Edd Tomlinson is a procurement technology consultant for Xoomworks Procurement. Read below some of his advice on increasing efficiency in an ever-evolving P2P landscape.
“Social transformation and economic transformation go hand in hand”, Klaus Schwab
The P2P landscape is changing rapidly and I have been lucky enough to witness its evolution into the Cloud over the past few years. I understand all too well that the next technology revolution is upon us and it is moving fast, too fast for most people to keep up with. There are so many buzz words flying around, Automation, Block chain, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, RFID and Robots all dominate the news with glimpses of the futuristic, connected world, a more efficient 4.0 future underpinned by smart technology. It’s a lot to take in, but we can safely say that change is inevitable and we can’t hide from it. We need to embrace it and try to stay ahead of it to succeed.
Easier said than done when pressure comes down from above to cut costs and create efficiencies. Elimination of waste and the reduction of maverick spend are the usual performance benchmarking metrics of success, but this is all ‘Economic Transformation’ which is only half of the solution. The ‘Social Transformation’ part is usually half baked, poorly executed and counter-productive at times. Users are kept in the dark, communications break down and most suppliers are left until the last minute to on-board.
The landscape on which Business technology platforms sit are evolving every day with pay on demand and subscription-based models available, the legacy ‘on-site technology’ era is diminishing. In today’s world, innovative companies are using cutting-edge Software as a Service (SAAS) solution to scale up their P2P processes with speed and agility. Moving your data into the cloud and utilising the readily available modern features are supposed to improve overall productivity, reporting, tracking sales, goods and assets as well as furthering internal and external communication and visibility.
The good news is that when used properly, these tools do provide an excellent base for business transformation and continuous improvement. The bad news is that this is just the start. Having a new solution in place is great. But not if your users or suppliers don’t use it properly.
I have worked on some truly interesting Procurement-led transformation projects over the years but they were not all amazing. Officially they have all been deemed a ‘success’ as the new system went live and the business community was using it without any major hiccups. However, I conduct regular reviews of their data and the same old stories are occurring. Maverick (freeform) spend is still rampant, supplier uptake and user adoption are often low, redundant master data is evident and innovative functionality is not being used properly, if at all.
This behaviour is endemic to most transformation projects as the project team’s focus is on realising the business case and mainly delivering the ‘economic’ solution. Once the project has gone live, the project team is usually re-assigned or drifts off to the next digital transformation project leaving the newly-born P2P solution in the hands of the Business as Usual (BAU) Team to continue to drive the ‘social transformation’ piece.
With the implementation team goes all the knowledge of the new solution as well as the innovative spark that is needed to continue realising the potential value of the platform. You can’t sit back and expect efficiencies to appear because you have a new shiny system. You need to maintain it, clean it, update it and utilise it properly, and for this you need the right people.
“Innovation is a complex social process, and not one we should take for granted”, Klaus Schwab
In my opinion, the biggest reason transformation projects are not successful is not the lack of vision or drive. It’s lack of innovation and retention of staff. Many project team members love the excitement and energy during an implementation but when the dust settles after go-live, they move on to their next exciting challenge elsewhere. Maintaining a culture that breeds innovation, fosters a collaborative workforce and encourages your business to succeed together is essential for success. I`ve seen many companies not taking the social aspect of their changes into account or fully considering the effect and impact it has on their wider user community.
Transformation is not easy. Creating efficiencies is not easy. If they were, everyone would be doing it with ease, but the truth of the matter is that it is hard to transform any established business as this requires change and innovation from your workforce. To realise your digital transformation and maintain its trajectory, you need to always keep your finger on the pulse to push momentum. With the increasing rate of technological change, more emphasis should be focused on the ability of your team to continuously adapt and learn new skills. If you embrace innovation, you foster success.
“To remain competitive, companies must be at the frontier of innovation in all its forms”, Klaus Schwab
You need to retain your key members and ensure they are fully trained and eager to learn. Positive people bring positive change and the willingness to try something new will set your team far above the standard ‘risk adverse’ workers amongst us. New technologies are dramatically changing the way we work across all occupations and industries and they are not always welcomed with open arms. Maintaining the status quo is a common theme where solution owners are unwilling to risk changing anything for the better. Regular software updates and new innovative features provide constant opportunities for optimisation and improvement, but in my experience, there is rarely any appetite for new functionality once the solution is live, as ‘set and forget’ seems to be the usual course of action.
Change is good, change is progress, everyone knows what they need to change, which processes can be improved, but there is no desire to shake the proverbial tree.
“Everyone wants better, No one wants change”, Jonathan Fields
Uncontrolled change to most employees means instability and uncertainty about the future. It destroys creativity, stifles innovation; fear of the unknown conveys an air of loss expectation that quickly spreads amongst the anxious staff, causing productivity to grind to a halt.
Change is impossible to achieve once the tide of public opinion has turned against the idea of change.
You are fighting a losing battle without positive engagement and that comes from above as well as below. Without adequate buy-in from your senior stakeholders, you may not have the clout required to kick start your programme towards success. A change programme without a mandated business case, is just a collection of dreams and wishes that will never take off. Change needs to come from the very top and it needs to be accepted by everyone from the CEO to the intern.
Stability is the goal. Solidarity the aim. Your business community need to be informed, reassured and engaged. Users and Suppliers alike need to see that this change is positive for them, that everyone will benefit and their lives will be much easier. Without this communal understanding and adoption, there will never be the change you envision. Engage with your wider community, involve them in Beta trials, create user groups for feedback, show them what you are doing, create regular communications and touch points and don’t stop listening to them.
If you can get your general user base on board and keep them on board, then you will have succeeded in conquering social transformation which in turn will drive more efficiencies. These systematic factors bring forth a new dawn which is constantly changing and evolving to meet more and more of our every-day needs. Automation and smarter tech means you can work smarter, not harder. We have reached a tipping point in technology adoption yet we are still at the beginning of this revolution and we fail to fully realise the efficiencies that digital capabilities will deliver. We need to shift our mind-set and build teams with creative innovators, critical thinkers and above all, enablers not blockers.
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