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Managing A New Tech Project? Steal This Company’s Playbook

Make your new tech project a success with these tried and tested tips.


If you’ve managed a new technology project before, then you know the tech is the easy part. 

People are the challenge (and I mean that in the nicest way possible!)

Luckily, people and projects follow predictable patterns – no matter the size of your company. 

So here’s the playbook you need to make your new project successful. It’s the same one I’ve used to help dozens of companies like Credit Suisse and Honeywell launch systems on time and on budget.

And it’s yours to steal.

Step 1: Get the right people in the room

The most successful organisations are those that get the right people in the room from day one and keep them engaged the whole time.  

Who are the right people? It’s likely a mix of people across your organisation. Obvious inclusions are senior level decision makers. You also need to get the best technical brains in the room who understand the legacy system better than anyone else.

You need people who really understand your business – warts and all. Why are things done in the way that they are? What is the history? What are the processes? Are they defined in flowcharts and documents?  

You might think your own processes are well-documented, but they need to be really specific for the design phase (i.e. do emails/reminders have to be sent at a particular stage and what happens after X number of days; who do we escalate to?)

Next, you need to spend significant time making sure everyone understands and agrees the objectives of the new system. You need the people who hold the purse strings to agree, so you can get resources in place.

And prepare for scepticism – especially from people who have been around a while. These long-time employees have seen it all, and they might carry hard feelings from previous projects that didn’t live up to the promises.

So don’t be quick to dismiss those who seem negative; sometimes they are the key to understanding why something was done in the past, and to identifying where complexity can be removed. 

You’ll find if you address stakeholder concerns early on and make sure everyone feels heard and understood, you can get them on board and keep them there. And who knows? They could become your biggest ambassadors for the project. 

Plan for pushback

No matter how great your new system is – or how much time and money it will save the company – you should expect pushback. Most humans hate change. 

So approach their concerns with sympathy; after all, it can be hard to learn a new system.

And don’t forget about potential pushback from your suppliers. I often have customers who struggled previously with getting suppliers on legacy procurement systems.

Avoid that chaos by bringing your key suppliers in early.

For example, Maxim Healthcare struggled for seven long years to get suppliers on their legacy system. The suppliers pushed back en masse against the terms they had to accept, and possible fees faced by the vendor’s supplier network approach. 

So when they asked us to help them launch a new system, we put suppliers at the centre. Their suppliers were thrilled with the friendlier terms and approach. The result? Maxim Healthcare launched a shiny new P2P system in eight weeks with more suppliers than they acquired in the previous seven years. 

Define requirements and objectives

Before you go shopping, do the important work of laying down requirements and objectives.

Think of it like painting a room. The actual painting goes quickly; it’s all the prep work that takes the time.

Now is the opportunity to review your old processes and see if they’re still serving your company.

Get into the detail at the design phase and understand that documenting your processes will help to work out what you are doing now and where you can find efficiencies, cost savings, and better user adoption.

Everyone in your stakeholder group should agree on what your company needs in a new system. That will save you from scope creep (and many headaches) later on – when changes will be infinitely more expensive.

Once you know what you’re looking for, scrutinise different technology providers. Make sure you understand what is possible now with current technology.

At this stage, your provider should act as a friendly interrogator, questioning any areas they find in your processes that could be simplified. However, the act of removing that complexity is up to you. Will you make the most of the new technology you are paying good money for?

Look at the whole puzzle

A system may seem perfect in isolation, but you need to understand how it fits with the rest of your company set-up.

After all, you’re looking for a seamless flow of information, a consistent user experience, and a unified data model that supports 360 degree visibility of suppliers and activity.

None of that is possible if your company systems aren’t compatible. 

Also understand how the new tech system you choose can grow and change as your company changes. 

Some systems are too rigid to support those changes, meaning you could have a redundant system on your hands after only a few months.

And you should also consider how other existing company systems could change in the future. Are any of them due for an upgrade soon? Stay close to your CIO so your company makes the most of tech investments.

Allow for flexibility

Successful projects allow for flexibility in timing. Things will change and bumps will come up over the course of your project – no matter how precise your planning.

That’s why we use a hybrid agile/ waterfall method on our own projects (and encourage customers to use the same).

What does that mean? The waterfall approach is to build the system and then show it. Agile means to build as you go. 

Instead of choosing one over the other, we use both methods. That brings a nice balance of predictability with a level of flexibility to address unforeseen or evolving requirements.

At the design phase we try to lock down 80% of requirements and in this way we still maintain 20% for a level of flexibility. Though as mentioned earlier, it’s wise to get as specific as possible.

