Technology is supposed to make life easier.
Request a taxi with one click and then follow its path all the way to your destination. Meet a potential partner by taking out your phone and swiping right. Do all of your Christmas shopping from the crowd-free comfort of your living room.
Ever been through an unsuccessful software implementation?
Then you’re probably questioning the validity of that statement.
Consumer tech implementation is easy; find an app, download it, use it. If you like it, you keep using it. If you don’t, you stop. Enterprise software implementation is not that easy, simply because each of those steps includes many more people, all with their own unique opinions and ideas.
If you’re trying to implement e-sourcing software, you’ll also be dealing with Procurement, a function with set processes and procedures for everything and a function that’s had relatively fewer options for game-changing tech than, say, Sales with the advent of CRM solutions.
Follow these 10 steps for a painless e-sourcing software implementation.
1. Prepare for change management
Step one is not “Choose your e-sourcing solution.” Surprised? Smooth e-sourcing implementation begins even before you decide on a solution. The whole process needs to begin with the recognition that implementing e-sourcing is an exercise in change management. While e-sourcing is a tool, it’s not like the office coffee machine, for example - you set it out, and some people use it every day and others just drink tea. The goal for e-sourcing implementation is to have it become so closely integrated into your processes that it’s easier to use it than not.
2. Obtain buy-in from upper management
You’re still not ready to choose your solution. As with any exercise in change management, you need to guarantee stakeholder buy-in. In this case, it’s particularly important that upper level management is on board. It’s likely upper management won’t even be using the solution except for oversight or during audits, so besides showing them how it will improve buyers’ efficiency and productively, you also have to show how it will benefit the organization as a whole.
3. Choose an appropriate solution
Once you’ve got management buy-in and you’re prepared to manage the change to e-sourcing, then you’re finally ready to choose an appropriate e-sourcing solution. Here’s where you’ll have to take a close look at your current procurement process. Remember, software can’t fix a broken process; it’s an aid to help you achieve your objectives, not a panacea for all that ails your procurement function. Sometimes you’ll have to slightly adjust your process to the solution, and sometimes you’ll find a solution that fits the processes you already have in place. It all depends on your organization’s particular needs.
4. Re-write the procurement policy
Your choice of e-sourcing solution should also be reflected in your procurement policy. E-sourcing is not an option for buyers; to be successful it needs to become a “must do.” This goes back to the idea of stakeholder buy-in but this time at the buyer level. Simply stating it as the new department policy will not be enough, though. Look at the next step for how to achieve it.
5. Think about what’s in it for your team
Procurement folks don’t work on commission; unlike the folks in Sales who might see a boost in their own paycheck for adopting a tool that helps them work more efficiently, procurement professionals have to take their satisfaction from a job well done. Even if there are no individual financial benefits, who doesn’t want to feel more productive? Make sure the e-sourcing solution you’ve chosen does indeed make the process easier for buyers because without high adoption rates, you’ll see very little ROI. For example, let them judge different solutions based on user friendliness during the initial selection process. Their feedback can be useful during the decision-making process and being part of that process will increase their motivation to use once it’s been implemented.
6. Provide training
Onboarding for SaaS solutions is generally quick and painless, especially compared to some of the legacy solutions. Despite being easy to use, you should never assume that all users will be so quick to adapt. Take time to introduce the ins and outs of the new solution and be available to answer questions. Better yet, take advantage of any training offered by the solution’s providers.
7. Pick the low-hanging fruit first
Another way to encourage stakeholder buy-in and generate excitement for new software is to demonstrate immediate results. This doesn’t mean ignoring long-term goals for the sake of a quick fix, but it can help to target low-hanging fruit with the first round of e-sourcing. The positive results will boost confidence in the solution and support a successful software implementation.
8. Review the ethics of e-sourcing
After the initial rollout of your chosen e-sourcing solution, you’ll have to keep an eye on how the tool is being used. Buyers may be tempted to send RFPs that favor current suppliers by inviting suppliers who clearly don’t or can’t meet the requirements. Buyers may think they are doing this for the sake of efficiency or because they believe the negotiated prices are still the lowest (even if they were negotiated years ago!), but ethically speaking, this amounts to collusion. Healthy competition is fair competition. Invite current suppliers to submit proposals, but alternative suppliers should be given a fair chance.
9. Check supplier communication
Another thing to be on the lookout for after the initial e-sourcing implementation is supplier-buyer communication outside of the platform. Current suppliers might try to circumvent the e-sourcing platform in order to maintain the status as a preferred supplier. Buyers, and indeed the organization as a whole, need to set clear guidelines for receiving supplier communication. In-person meetings, phone calls, and emails should all be documented, and suppliers should be instructed to use the platform for all RFP-related questions and comments.
The final step to successful e-sourcing implementation is reflection. It’s easy to let it slide to the end of your to-do list, but to truly reap the benefits of e-sourcing, you have to examine the success of your implementation process. Ask yourself some of the following questions:
- Did we achieve stakeholder buy-in? How do we know?
- Are buyers using the platform? How do they feel about it?
- Is additional training needed and for whom?
- In what ways was the implementation successful?
- In what ways could the implementation process have been improved?
- How well does the solution fit our processes?
Then, a few months down the line, check in again. Get feedback from your stakeholders - both internal and external - and see if any tweaks can be made to improve user experience.
Do you have any additional tips and tricks for successfully implementing e-sourcing software?