Simplify Business Purchasing in 3 Easy Steps

What a waste of time and money if your staff ultimately don’t adopt the new tech! But prevention is the best cure with these three steps

“If your employees don’t buy-in to your purchasing system, then nothing else matters,” commented Katarzyna Fonteyn, Director, Procurement Product Management at Basware. “We’ve seen too many instances where organisations expect employee buy-in to be automatic, which is never the case. The result is a ton of waste.”

In fact, according to a survey from Harvard Business Review, 89% of executives and organisational leaders said that driving adoption of employee-facing software was a moderate to high priority.

There are three steps procurement teams can take to simplify business purchasing, increase adoption and accelerate their modernisation journey. 

Step 1: Do Your Homework

What you don’t know can hurt you – and will impact your bottom line.

The first step to simplify business purchasing is understanding the needs and pain points of your employees:

  • What products, services and suppliers do they need access to?
  • Where and when do procurement processes hurt productivity?
  • How do employees prefer to buy and collaborate?
  • How long do approvals take?
  • Why do employees go rogue?

The last question is the most important. Employees don’t “go rogue” because they want to hurt the business and don’t like following the rules. They go rogue because they want to be productive – and procurement protocols slow them down. Or maybe they need something specific, and the available suppliers either don’t meet their needs or they lack available inventory.

“Finding strong suppliers and negotiating favourable deals is only part of the equation. Employee adoption is just as important,” said Fonteyn at Basware. “The savings procurement generates become null and void when employees don’t spend with approved suppliers. We need a greater enterprise focus on making purchasing easy.”

Your existing business purchasing processes can tell you a lot about what’s happening. Track the daily activities and workflows and talk to your employees to understand their pain points. A thorough analysis will pinpoint where and why employees are going around procurement, which departments, teams and categories are struggling the most, and what you need to change to improve adoption and spend under management. 

Step 2: Master The Imitation Game

The key to unlocking employee adoption and simplifying purchasing lies with imitation – the greatest form of flattery. Ideally, your business buying experience should mimic that of consumer shopping.

According to Gartner, 60% of employees who use technology as part of their daily job requirements said new technology had frustrated them in the past 24 months. And 56% said the new technology made them want the old system back. Translation: the technology was hard to use, didn’t make their lives easier or required too much time to learn. Here’s how you can avoid making the same mistake with your purchasing processes and technology:

Make it Digital

How do consumers (aka your employees) purchase items for themselves in their everyday lives? Chances are it’s online, mobile, and digital. Mimic that experience at work. If your employees are manually submitting requests, required to use desktop technology or forced to be on-premises to make purchases, adoption will lag.

Make it Easy to Navigate

Consumer search and buying – think Google, Amazon, etc. – is incredibly easy, fast and contextual. Type in exactly or some of what you’re searching for, and you’ll find it right away. Replicate this experience internally.

Complicated, convoluted systems that require multiple clicks and exact keywords and have poor user interfaces frustrate employees and slow them down. Ensure the system your employees use is simple and intuitive. One-click to buy, smart search engines and easy-to-navigate catalogs will increase employee adoption and reduce headaches.

Make it Seamless

The last step in the imitation game is to make everything seamless. Your systems should talk to each other and provide visibility into what is happening, when and with whom. In parallel, your tech stack should automate the tactical elements of your purchasing process and digitise all key information. You don’t want your team chasing down approvals or playing detective to find out which supplier Jeff used last time. Make information easily accessible to all, which will keep employees working within your desired tool.

Step 3: Let Your Data Shine

The final step is ongoing. Continuously analyse and benchmark your data to determine where you stand, where you’ve progressed, and where you can improve.

Access to robust spend data helps inform decision making and counter volatility. However, McKinsey says that less than 20% of procurement data available is used to make decisions today. That is a frighteningly low number. The likely causes are rogue purchasing behaviors, dirty data, a lack of digitisation and poor procurement analytics technology.

“If you’re hesitant to use your data, you likely have an adoption problem,” said Fonteyn at Basware.

Procurement modernisation requires simplicity

Simplifying your purchasing process is the most essential step in the journey to modernise your spend management program, as your progress elsewhere won’t mean much if your employees don’t buy in. 

Simplicity increases employee adoption, limits maverick spend, increases data accuracy and nurtures healthy relationships with suppliers and employees. While it all sounds easy when we say it like that, we know this type of transformation isn’t always simple. Regardless of the size of the challenge, it’s a crucial element that procurement teams must get right to thrive in the new age of supply chain chaos and inflation.

Our recent partnership with Basware goes deeper into what changes procurement can make to effectively manage business spend in the modern economy. Check it out for more helpful insights and practices for your spend management.

Join us for The Great Procurement Reset: Five Musts for Managing Business Spend in the Modern Economy, at 2:30pm-3:30pm (CET) on Wednesday 8 June, when we will examine ways traditional spend management practices can be modernised to increase agility and performance.

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