You might be surprised how quickly a project can come together this way. Take the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for example. They needed the ability to upload bid submittals electronically, and we helped them launch the feature in just one week. 

Nailing down exactly what you need will make the actual build phase go quicker. And building in contingency time means you won’t get caught off guard when you reach a hiccup. 

Send in the A-team

You need to take people off their day-to-day work and give them the time to focus on this project.  

Have dedicated project team members who solely work on launching the new system. They should be able to answer business and technical questions, and to report back on user issues and gripes. 

This is especially important during the early stages of the project, but no less important throughout the entire process.

The best way to mitigate issues is to plan for them by making sure that you have enough and the right resources.

Once the procurement system is rolled out, it’s key to keep the same team engaged so a knowledge exchange to the support team can take place. They should stay put for at least a few weeks after launch to ensure a smooth transition.

Finish strong

Successful project teams are always communicating. 

At the start of any new project, I set up monthly steering meetings at the executive level. There are weekly project status meetings with project leaders, Ivalua, partners and clients to share what has been done, the challenges and what’s planned for the next week. 

We put any roadblocks or risks on the table and take a realistic health check on the overall project status.

I also schedule “Work in Progress” reviews to keep everything on track and spot issues a long way off. 

These checkpoints allow us to confirm we are headed in the right direction, and we can take some feedback to adjust it when needed.

You can do this

To summarise, when you managing a new tech project of any size, there are the three keys to success:

1) Know what your goals are, and make sure these are communicated to your internal teams and to the companies you are working with. 

2) Have the right people in the room. 

3) Complete a robust, open and transparent design phase to get what you want and guarantee that your organisation gets what it needs.

Finally, make sure you report your after-launch success back to senior management. Ivalua did some research earlier this year that showed 67% of procurement professionals believe that their colleagues consider them to be a key business partner contributing significant strategic value.

They already know you are valuable. Your project is another opportunity to prove it.

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 2: Communication

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful? In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.

By Syda Productions/ Shutterstock

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this second article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of communication.

Read Part 1 on Clarity here.

Communication is the act of transferring information from one person to another. It is an extremely important skill that anybody who wants to thrive in the modern world must have and continually improve.

All the great leaders were also great communicators and it is a skill you can learn and develop. It is one of the greatest tools you can master. To be skilled in the art of good communication means you have the ability to get people to want to be on your side and help you. It also gives you the ability to get people to do what you want, which is why you must use this skill towards good only.

Communication is not just about talking. It is about speaking to others in ways that inspires them and makes them feel important in order to get them to want to be around you and work with you.

But how do you accomplish this? The answer is to communicate with positivity and enthusiasm.  Positivity and Enthusiasm are addictive and powerful energies. When people hear others communicating with enthusiasm, they too feel enthusiastic and are drawn to them.

Talking about things that inspire you will make you communicate with enthusiasm automatically. You will feel more positive about the things you are talking about and the people listening will also start to feel more positive.

We live in a world where negative communication is all around us on a daily basis. This can be used to your advantage as people would far prefer to listen to people taking in a positive way and when you communicate positive things, you will always have a greater audience than people who communicate negatively.

Your job is to change people from expecting negative things to positive things, to be positive and to think in positive ways. When they listen to you using positive words and phrases in your communication you will find more and more people wanting to listen to you and to work with you because they realise that there’s something about you that is different… in a good way!

Using positivity and enthusiasm in your communication will result in you being able to build positive relationships with people and to be very successful in business as well. Talking to others in ways that make them feel important will ensure they hang on to every word you say. They will feel good and they will be there to help you achieve your goals and objectives.

Making others feel good about what you say is easy once you have the necessary skills and experience. You will become a real driving force for them. Always look for the positive side in situations and only talk about positive things. There are positive things in everyone and in every circumstance and it is your job to find them and to talk about them. If you should find yourself beginning to talk about something negative, stop yourself and change your communication back to only positive things.

When talking, there are some important things to consider. Be aware of the tone of your voice. Keep it positive at all times and constantly try to “spark” up your conversation. Your posture and body language is also very important and are things that will influence listeners. They might not even know, but subconsciously we all can read body language and posture even if we don’t think about it and it affects the way we deliver a speech. No matter how positive your words may be, if you have poor body language or posture, people might not see your speech in quite the positive way you intended. They are all part of great communication and you must be careful to ensure all three are seen as positive.

During your conversations it is extremely important to listen. Ask people questions about themselves and let them talk. They will appreciate it. In this day and age, everyone is trying to talk and get their voice heard. People often talk over other people without listening, you will surely stand out by being the one who takes the time to listen.

