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In order for an organization to extract the expected value from implementing a new system or business process, it’s critical for users to adopt the system and drive the change throughout the organization.  We often get questions about how to drive organizational change and encourage user adoption – these questions most often come from our customers and their implementation teams.  Change is hard.  This is especially true when implementing new systems that affect strategic processes such as sourcing and contract management.  These processes are typically not rote in nature as is typically the case with operational transactions.  Sourcing and contract management often require planning, strategy, and sufficient time to achieve the end results that you are looking for.  There’s an expectation that there will be collaboration both internally and externally (with an organization’s business partners) to achieve those results.  In the following paragraphs, you’ll find some tactics that customers and their implementation teams have used to successfully enable change and encourage user adoption.

End User Adoption

1.  Visible executive sponsorship is critical to encouraging users in adopting new systems and doing things differently.  If users are left to make their own decisions about using a new system, very often they will continue doing what they are used to doing.  Users need to know that what they are doing matters to their management.

2.  Communication is another key aspect of driving adoption.  Employees need to understand why things are changing and the importance of the change to the organization.  They need to understand that they have a role in helping to make the change successful.  Build momentum by recognizing successes. 

3.  Appoint a champion to lead the program and identify early adopters that are willing to be change agents.  Publicly acknowledge and reward change agents.  Leverage change agents to provide a support system for end users to resolve issues and answer questions. 

4.  Don’t skimp on training.  Be sure that users have the tools and training necessary to be successful.  Ensure that users understand both the use of the system and how it applies to the business processes that are affected.  Help them to understand the benefits and efficiencies to be gained.  Don’t make training a “one-time” event.  Offer training periodically on key topics.  Survey the users to understand where they are having problems and to identify what training will help them.

5.  Establish metrics and reporting.  Help users understand what is expected of them and how they will be measured.  Monitor activity and what users are doing on a monthly or quarterly basis. 

Supplier Adoption

1.  Ensure that qualifying suppliers have a real opportunity to win business.  It’s important that suppliers have confidence that when they are taking the time to learn a new system to respond to requests that they also have the opportunity to win the business. 

2.  Assure suppliers that the system provides a more level playing field.  We often hear that suppliers are reluctant to use a system to submit bids and proposals because they fear that they are losing the personal contact.  Help them to understand that using a system actually opens up more opportunities and makes the evaluation process more objective.

3.  Let your suppliers know that you are committed to the process and technology – and it’s not going away.  Help them understand that the use of technology in the business process enables collaboration, communication, and visibility – and it is important to your business goals and objectives.

4.  Provide training opportunities for your suppliers.  Web conferences, where the suppliers can remain anonymous (if desired), provide an inexpensive means of providing training and enabling suppliers to use new technologies.  This will go a long way in eliminating fears and concerns.

5.  Establish a support system for suppliers.  Give suppliers a way to ask questions and get support when they are responding to requests.  Encourage them to respond early in the process to avoid last minute problems. 

Technology doesn’t eliminate the communication and collaboration that should occur as part of the business process.  In many ways, the role of the sourcing or category manager changes from one of managing and consolidating spreadsheets to one of managing the process, communicating with internal and external stakeholders, and driving results for the organization.