User adoption in practice

Proactis carries out many implementations every year, and through this experience we know that user adoption is one of the most challenging aspects of adopting new software. So, we approached one of our customers to find out how it managed to get hundreds of people across the country using a single Source-to-Pay solution.

Q: How many users are currently on the Proactis system?

A: “To date, there are 1,250 users on the system, which is not only a high number, but quite the challenge to bring all those users onboard.”

Q: Can you provide the background to the transformation programme, why it was undertaken and what you were trying to achieve?

A: “It was clear that the Procurement team was having limited success with managing agents and suppliers.

“We were retrospectively approving invoices. In fact, there were numerous examples in the past where we’ve not known about a contractor until they’ve actually started on site and we’ve got the invoice! That invoice then needs paying but the supplier may not have had the relevant insurance, not be Safecontractor registered, or not have any understanding of GDPR. This exposes us and our clients to risk.”

Q: The key to so many projects – particularly those with such a large undertaking – is to set off on the right foot. Can you talk us through laying the project foundations?

A: “We initially set up a much wider project team and a dedicated Project Manager to work with the wider business to demonstrate transparency and auditability. It was a big change, not just a systematic change but a cultural shift for the organisation.

We also set up a Project Board which was made up the Head of Procurement, the Head of Operations, the Head of Finance, the Head of IT, and various other high-level stakeholders in the business. We wanted buy-in from each of the areas. We then set up individual focus groups, carried out remotely, so volunteers in the business who wanted to get involved in the project could do so. We wanted to encourage a wide range of people to get involved.

Q: It sounds like a lot of people were in involved through the early stages?

A: “It was key that we had a number of stakeholders across the businesses in the different areas involved right from the start. We set up the various different steering groups, such as training and communications, and a vendor management group. We had representatives from the business involved in all of these groups.

“Another group that we set up was probably the most important one – the Business Rules Group. We didn’t want to dictate to the business how the system was going to run and therefore this group, which included surveyors, client accountants and facility managers – a real cross section of people – could all input and add value to how they wanted the system to work. Fundamentally, the group set the rules and decided how the solution would work.

“It’s fair to say that we’d done the stats, we’d done the analysis, we helped guide them through the solution, and we’d got their buy-in at a very early stage.

“So each member was involved in the decision making, even though we did have a strong idea of how the system was going to work. We also had a really strong communication plan, which is absolutely vital in any roll-out of a new system.

“This meant that no-one in the organisation could say they didn’t know what Proactis was or use the classic “oh I didn’t know there was going to be a change.” Everybody knew what was happening. Even though there was slight nervousness about the change, people did feel part of it from the start.”

Q: How did you manage your external stakeholders?

A: “Communication, again pretty much from the start. We wrote to vendors and contractors many months before launch, followed by regular contact regarding the countdown and timescales, along with instructions about what they need to do.

Q: With so much to achieve in the timeframes, did you also look for engagement at a higher level?

A: “While the temptation was to just get on with the project, we decided that executive buy-in was vital. We were actually able to have one of our Executive Board Directors as our project sponsor. There was initial reluctance and nervousness to make such a big change, which was understandable, however, when we displayed the visibility and accountability available, he was very much onboard. In fact, he turned into the advocate, and communications that were sent, went out with his name on. This added to the impact.

“I actually think it’s good if you can get someone involved who has had a vocal resistance to the change. It keeps the project team focused and, by that person becoming an advocate for the project, helps calm any concerns. In this particular case, it has become such a strong message because people do respect him, know that he’s had opinions, and know that those opinions have changed.”

Q: How did you manage the provision of training?

A: “We had to train 1,250 people, spread across the length and breadth of the country, and we couldn’t do face-to-face training. So, we came up with some bite size training videos. We wanted to showcase how easy the system is to use, so we made the videos less than two minutes long, and covered topics such as how to raise an order, how to receipt an order, how to amend an order and so on. These were pushed out through our learning platform and we made them compulsory for Proactis users. The videos were supported by a training manual if required. We also had some super users, placed strategically around the country. Finally, we set up a generic email address for Proactis queries and a dedicated phone number.”

Q: How would you summarise the project?

A: “Without the steps that were taken the project wouldn’t have been such a success. The system is simple and intuitive to use, but for us, the regularity of the communications with stakeholders and getting everyone involved was imperative.”