Take time to listen and only talk positively and you will become a great communicator. You will gain many admirers, friends and business acquaintances that will help you achieve your aims and goals. “The one who masters communication has the power to lead the world any way that he wishes”

How To Increase ROI With Clear Communication To Business Stakeholders

The Hackett Group’s, Nic Walden, explains how to improve your ROI through engaging and clear communication. 

hobbit/Shutterstock.com

Most stakeholders say that consistent delivery of core services is the principal requirement to consider procurement as a trusted advisor. Although many organisations are capable of filling this role, most are still viewed by internal customers as sourcing experts (i.e., focused on negotiation and supplier selection), or worse, as gatekeepers or simply administrators. In fact, only 29 per cent of procurement organisations are viewed as valued business partners by key stakeholders.

Does It Matter? Absolutely!

Analysis of Hackett benchmarks shows as much as a 2.5X ROI can be achieved from elevating the role of procurement, and aligning the goals and expectations of procurement teams to that of the business. That’s a hefty bump in savings or broader value terms in anyone’s language.

At Hackett we measure ROI as total cost reduction and avoidance divided by the cost of the function. As an example, professional sourcing teams can deliver strong savings performance when looking at percentage terms only, but when compared to the level of resource investment (i.e., ROI), they come up short.

Why Leave Money On The Table?

Let’s assume we have the capabilities to operate at a higher level (closing the capability gap is itself another discussion). One reason for misalignment is that procurement teams struggle to communicate their capabilities. Ineffective communication with internal customers, suppliers, and colleagues also causes confusion, delay, or leads to incorrect assumptions of what procurement can and cannot offer. With this in mind, Procurement teams face three main challenges to elevate their role:

  • Perceptions on historical performance cause resistance to change.
  • Internal customers are unaware of what procurement can offer.
  • Undergoing a major transformation results in confusion and inconsistencies.

The result is that successful procurement teams go to great lengths to build a compelling brand image, supported by a well-defined vision, services that meet or exceed expectations, and a formal measurement program to ensure ongoing improvement. If these steps are not taken, procurement groups can plateau in operational efficiency and effectiveness despite having the capabilities to operate at a much higher level.

Launching a New Procurement Brand

Defining a brand is an important concept for procurement because it makes their purpose and identity more comprehensible for stakeholders. The Hackett Group has outlined four major activities (understand, define, create, engage) that make up a successful brand transformation, supported by ongoing internal input. Everyone has a role to play in communicating and utilizing procurement’s new brand for effect: leadership, sourcing, buying, and operational teams.

  1. Understand what is most important to internal customers and stakeholders

The brand should highlight procurement’s desire to support stakeholders and its ability to act as a valued business partner. This means having a solid understanding of what is important to stakeholders. For example, they might want more help defining requirements, to run credible and achievable projects, to manage difficult supplier conversations, to bring new products to market faster, or reporting. Most often, they just want procurement to excel at delivering core services.

  1. Define procurement’s brand-management strategy

This is the time to clearly develop a clear vision and simple set of guiding principles to communicate goals, followed by defining procurement’s roles and responsibilities, and to make this information easily accessible to procurement and its stakeholders.

Other activities include:

  • Delineate the services that procurement provides to internal customers; ensure these align to their needs and requirements. Take this opportunity to de-prioritize or reshape what is not valued.
  • Provide clear definitions of the activities and tasks performed for each support service, along with the service levels provided (e.g., meeting frequency, cycle time, error rates).
  • Determine which business segments and departments that procurement can support.
  • Match staff and skill sets to procurement’s services.
  1. Create marketing materials and share initial communications

Now we match the desired stakeholder experience with procurement’s future behaviors. Since people respond differently to various methods of communication, consider creating an “omnichannel”, personalized stakeholder experience to allow broad access to the procurement process and enable the ability to buy/pay from all locations and get real-time information. Common activities include:

  • Develop a new brand identity, including a name, mission statement, a set of values and goals, and even a logo if desired.
  • Determine the way communication with internal customers and stakeholders will be handled, such as email, phone, in-person support, chat or robotic tools.
  • Deploy an intranet portal that lets internal customers communicate with procurement and conduct self-service activities. Consider setting up a similar site for suppliers.
  • Develop marketing materials for various stakeholder groups, making certain that overall messaging is consistent.
  • Define and document any related changes to the organization, such as new employee titles.
  1. Engage and continually communicate with all stakeholders

Multiple channels of communication should always be open for both internal customers and suppliers to reach out, get questions answered, or further develop relationships. There are various ways to engage with stakeholders, not all of which make sense for every company. Some of these activities include:

  • Face-to-face road shows with business executives, such as ongoing conference calls or one-on-one calls
  • Face-to-face road shows with middle management / operations followed by regular calls to ensure procurement is meeting objectives
  • Regular emails that include policy updates and metrics showcasing procurement performance

Nic Walden, Director Procurement and P2P Advisor, The Hackett Group works continuously with senior executives of the world’s leading companies to provide top performance insight, research and networking.  Nic is a regular speaker at conference events and a regular contributor to social media and online blogs.

