A digital procurement solution is a tool that affects much more than just a company’s purchasing department. It has an impact on all the employees involved in the procurement-billing process. As Ophelie N’Guyen, Synertrade's project manager, highlights: ‘A project to set up a digital procurement tool is above all a transformation at the heart of the business on the human level, changing the way the job is done. The keys to a project’s success are mostly to do with human factors rather than purely technological ones.’ To prepare and manage this type of project, and make it work, you have to be aware of the best practices and pitfalls to avoid.
Adopt a ‘user-centric’ outlook
You should commit to identifying what holds back user engagement (fear of change, lack of motivation) and what encourages it (interest in digital, the need to streamline practices, a desire for progress and training). The first factor for success, this phase will condition the rate at which the solution is taken up over time.
Select a project ‘sponsor’ at this point, who will have the task of encouraging a positive group dynamic. This ‘sponsor’ will also help to remove breaks, answering questions from the start and, of course, bolstering enthusiasm. Putting the user at the centre of things is the first key to success.
Identify the stages of the procurement process
After engaging the users, the business should identify the processes and procedures in place within procurement and assess the procurement department’s maturity. Taking the existing departmental processes as a starting point will help in writing the specifications. This is also the opportunity to define the target processes, while staying realistic. Ideally the users will be involved in reviewing the specifications, in a spirit of maximal participation, in an effort to get a pertinent solution that can evolve along with the target processes. This identification stage is highly important, ensuring a toolbox that is perfectly proportioned to the company’s own practices and uses.
This stage is also the opportunity to plan deployment of the solution in terms of timing. You can plan progressive deployment that is adapted to user maturity, for smooth uptake and to limit potential technical stumbling blocks. Rather than a ‘big bang’ project, stressful and more risky, it is better to introduce the solution in successive smaller blocks or modules.
Identify where value is created
Implementing eProcurement software solutions should create value, both for procurement and for the company. eProcurement software is now at the heart of creating value for the business, in the sense that it is charged with introducing innovation, optimizing TCO and limiting risk in the supplier relationship. Your specifications should take these sources of added value into account. It has a direct impact on the future return on investment.
A realistic list of functionalities
Armed with precise specifications, the procurement department can go into a consultation sure of getting relevant responses. But beware of endless lists! There is only a small difference between a high performing solution and one that is unwieldy and unnecessarily complex: it comes down to selecting and sorting your needs in order of importance. List what you absolutely can’t do without, what you would like to have on top, and what is totally useless. It is not the number of functionalities that counts, but how useful they really are.
Independence and objectivity
Arm yourself with the strictest neutrality. In the procurement ecosystem, affinities arise between the different parties involved – providers, consultancies, clients…. This is entirely natural, but should have no impact on your consultation. Keep your specifications and the selection criteria that have been defined for your business in mind.
During the project
Initiate a change management process
Your communications department should be involved in change management; it is best placed for communicating the project’s impact in clear and positive messages, internally as well as externally. Any change gives rise to two types of behaviour: that of people who are enthusiastic and that of people who are resistant to change. Both positive and negative people should be seen as motors. The contribution made by people who are enthusiastic is obvious: they push the project forward. But the naysayers’ attitude shouldn’t be dismissed or sidelined: they draw attention to objections and challenges to be overcome. By getting them involved, regularly communicating the right information and modifications that have been made, you will give them the recognition and reassurance they are looking for. In return, they will join the ranks of the convinced.
Pay attention to your internal and external communication
Provide your employees, but also your suppliers, with regular information. Use your company intranet, internal social media networks and newsletters to talk about the progress of the project and explain all the day-to-day advantages it offers for these two audiences. Highlight the positive impact in terms of convenience, improved relationships with the procurement department and developing skills. Don’t forget that thanks to you, your employees and suppliers will be more involved in the new face of procurement. Emphasise this aspect!
Now that the procurement department has a strategic role within businesses, introducing an eSourcing solution is a major project that has an impact on almost all employees. A provider’s strength lies in understanding this, offering solutions that can adapt easily to the specific contexts of their clients and supporting the process. This is why at Synertrade we have always thought of ourselves as supporting our clients in an adventure on the human side of the business, more than just getting their solution up and running. The future of digitization is also about better quality human relationships: a return to ‘human to human’.