Excel is better in the long run, or more secure, or sufficiently transparent. It is simply a matter of familiarity. Buyers often start out sourcing, reporting, and analyzing data in Excel because it is all they have. They develop comfortable habits based on its functionality and quirks. If given the choice between Excel and a good BI solution from the outset, most people would choose the BI solution, but once a habit forms… people have to be compelled to break it and transition to something new.
When selecting e-procurement software solutions to replace Excel, procurement should minimize the total change required by looking for one that provides a comparable user experience while adding efficiency and power. When comparing different spend analysis software companies, it's important to consider a platform’s ability to import and export data to and from Excel, which provides an additional level of comfort that users can – but hopefully won’t need to – fall back on in a pinch.
Managing Supplier Impact
You told my suppliers what???
Change management requires communication, and sometimes a simple effort to get suppliers to complete or update their profile online is enough to draw the wrath of stakeholders who feel they should be the only point of contact between the company and the supplier. It is often not enough for stakeholders that the new way is easier, more efficient, or lower risk. They see their role being eclipsed and no amount of value is enough to soften the blow.
Involving stakeholders throughout the change process is the best-case solution. Spend analysis software should make sure they are fully informed about what suppliers are going to be told and when. In some cases, it may even be appropriate for the stakeholders to deliver the message themselves, and this checks several boxes. It shows organizational alignment to suppliers, calms the nerves of stakeholders, and hopefully smooths and accelerates the whole change process.
Although not all change-related obstacles are predictable, procurement must work to anticipate issues and have a plan for action and ownership. Uniquely procurement change management challenges call for uniquely procurement solutions – strategies and tactics that we are uniquely qualified to deliver.
Kelly Barner is the owner of Buyers Meeting Point, an online resource for procurement and purchasing professionals. Her unique perspective on supply management is based on her time as a practitioner, a consultant at a solution provider, and now as an independent thought leader. Kelly has led projects involving members of procurement, supplier, and purchasing teams and has practical skills in strategic sourcing program design and management, opportunity assessment, knowledge management, and custom taxonomy design.