By Jane Zhang, Co-Founder & COO, ETCH Sourcing
Sourcing is an amazing field because of its ever-evolving nature. Businesses are always coming up with innovative ways to partner with each other, and as the engine behind supplier connections, the sourcing industry is currently in a period of technology innovation and growth to develop new tools in order to support this critical function.
These days, sourcing has more options than ever to augment its toolkit to better service the businesses they support. With such a wide array of different products on the market that can support the various sourcing functions, ranging from full end-to-end solutions to specialized technology that excel in servicing specific needs, the challenges faced by sourcing leaders are selecting and adopting the right tool and features to elevate their teams’ delivery capacities. Similarly, organizations are further recognizing the value sourcing has to offer and are taking the steps to invest in the tools to support these teams.
Having completed a market analysis, chosen the right technology for their needs, implemented the new eProcurement technology and provided technical training to their team, sourcing leaders expect to see the fruits of this investment. However, they soon find that the sourcing teams are not using the new tool for even half of the features purchased, or, in some extreme cases, they find that their teams are not using the new tool at all, opting instead for exemption pathways or work arounds. The feature for bidding on the new Sourcing module gets ignored in favor of the old word document template that is sent out via email, which is then attached and loaded for ‘compliance purposes’ within the tool. In that case, suppliers are created with the minimum required information, which doesn’t help supplier insight grow, or maybe everyone is using the tool’s basic functions, but the enhanced feature set that was paid for remains neglected … Is any of this sounding familiar?
If users know how to use the functionalities within the tool, then why aren’t they using it?
The most effective adoptions of eProcurement technology occur when they’re supported by an integrated sourcing process that is founded in simplicity and ease. After all, water always flows downstream.
When a user must stop and pause in a project to wonder if there is a need to click the next button on an event, or if approval should be obtained first, it creates a drop in the bucket of adoption resistance. When a user has built an RFP outside of the tool, then realizes a week before it is being released that the RFP within the tool itself must be rebuilt, it is yet another drop in the bucket. As each of these small drops add together, they form a wave of adoption resistance that eventually cumulates in the new investment being under-utilized, none of which is the fault of the technology or the people.
Process development and training will help build the bridge to close the gap between reality and the promised land of maximizing all of your features. By bringing in these new features and functionality, there is the potential to simplify sourcing. Also, previously complex tasks can be simplified and increased in efficiency through proper process mapping and optimization, time to purchase can be sped up by efficient tool configuration, and user adoption can be facilitated by functional change management that is tailored to a team’s needs. Now, the question remains: How does your team leverage all of these new features, and how do they integrate them into its day-to-day roles within sourcing? A technology implementation will teach users how to use the bidding feature of an eProcurement tool. An integrated process will teach teams when to use it, and how to use it in the most efficient manner.
Strong sourcing results in strong contract and supplier relationships to hold up the business. It is not enough to say: “This is how you do it.” Instead, we must help our sourcing teams to understand by saying, explaining, and showing, “This is why you do this, and here is how it benefits you and the company.”
Instead of handing your teams a tool and showing them how to create an RFP, it is vital to show them how the tool can make the procurement process easier. They must be shown how they can collaborate with their business unit requestors on these documents, how they can save time and expand their supplier lists by using the supplier data bases, how they can leverage the spend summaries to save them from doing extra work and still gain insight on the overarching supplier relationships with a particular supplier across the whole business.
Here are a few questions that you should be asking in order to help you maximize the adoption of tools:
What part of my existing process is no longer needed or is made more efficient by this tool?
Eg. RFP response summaries for simple bids become automated
What part of this tool makes my users’ lives easier, and can I quantify this improvement?
Eg. Time to release and approvals are easier to obtain through enhanced connectivity
Is the next step in the process something that is logical, or do my users need a map? If they need a map, is it easily accessible?
Eg. Approvals for award are logically built in or easily accessible
It is vital to make this process easy for users so they don’t need to ask, “Do I need to do anything else, or can I hit the next button now?”