September 26, 2018

Taking a Balanced Approach to Procurement Technology

Written by
Bennett Glace

A leading procurement organization – or any organization looking to join those ranks – knows the importance of technological innovation. Advancements in ERP modules, P2P platforms, e-sourcing suites and other tools make for better relationships with stakeholders and suppliers, more comprehensive market intelligence, and considerable cost savings. According to a recent Hackett report, a whopping 95% of procurement professionals fully expect to undergo a digital transformation and reap these benefits within the next two to three years.

It seems procurement teams everywhere share a single mission. There is not, however, a single strategy for identifying and implementing the right technology. Hasty or misguided decision making can lead to wasted time and resources and even discourage the very changes the technology was meant to inspire.

Here are a few tips for developing a balanced approach to procurement technology and ultimately delivering on procurement’s business objectives.

1. Look for the Right Bells and Whistles

Have you ever shopped for a TV? Those huge walls – strewn with screen after screen – always have one thing in common. They bombard everyone with technical specifications and fancy features that’ll mean very little to the average buyer. And that’s before you learn about the five remotes! Procurement technology is often quite similar. Many organizations find themselves salivating over highly sophisticated tools only to wind up bogged down by complicated interfaces and uneasy adoption. There’s a reason so many firms still rely on the dependability, simplicity, and familiarity of good old Excel.

2. Invest in Training

What good is a shiny new tool if your team is unable or unwilling to use it? Even a simple, appealing, and beneficial new tool could face resistance from an office stuck in its ways. Take whatever steps necessary to extol the virtues of your new technology. It’s also important to make sure everyone – from the C-suite executives down to the interns, know the ins-and-outs of the tool and can successfully confirm their understanding. Demonstrations are a great opportunity to walk through a tool’s functionality while providing direct evidence of its benefit.

3. Make Sure to Gather Feedback

Before introducing new technology to your office, survey everyone the change will affect. It’s especially crucial to learn what they like and dislike about your current tools. That way, you’ll better understand what features to look for in your new software. If you provide the particular things your team is looking for, they’ll respond more positively to its introduction. These efforts will make for a more collaborative, inclusive workplace and environment and encourage an informed approach to technology. Follow up with surveys that judge employee sentiment during and after the implementation as well, to see how the process could have been improved.

4. Leverage Millennial Talent

Like nearly every industry these days, procurement looks poised to welcome a tidal wave of young talent in the very near future. Ignore the articles blaming them for destroying everything from chain restaurants to higher education. The next crop of procurement professionals promises to change the field in ways that could actually save countless organizations. They’ll not only encourage businesses to pursue new tools, but their lifelong familiarity with advanced technology will make for quick adoption and a wealth of useful feedback. SurveyMonkey and Microsoft found that 93% of millennial professionals consider up-to-date technology a differentiator when selecting jobs. Gathering this generation’s input now could help your organization distinguish itself as an employer of choice for years to come.

5. Don’t Scare Suppliers Away

Rigid technologies tend to exacerbate a procurement group’s worst practices. This is especially true during the request for information (RFx) process. Say, for example, you work for an organization that relies on a standard set of questions to qualify suppliers. It would prove especially disastrous if you purchased a new tool that enabled or encouraged you to continue this detrimental and limiting practice. Dependence on inflexible technology limits the potential supplier pool and could lead to poor interpretations of whatever results you do receive. Look for tools that open up the sourcing process and know when to distance yourself from tools that do the opposite.

6. Keep your Current Systems and Processes in Mind

Even if you’re looking into a near-complete overhaul, chances are you’ve been doing some things right. It’s important to make sure your new tools won’t disturb or discourage any effective systems you’ve put in place. Worse still, certain tools could prove completely incompatible with your current model. Look for opportunities to augment – rather than replace – your business’ infrastructure. You’ll avoid serious technological mishaps and enjoy a more streamlined implementation process.

7. Look to the Future

Technology evolves more and more quickly with each passing year. You can’t afford to get comfortable. Today’s most innovative and intuitive tools will eventually go the way of whichever tools they replaced. Gathering feedback from users, scouring industry publications, and maintaining an open mind could make the difference in discovering the next big thing.

Finding the right tools means much more than finding the best price. It’s essential to locate the option that’s sophisticated enough for your current needs, flexible enough to adapt and improve, and not too complex to adopt or use effectively. The process of development, refinement, and enhancement requires continuous efforts and a thorough understanding of your organization’s current status and future goals. Whether it means bringing in extra help or simply doing a little extra digging, your organization has to invest making the right procurement technology investments on the first try.

Bennett Glace is the primary contributor and Editorial Lead for the Strategic Sourceror. A prolific blogger and procurement storyteller, he is responsible for advocating the function’s value in podcasts, whitepapers, and other impactful, accessible content. As a Marketing Associate for Source One, a Corcentric company, he also provides editorial support to client-facing communications and works to tailor the spend management firm’s authorial voice.