7 Key Success Factors to a Winning Digital Procurement Project

13 January 2021

7 Key Success Factors to a Winning Digital Procurement Project

Selecting your Procurement tools isn’t the only success factor of a digital project. In this article, discover the 7 key success factors to a winning digital procurement project.

Procurement has been a major lever for transformation in recent years, making digitalization primary goal which significantly improves the agility, collaborative capabilities, and efficiency of procurement teams. Procurement is now doing more with less resources, optimizing time spent on tasks, ensuring data reliability and accessibility, and even automating some tasks – all elements that have deeply transformed the purchasing profession.

Most procurement activities, such as dematerialization, e-sourcing, business intelligence, spend analysis, contract management, supplier relationship management, and performance management can now all be covered by digital solutions.

Given the plethora of options on the market (complete suites, specific modules, SaaS applications), it’s critically important to choose the option that will provide you with the most value. While it’s a crucial step, selecting your tools isn’t the only success factor of a digital project.

  • “We were blown away with great features, but now that the tool is deployed, we realize that this is not what we really need”.
  • “We mobilized a great project team, but once the solution was implemented, the energy came down, as no one was really following the project anymore”.
  • “We have a great tool, but out of 200 people, only 20 located in two Business Units are actually using it”.

Unfortunately, these are common experiences for a variety of organizations. As an experienced Procurement software vendor, we have helped multiple organizations overcome their struggles and strived to identify what works in pushing a digital project towards success. These seven key factors will guarantee the success of your digital project.

#1: A committed project team 

Regardless of how it may sometimes feel, the success of your digital procurement project is in your hands. To accomplish a successful implementation of a purchasing solution, you must rely on efficient collaboration between software vendor and client, making it critical to optimize time and dedicate the right internal resources. It’s essential that the project team be available as much as possible in the implementation phases to support the vendor in the choice of parameters. The speed of deployment is dependent on the amount of time the in-house project team will dedicate to implementing the new tool each week. Here are some best practices for putting together a well-rounded project team:

  • Mix business expertise with various levels of seniority. Involving different profiles and sensitivities will allow you to stick as close as possible to reality. New tools are adopted and utilized differently, depending on each user’s background, as well as their level of expertise and goals. We observed that winning project teams typically combine purchasing experts, technical profiles, people dedicated to internal processes, and even younger employees or those with a particular appetite for digital. Each of these roles can bring a useful and complementary perspective to the project.
  • Engage the Solution Administrator early in the project. It is important that the Solution Administrator be able to take ownership of the topic as early as possible to position that person as the technical expert for the tool. 
     
  • Assign a decision maker on the project team. The decision maker is the person who will mediate the selection of one solution over another, guided by a full understanding of the organization’s processes and project goals.
  • Engage your key stakeholders. A procurement tool will not only serve the purchasing department, it will be used by multiple departments in your organization. So, don’t hesitate to involve external contributors with your project team. This may be someone from the finance department who can help define reporting needs or one of your main internal customers who can help collaborate about the solution.

#2: A well-defined purchasing process that aligns with your technology implementation

Here are some best practices for putting together a well-rounded project team: Defining your purchasing process is a key element of a successful technology implementation. Your technology can only succeed if it’s supported by solid, real-life processes. Your tool is the catalyst that will allow for efficient processes and must be defined upstream of the technology. Two key points for a successful configuration of your digital procurement tool: 

  • Make sure to define some operational rules and validate them internally before configuring your tool. The digital transformation process can also be a good opportunity to review and update your internal operating rules, if needed.
  • Set boundaries for your roadmap and define your main objectives. Identify current problems and list the solutions that the tool needs to provide.

As a procurement vendor, our mission is to support our customers in configuring our solution to meet their operational issues.

#3 : Test the solution using real use cases 

The test phase is a valuable time to collect your user’s initial impressions. The implementation phase is an opportunity for the customer to test the solution based on concrete use cases. This test phase is crucial. Depending on your feedback, it will allow your vendor to take corrective action  in order to deliver a final version of the tool that will more accurately meet your expectations. 