Learn more about Hackett’s Procurement Executive Advisory Program

Big Ideas in Big Companies

Making significant changes in a business can be challenging and is often especially difficult in big companies where it’s hard to get your voice heard, and break through protocol and resistance at the top.

Here at Procurious, we’ve been asking for you to submit your Big Ideas ahead of our Big Ideas Summit 2016.

We firmly believe that every procurement professional has a unique vantage point in the industries, communities and businesses they work in. Your Big Idea, inspired by some of the amazing experiences and insights you have, could be the one to change the face of the procurement profession.

Red-Tape and Resistance

However, getting your ideas heard and implemented is often easier said than done. Change can be implemented more readily in smaller businesses or start-ups, where there are fewer employees and greater flexibility, and roles are more diverse or interchangeable.

In big companies there is more red-tape and resistance to change. It can be difficult to make your voice heard by the right people when there is a fixed hierarchy and more stakeholders to consider. If you want to be a game-changer in a big company, having communication skills and the confidence to assert your innovative ideas is key.

As for the people at the top of these organisations, it’s their task to ensure they are inspiring intrapreneurship and considering the potential for great ideas to come from anyone, and anywhere, whether it be a graduate or a supplier.

Communication

People at the top need new ideas and new perspectives, so the chances are they will appreciate an employee taking the initiative to pitch an original idea. If you are fortunate enough to have this opportunity, don’t be complacent. Prepare, rehearse and ask for feedback from colleagues and friends.

It is crucial to deliver a slick and compelling pitch, which captures the attention of those listening. How you sell your idea, and convey your passion for it, will make all the difference.

Your audience needs to know what is so great about your idea, how it stands out, and if it will be worthwhile. You should consider how this change can be implemented within your organisation, and how you can measure its success.

What problems does this idea solve for your business? If you can’t articulate these points in a concise and convincing way, your voice won’t be heard and your ideas will be discarded, no matter how fantastic they are.

Commitment to Your Big Idea

Excellent communication, despite its importance, might not be quite enough to seal the deal with your Big Idea. It often takes greater persistence than just one great pitch.

Big companies, and those at the top of those big companies, can be averse to change and reluctant to take risks particularly if the change proposed is a big one. Chris Lynch, CFO at Rio Tinto, believes that, in larger companies, “the bigger the idea, the greater the resistance.” A flawless business plan might not be enough to relieve any hesitancy your employers have.

Your confidence, passion and perseverance are key. If you give up at the first hurdle, your idea can’t have been worth fighting for, and colleagues or employers will doubt you ever had the courage of your convictions.

Additionally, you can demonstrate your drive and commitment by doing your homework. Don’t get caught out by not being up to speed and seeming unprepared. Make sure you’ve done the background reading, made contingency plans and considered every eventuality. Again, your audience will be impressed by your motivation.

It can take years for an idea to come to fruition within big companies, and you might face a series of hurdles along the way. Don’t give up on yourself or your ideas. Keep dreaming big.

Inspiring Intrapreneurship

It is not solely the responsibility of the employee to push for change in large organisations. Senior decision makers and those at the top can help by being encouraging and harvesting intrapreneurship.

Even if one particular idea doesn’t tickle your fancy, the person pitching it is someone to be encouraged and supported as a future innovator and game changer.  These are the people on the inside who can think outside existing limits, the ones with the creative skills to reinvent companies and drive change.

As far as procurement goes, there is always room for the intrapreneurs who will become leaders, influencing entire organisations and developing breakthrough solutions for a variety of organisational issues.

A Big Idea Can Come from Anyone

It doesn’t matter if someone is experienced or inexperienced, a recent graduate or a long-term employee, they can still contribute a great idea to a large company. The best ideas could come from someone or somewhere you least expect.

As procurement professionals it is important to listen to our suppliers as much as our employees. No enterprise is an island, and collaborative change can be the most rewarding of all. Our partners on the outside can see what we on the inside can’t, which is why it’s important to heed the advice and suggestions suppliers make. It is a valuable approach to perceive suppliers not simply as an expenditure but as value-adding co-workers.

As the pace of change increases in business and procurement, and new trends and technologies are developed all the time, organisations cannot afford to be close minded when it comes to new ideas. You never know what you are going to hear if you open your door and create a culture of innovation in your company.

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.