P2P Fun and Games

Posted by Andrew Bartolini on February 17th, 2012
Stored in Articles, General, Procure-to-Pay, Strategy

Ahead of the long weekend, we’ll take a break from the supply risk theme and offer up a bit of P2P fun (and games) in the form of today’s article written by Susie West, the Founder and CEO of sharedserviceslink.com, one of our media partners. Susie is based in the UK, which will explain her turn of phrase. Anyway, Susie focuses on gamification – a great topic in and of itself, and one I wish I had tackled first, particularly in the context of technology adoption.

Game-playing Spreads to Purchase-to-Pay

What’s the fuss about?

Gamification. Heard of it? It’s a concept that’s been around for years. And it’s coming to purchase to pay. I wish I could use different words, but the only phrase that seems to reflect its forecasted impact on the process is “game changing.”

How does it work?

Imagine you’re an accounts payable clerk. You’ve been doing data entry for three years, and certain habits have kicked in. Habits which aren’t always the best, and habits which, over time, have been increasingly hard to break.

Now let’s imagine your ERP has ‘gaming’ principles embedded within it. There’s a league table of names on your screen. One of which is yours. The others represent all the other accounts payable clerks in shared services. But today, because you weren’t as productive in processing transactions, your name isn’t at the top… for now.

As a clerk you know that if your name is at the top ten times in the month you are awarded the special ‘gold star’ which means you’ll win a book token/bottle of Champagne/etc.

Furthermore, the clerk with the most gold stars globally over the course of the year wins a weekend in a glamorous city with their partner, or something equally enticing.

Next to the leader board on your screen, there’s a section which says ‘East vs. West’. This refers the daily battle between your shared services centre and your sister centre. Today, it looks like your team is heading for victory.

Now, we all know that the productivity of the accounts payable team isn’t just controlled by how quickly clerks can manage invoices. What about the process users out in the business who raise purchasing orders?

The concept applies just as easily to them. Raise one purchase order correctly and you get the ‘thumbs up’ sign. Raise all your purchase orders correctly over the year and win an iPod shuffle.

Why does it work?

Gamification works on the principles of immediate visibility and immediate reward. It takes the ‘high’ element that you experience when, say, you shoot a clay in clay pigeon shooting, and hit a winner on the tennis court. The moment you pull the trigger and hit the clay, or hit the ball cleanly down the line, you’re a winner and you feel fantastic.

This ‘fantastic’ feeling is addictive and most of us seek it again and again.

And this is what the gamification concept is tuning into. It’s making us ‘up our game’ and become more competitive. It’s driving better behaviour as it immediately rewards ‘good’ behaviour and makes it immediately visible.

If the results weren’t available until the end of the month, do you think the impact on behaviour would be so marked.

The answer is no.

I remember smiling to myself when I heard this story. I was in Dallas, chairing sharedserviceslink.com’s summit for Leaders in Shared Services. John Terracciano, Finance Director, DSM North America Finance Services was speaking. He told the audience how he would get a phone call from the shared services centre as he drove home each evening giving him a full report of who had raised purchasing orders correctly that day and who hadn’t. He would go through the data when he reached home, and within minutes an email would be sent to the offender.

According to John this immediate response changed behaviour. Had he waited six months to get the report and send the email, the impact would have been weak. But because it was clear that the offender’s behaviour was instantly visible and instantly judged, the offender looked to ensure ‘good’ behaviour from thereon in.


Who you decide to include in the ‘game’ and how you decide to reward them is up to you. Rules will be written to support the game, and they clearly need to fit in with your current KPIs and your shared services objectives. And you need to ensure that users aren’t just raising purchase orders for goods that aren’t required, just to clinch that top place.

But this can only have a positive impact on your procure-to-pay performance and the engagement of your procure-to-pay team. Anything that helps make business and process management more exciting and better should be evaluated by a shared services team and implemented with speed.

If you want to find out more about how this can be introduced into your world, sharedserviceslink.com invites you to join us at one of our P2P events taking place very soon. The Procure-to-Pay Leaders Meetingthis May in Chicago and  Toning Up Purchase to Pay to Attain Touchless Processing this June in London,  where we will be examining this exciting technology development.

Additionally, you might want to join Ardent Partners and sharedserviceslink.com in a free webinar  What Really Makes an Accounts Payable Function Best-in-Class in 2012?presented by Vishal Patel on April 4 2012. Sign up now.

Thanks Susie – Let the Games Begin!

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