An Outsider’s Perspective on Implementing Technology.
I’ve participated in many procurement technology implementations – and not always in the same role. Like most people, my experience began on the receiving end of new technology for which I had no say in the selection or configuration. From there I moved to a leadership role on a team tasked with selecting and implementing a sourcing suite for the first time. A few years later, I was part of a consulting team at a solution provider where I regularly assisted in or led implementations as part of procurement program (re)design projects.
There are as many tales of resounding implementation successes as there is evidence that Bigfoot is real and living in your Aunt Lydia’s backyard. All we ever seem to hear about are failures and slip-ups. Do we secretly want our implementations to fail? No. Unfortunately, until now, we’ve mostly addressed the symptoms rather than the root cause of implementation problems.
And what is that root cause? Conference rooms.
If you’re going to hold an implementation meeting or planning session, the natural first step is to book a room (or set up a conference line). Then the central team members go to that room at the appointed time along with a representative of the solution provider…and…close the door. Did you hear that click or swoosh or bang? That was the sound of your implementation success hopes dying.
Plan ahead to avoid implementation pitfalls.
Think I’m exaggerating? Look through the list of 10 common P2P implementation pitfalls in the Determine P2P Implementation Survival Guide:
- Excluding Key Stakeholders from the System Selection Process
- The False Promises of Project Pilots
- Waiting Until Implementation to Work Out Pain Points
- Over-Engineering Your Approvals Process and Alerts
- Not Communicating with the Right Parties in the Right Order
- Playing Go-Live Deadline Dodgeball
Nearly all of the pitfalls identified would be prevented or lessened by a team who was fully involved with their peers — the victims er, beneficiaries — of their implementation efforts, instead of being closed up in a conference room.
This isn’t to say that implementation teams sequester themselves because they want all of the glory and power for themselves. It is a practical matter. Technology implementations are complex efforts that require many decisions and are always run on ridiculously tight timeframes. These teams are simply trying to make quick decisions with one voice so they can declare the work done. It is no wonder that implementations rarely meet expectations when the technology is finally rolled out to a wider audience.
Implementation success: we’re all in this together.
The answer to improving the success of implementations is either (a.) get more time, or (b.) include more voices. Since more time is NEVER going to happen, more voices is the key.
Step one is to move the effort out of a conference room (at least psychologically) and into the user community. Communicate in both directions; provide constant updates to and request input from future users. That is one area where your solution provider can be of assistance. Since they have been through many implementations just like yours, they’ll know which decisions benefit most from user input and which are the most likely to cause upset or be based on individual preferences and company culture.
If they’re really good, they will be able to tell you right up front what those issues are so the implementation team can solicit input far enough in advance that the effort isn’t bogged down waiting for a decision.
Implementation success is really a matter of perspective. Someone is always going to be upset. After all, if you didn’t change anything, there wouldn’t be an implementation (and then other people would be upset!). If you can get your implementation out of the backroom and into the lunchroom, you’ll at least reduce the levels of surprise and alarm that come with a “big bang” approach. And if that doesn’t make a difference? You can always go hide in the conference room.
As Kelly says, implementation success is a process of communication. Even over-communication. Keep stakeholders and future users fully informed (and engaged) and think of the project as a team effort. Whether you’re implementation needs are in procure-to-pay, contract management, supplier management or any other area of source-to-pay, contact us to schedule a personalized demonstration of the Determine Cloud Platform. We’ll give you the inside story on what it takes to achieve implementation success.