There is a very clear difference between doing something and doing something well. This concept rings true for the users of supply management technology who, by and large, struggle to use it well. Getting a team to consistently use technology to deliver dependable results is more difficult than it would seem; and empirical research on the matter bears this out.
Earlier this year, Ardent Partners’ Chief Research Officer, Andrew Bartolini, conducted his yearly procurement benchmark study, CPO Rising. He surveyed more than 300 Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) and other supply management leaders and practitioners on current trends in procurement people, processes, technologies, goals, strategies, and challenges. This year’s resultant research report, CPO Rising 2017: Tools of the Trade, focused on procurement technologies, adoption and deployment trends and plans, and technical mastery. The data is sobering.
When respondents were asked to grade their level of organizational proficiency in using current technology, just 28% responded that their teams consistently used technology. Advanced usage where most targeted users use the solution well represent another small group of procurement departments (11%), while only a sliver (4%) replied that their teams were sophisticated users with systems that are highly adopted.
As is frequently the case with procurement, opportunities abound for improvement with a large grouping of procurement operations falling to the lower end of the scale. The combination of groups possessing some expertise and decent adoption levels (what we call adequate, or 40%) and those who have both limited usage and expertise (what we call poor, or 17%) compose a clear majority of overall organizations. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Over the past few years, enterprise solutions, in general, and supply management solutions, in particular, have become easier to use, placing more of the blame for these low grades on the users. Moreover, many business users fail to maximize the business value inherent in increasingly robust supply management solutions. Some procurement leaders agree.
“Generally,” said Howard Richman, Head of Worldwide Indirect Procurement at Citrix Systems, “95% of the people in your company will use just 5% of the functionality in the technology.” So not only are business users not very proficient with technology adoption, they are also not very efficient. Thus, “the first thing, and a big change,” Howard says, “is just getting people used to the new system, adapting to it and the new, accompanying processes and procedures.” Once managers have their teams regularly using the tools, then comes the hard part – figuring out “how you really pull all of the levers to make use of the functionality so that you’re not leaving 95% of it sitting on the table.”
Poor technical capabilities are a bad mark on the modern worker’s report card and must be improved before advancing to the next job grade. CPOs must ensure that their “students” have access to the right level of training and support but make clear that each staffer owns his/her own development and competency. It is also important to remember that when it comes to technical proficiency, a glass half full is better than no glass at all. Still, many procurement pros are leaving a lot on the table; they should drink their milk and build their tech bodies.
This is just a snippet of many revealing business insights found within Ardent’s flagship research report, CPO Rising 2017: Tools of the Trade. Click to download and get your hands on it while you still can (ends September 30).