Finding Common Ground

Using the art of community building to drive e-procurement compliance


Oftentimes it is easier to "sell" adoption of a new technology using dual strategies that include thoughtful research and engagement for the 20 percent split as well as a carefully planned marketing program for the 80 percent split. Smart research at the beginning of the process will help you clearly identify your audience and how to reach them with the right messaging. Once you have done your research, develop a marketing program that takes into consideration higher-level organizational goals and strategies for e-procurement and clearly conveys the solution's benefits and advantages to end users. This type of approach should also include support tools that empower users to make procurement easier, such as a dedicated procurement Web site and online "just-in-time" training. For example, Yale has had great success with its procurement site, www.yale.edu/procurement/, which provides a university buying guide, information on how to operate more efficiently, direct access to the e-procurement platform, and other useful news and procurement-related information.

Building Trust

Many users are skeptical of administrators trying to introduce new technologies and processes. Until that skepticism is turned into trust, some users will not be interested in adopting the solution. View your first conversation with this type of user as a trust-building session; talk with them about what they do and how the solution could meet their needs. Providing fact-based assurances regarding the new technology, saying what you're going to do, helping them understand the value they'll receive from the new solution, and actually doing what you say you're going to do lets your users know you are a trusted partner and have their best interests in mind. This approach will go a long way to integrating your 20 percent.

Mayes has had great success at Yale by running preliminary spend analysis and learning as much as possible about each unique business as possible before meeting with constituents to explore what they are buying and the procedures they're using — treating the visit as a learning opportunity. By doing so, many of Yale's users felt that the change agents made an attempt to understand what was important to them, including their unique needs and the way they do business.

Celebrating Successes

The final step in effectively integrating people and processes is to set achievable interim goals and broadly communicate those goals across your organization. Begin your implementation process with a set of goals. As you progress through the process and achieve early goals, it is vital to celebrate those successes, small and large, along the way. Give credit where credit is due: Public acknowledgement is a powerful motivating technique. Building on your successes allows users to gain a level of trust in you and your implementation team, the technology and the related processes.

Striking the Ideal Balance

By engaging end users in the rollout of your e-procurement initiative — listening, integrating their ideas and needs, and communicating openly with your community — you can dramatically improve the likelihood of striking the ideal 80/20 balance to support your initiative. Keep in mind that an e-procurement initiative is a journey, not an event. So be sure to re-engage your end-user community and leadership often in order to iterate a solution that continues to meet their changing needs.

About the Authors: John Mayes is associate vice president and chief procurement officer at Yale University. Suzanne Miglucci is vice president of marketing and strategic alliances at SciQuest Inc.

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