Here’s some advice to make the most of this test phase: 

  • Write a few scenarios in advance, keeping in mind that concrete use cases are necessary for the tool to work properly.  
  • Identify champion” users and involve even the most reluctant ones in order to cross check different feedback. 
  • The configuration process is a good time to involve your internal customers or stakeholders and encourage them to become active contributors using the tool.

#4: Make the go live of your purchasing solution a real event!

The most successful projects are the ones that make an impression. Regular communication about project phases will make it easier for teams to understand and gradually buy in to the solution. Make sure you communicate your objectives to stakeholders. Don’t hesitate to distribute a provisional project plan and communicate the go-live date internally.

The project “Go Live” must become a real event. The kickoff is a great opportunity to communicate about the tool in order to create excitement around the launch and to promote a quick adoption.

It is also an opportunity to highlight the role of the purchasing function within your organization. Many formats are possible. For example, you could opt for a half-day session dedicated to users training, followed by a speech from the project team, the purchasing department, and other sponsors (such as finance and internal customers).

Don’t hesitate to end the session with a networking opportunity, such as cookies and coffees with the project team, the procurement manager, and even the purchasing and finance teams. The key here is to create a positive dynamic around the new tool and ultimately to highlight necessary digital purchasing transformation.

#5: Go step by step … Digitization is a progressive process

It’s a common mistake is to deploy 100% of a digital solution in one step. Being ambitious is good, but being smart is even better! Our advice: Introduce new features as your users become familiar with the solution. Focus first on the tool’s main features, collect user feedback, make sure they are mastering each part of the tool, and then deploy the next feature. When you introduce all features at once, you risk is scaring your users and inhibiting full adoption of the solution.

In fact, our clients talk about it better than we do…

“Digital transformation of procurement is a continuous journey. My advice: Start, get going, implement 80%, roll it out to your users, get feedback, improve, and move one to the next one.Vlad Craciunescu, Indirect Procurement Controller at Zalando.

Access the full interview here.

“The key is to get started, going step by step by prioritizing one’s needs. The benefit of a progressive approach is to the ability to start testing and then imagine new use cases. Julie Ramoneda, Digital & Telecom Purchasing Manager at LVMH Group.

Access the full interview here.

#6: User adoption, “the sinews of war”!

Resistance to change is human. Even the most intuitive tool requires support to optimize usage and ensure long-term adoption. This is the key pain point for any digital project. It must be orchestrated from the outset and managed over time. Remember that the Solution Administrator plays a critical role here. In addition to ensuring adoption, the Solution Administrator must maintain a daily link with users. Our customers have noticed that the adoption rate is even better when a user-support process continues beyond the initial training sessions.

Here are some user adoption best practices identified by our customers: 

  • Communicate during every stage of the project: You selected the tool for good reason! Don’t hesitate to regularly showcase the benefits of your solution within your user community.
  • Create an internal user guide: This playbook should reflect all the specific rules for your organization.
  • Set up a process to onboard new users: Your process should involve a welcome message, sharing the user guide, and setting up training sessions. These steps ensure that users gradually become proficient in the tool. 

Have you noticed users have lots of questions in the months following implementation? Don’t panic, it’s a good sign! It means users are interested and actively engaging with the tool.
When this happens, organize a Q&A session and invite all members of your user community.  Our advice: Don’t hesitate to rely on vendor support throughout this process. The “Customer Success Management” approach is made precisely for that!

#7: Rely on an engaged user community!  

You are surely not the only one using a new digital procurement tool. So, don’t hesitate to rely on your vendor’s existing user community. Many procurement software providers have launched user communities with the sole purpose of sharing experiences, highlighting new features, and discussing tool roadmaps. This is an opportunity to engage with users who have faced similar issues! 

For instance, Per Angusta gathers its customer community twice a year to present new features and deepen knowledge of the tool through customer feedback. It’s also a great opportunity to share user commentary and purchasing best practices among peers.

The success of a procurement digital project is based on the technology and the vendor that supports it, but a winning project requires much more than that. The human element is fundamental! You need a vision, the right project team dynamics to ensure long-term adoption, and a committed customer team to steer and drive the project.