We recently published my twelfth annual CPO-themed report, CPO Rising 2017: Tools of the Trade, which is part of an ongoing dialogue that my team and I have had with Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) and other procurement leaders for more than a decade (I began writing a version of this report in 2006). Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing the report in a series of articles on this site. You can get the report here (registration required).
Good Technology ROIs Need Strong User Adoption
The overarching theme of this year’s report is supply management technology and how procurement teams generate value from it. One element of the analysis is the level of technology adoption in the marketplace. By and large, the number of teams using each of the main applications across the source-to-settle process trend up each but still remains lower than it should. The other type of adoption is end-user adoption of deployed solutions. That is the focus of today’s article.
To get a good return on technology investments, the CPO and procurement leadership simply have to make technology adoption a priority over other considerations. If they fail to do so, they are signalling to the entire organization that poor or mediocre user adoption is acceptable. Based upon our direct work with procurement organizations and a 12+ years of intense research, Ardent Partners believes that high adoption levels of supply management technology can be achieved by any procurement organization willing to make it a priority. Ardent Partners has developed a new plan that takes a different approach to the adoption challenge associated with new technology deployments.
Ardent Partners’ Extreme Technology User Adoption Plan
This plan was developed because Ardent Partners believes that anything done by a procurement department should be done extremely well. Procurement professionals who do not ascribe to this view should reconsider their careers. From the plan’s title, readers can surmise that the adoption plan is intense and disruptive. That is by design because it sets the proper tone for a technology deployment. Here are a few of the main operating principles of the plan:
- Acknowledge that this is BIG CHANGE! – The traditional technology roll-out strategy is for the project team to focus on minimizing and mitigating the “change” issues. This is a fool’s errand, for the most part anyway. Stop pretending that the new solutions are a slight variation of a “legacy process” that is uniformly followed. In an offline environment, many staffers develop their own unique habits and approaches to their work. They have different views on what is important and take different steps to complete tasks. This means that for most, simply adopting the “standard, legacy processes” will require a fundamental change to their workflows. Beyond that, the reality is that almost any new technology requires a fundamental change in how a worker does a task… and, that is perfectly acceptable because the solution is introducing a new, streamlined, and standardized approach to an activity. The solution is also enabling other things that are important to the organization like visibility and reporting. Since this is a big change, big bold plans are needed and the organization has to be ready to execute them.
- Organizational innovation – Technology can no longer be an afterthought. It must become an organizing principle that demands departmental innovation and change. All users need access to peers and power users that are available to provide fast and practical guidance. But, different teams within procurement will be using different systems in different ways. These groups of users may need different types and levels of support. CPOs should consider the development of centralized technology operations teams that support the users of different applications, like eSourcing and Contracts. These professionals can be relatively junior while still serving as the “solution” experts needed to facilitate throughput.
- 50 – 75 – 90 – Mandate system usage at the following schedule: Month 1: 50% of every staffer’s activities must be completed in the tool. Month 2: 75% of every staffer’s activities must be completed in the tool. Month 3: 90% of every staffer’s activities must be completed in the tool. No exceptions.
- No exceptions – Studies have shown that the age of a worker impacts their response to new technology. So what. Age cannot be used as an excuse to explain a lack of system usage. Until a staffer becomes too old to collect a paycheck, he/she needs to learn how to use new systems.
There are several other concepts, strategies, and approaches that complete our Extreme Tech Adoption Plan. To read more, get the report.
Adapt, Adopt, and Improve
When it comes to getting full value out of a technology investment, these three words boil it down: Adopt and mandate usage. Adapt the organization to the new systems. And improve the staff, who is committed to using the solutions; management must be committed to making them better.