How to manage change with new procurement

The National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) recently released its annual report – “Top 10 Priorities for State Procurement 2020” – based on input from state CPO’s. In a series highlighting the priorities in greater detail, we will explore how you can achieve several of these priorities for your organization.

If you are bringing change to an organization, it’s vital to lay the groundwork for success early. One of the most important keys to the success of a procurement system is the ability to gain organization-wide adoption by making it easier for employees to order what they need, managers to review and approve those requests, and department heads to see the impact of spending. Your agency may have spent months, or even years, updating its processes and implementing a brand new procurement system, but if you don’t manage the change from the very first stages, it will fail.

Some common examples of how organizations fail include:
  • Users have little information on what the new system does or even looks like – this creates nervousness and uncertainty around what is required, along with the inevitable frustration of not being involved from the start.
  • Not having a plan in place to migrate from the old system to the new, resulting in confusion over which invoices have already been paid, risk of duplicate orders and invoices, and off-contract spending.
  • Users don't understand how to use the system properly – often due to a lack of training – resulting in frustration time spent ensuring it’s being done correctly or fixing mistakes.
  • There are no agency specific training materials or courses available for new starters or role changes, resulting in the system not being used.
The embracing of digital technology is relatively easy once you have a strategy in place. It is the cultural change however that requires a change in mind-set and that requires fresh thinking within Finance, Procurement as well as the rest of the agency.  It will be weeks or months before you flip the switch on a new process or system where change management – including all areas of the business, from leadership, to team development, to measurement systems, even to communication strategies – should begin.

Communication is essential for successfully implementing a change management initiative. Catch people’s attention early on about what is being planned and communicate throughout the process. People respond to different forms of communication so vary how information is communicated and presented. Create a “change and communications” strategy to sit alongside an implementation plan.

Use the approach of “one step at a time” when implementing a change. Build a game plan with milestones for each step and slowly roll out the new process. People often become set in their ways so completely changing their process in one go will result in low adoption and that’s not good for anyone involved.

Some employees will be resistant to the change, whichever approach you use. Whether they do not believe there is a need for a change, or they have become accustomed to their daily tasks and processes, resistance will happen. But if you start promoting your initiative and the project’s benefits for the company and for employees early, when roll-out day comes, employees will not only be ready for the new Procurement system, they'll be excited to see it.

It is important to manage any resistance carefully. Anticipate your challenges and the objections that you might face from your stakeholders before they happen. Develop training plans for new and existing users well in advance of new technology, procedures, etc. are implemented. Bring the whole team into the loop from the beginning so that everyone is on the same page throughout the project.

The good news is that newer cloud-based procurement applications, such as tools from Proactis, focus on driving adoption through a user experience. For procurement this means creating a consumer-style shopping experience and an intuitive interface that prompts the user, "What do you need?" and enabling orders to be completed in just a few clicks. Employees no longer need to search through offline catalogs for what they need, walk around with the requisition and chase down approvals. All relevant corporate buying policies, catalog items from preferred suppliers, other relevant punch-out suppliers and access to expert buying support are available online.