E-Procurement – No success without user-centric implementation
Implement e-procurement tools in such a way that they are accepted and the project is a success
Without a consistent alignment to the requirements of all stakeholders, an implementation of e-procurement tools cannot be successful. This field report describes the things that are necessary before, during and after an implementation to gain user support and secure it in the long term.
In most cases, digitization projects involve the introduction of new software tools, in this case also e-procurement tools. In my area of expertise, purchasing, digitization is also increasing – which is highly necessary. In one of my earlier articles, I pointed out that instead of highfalutin trend topics such as “AI in procurement” and “Purchasing 4.0“, a greater focus should be placed on the introduction of basic technologies. At the time, I was occasionally accused of being hostile to innovation, which is incorrect.
In my articles, I report on the things I encounter in the course of my consulting activities. Unfortunately, I still see far too often companies with completely missing tools or with carelessly implemented tools in purchasing. This then usually leads to a general defensive attitude when further digitization steps are suggested.
One of my current clients has implemented one of the leading e-procurement systems on the market. On the first day of my work for this customer, I was told from several sides that this system did not work and that all internal stakeholders were extremely disappointed with it. Scorched earth. But it is not the system’s fault. It has been proven to be one of the market leaders and is used successfully worldwide.
So what is the reason for the failed implementation?
Software manufacturers have been using the term “user-centric” for years. Software has been more or less consistently redesigned in such a way that the user and his concerns are placed at the center and functions are found where the user would intuitively expect them. Methods have been implemented that allow the user to adapt the interface or at least define fast access to frequently needed functions – or the application does this automatically by analyzing user behavior.
Implementation processes are missing
The problem lies in the mistaken assumption that obtaining a user-centric tool is enough to satisfy users. Without an equally user-centric implementation process, the best tool is of no help.
In many companies above a certain size, procurement is one of the most important, but also most undervalued, areas of the business. Regardless of the industry in which the company operates, goods and services relevant to products and production are procured through purchasing, as are all materials for supplying employees. Purchasing therefore not only has a direct influence on key business figures, but also on product quality, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.
If the tool introduced, for example an e-procurement tool, does not support the internal stakeholders in such a way that they can do their work better, faster and more efficiently, it will fail. This affects all stakeholders from purchasing itself, to procuring departments, to finance and legal departments.
Therefore, the selection and implementation process must also be user-centric. An e-procurement implementation does not start with the selection and procurement of the software. We start by analyzing the processes in purchasing and the associated areas. Where necessary, this is the optimal time to optimize the processes. We ask for and evaluate the requirements of all stakeholders in the company. This is a task that should not be underestimated, as experience shows that the stakeholders of purchasing issues are distributed throughout the entire company and the requirements are diverse. This is the basis for the selection of the tool.
The question of the best e-Procurement tool
Many customers ask me which are the best e-Procurement tools on the market. I cannot give a qualified answer to this question if I have not performed the analysis described above. The tool must be based on the nature and requirements of the business and cannot be selected based on individual features or a Gartner report.
Implementation of e-Procurement tools as a critical phase
Once the tool has been procured, implementation follows, and here, too, the requirements of all stakeholders must be identified and taken into account. This involves such seemingly simple things as sorting and search functions, automatic additions or suggestions, text templates, authorization concepts, workflows, notifications, quantity processing. At one of my customers, a large number of small orders were generated for operational reasons. Here we rebuilt the notification functions from the beginning in such a way that a collective notification was sent to the process participants only once a day in order to avoid cluttering the mailbox. Most manufacturers are able and willing to make such adaptations in the tools if they are not already provided for.
Parallel to the implementation, the existing database must be prepared in a sub-project so that it can be transferred or linked into the tool. This should not be underestimated. At one of my customers, it became apparent that contracts were often not even scanned, let alone digitally recorded in a cleanly structured manner. For this reason, a separate workgroup had to be formed as part of the project to collect, scan and classify contracts. Working students were a great help here.
Feedback and improvement
From the outset, however, provision must also be made for regular user feedback to be collected in the long term and taken into account in the tool in a timely manner. The process does not end with the successful introduction. This must be planned for organizationally and in the budget.
In this way, it is possible not only to drive forward digitization by means of new tools, but also to sustainably improve the maturity level throughout the company and to ensure the satisfaction of future users at an early stage. This also prepares the foundation for successfully tackling further digitization steps.