Seven Keys to a Winning Digital Procurement Project

Selecting your procurement tools isn’t the only digititalization success factor. In this article, you’ll discover the 7 key successes that characterize a winning digital procurement project. 
Procurement has been a major lever for organizational transformation in recent years, making digitalization a primary goal of many procurement teams. When done correctly, digitalization significantly improves the agility, collaborative capabilities, and efficiency of procurement teams. Procurement is now doing more with fewer resources, optimizing time spent on tasks, ensuring data reliability and accessibility, and even automating some tasks – all of which have deeply transformed the purchasing profession. 

Most procurement activities, such as dematerialization, e-sourcing, business intelligence, spend analysis, contract management, supplier relationship management, and performance management can now all be covered by digital solutions. 

Given the plethora of options on the market (complete suites, specific modules, SaaS applications), it’s critically important to choose the option that will provide you with the most value. While it’s a crucial step, selecting your tools isn’t the only success factor of a digital project

  • “We were blown away with great features, but now that the tool is deployed, we realize that this is not what we really need”. 
  • “We mobilized a great project team, but once the solution was implemented, the energy came down, as no one was really following the project anymore”. 
  • “We have a great tool, but out of 200 people, only 20 located in two business units are actually using it”. 

Unfortunately, these are common experiences for a variety of organizations. As an experienced procurement software vendor, we have helped multiple organizations overcome their struggles and strived to identify what works in pushing a digital project toward success. These seven key factors will guarantee the success of your digital project

#1. A Committed Project Team

Regardless of how it may sometimes feel, the success of your digital procurement project is in your hands. To accomplish a successful implementation of a purchasing solution, you must rely on efficient collaboration between software vendor and client, making it critical to optimize time and dedicate the right internal resources. It’s essential that the project team be available as much as possible in the implementation phases to support the vendor in the choice of parameters. The speed of deployment is dependent on the amount of time the in-house project team will dedicate to implementing the new tool each week. Here are some best practices for putting together a well-rounded project team: 

  • Mix business expertise with various levels of seniority: Involving different profiles and sensitivities will allow you to stick as close as possible to reality. New tools are adopted and utilized differently, depending on each user’s background, as well as their level of expertise and goals. We observed that winning project teams typically combine purchasing experts, technical profiles, people dedicated to internal processes, and even younger employees or those with a particular appetite for digital. Each of these roles can bring a useful and complementary perspective to the project. 
  • Engage the solution administratorearly in the project: It is important that the Solution Administrator be able to take ownership of the topic as early as possible to position themselves as the technical expert for the tool.   
  • Assign a decision maker on the project team: The decision maker is the person who will mediate the selection of one solution over another, guided by a full understanding of the organization’s processes and project goals. 
  • Engage your key stakeholders. A procurement tool will not only serve the purchasing department; it will also be used by multiple departments in your organization. So don’t hesitate to involve external contributors with your project team. This may be someone from the finance department who can help define reporting needs or one of your main internal customers who can help collaborate on the solution.

#2. A Well-Aligned Purchasing Process

Your technology can only succeed if it’s supported by solid, real-life processes. Your tool is the catalyst that will allow for efficient processes, but they must be defined upstream of the technology. There are two key points for a successful configuration of your digital procurement tool:  

  • Make sure to define some operational rules and validate them internally before configuring your tool. Additionally, use the digital transformation process to review and update your internal operating rules, if needed. 
  • Set boundaries for your roadmap and define your main objectives. Identify current problems and list the solutions that the tool needs to provide. 

As a procurement vendor, our mission is to support our customers in configuring our solution to meet their operational issues.

#3. A Dedicated Testing Phase

The implementation phase provides a crucial opportunity for internal users to test the solution based on concrete use cases. The feedback you receive will allow your vendor to pivot in order to deliver a final version of the tool that will more accurately meet your day-to-day needs.  

Here’s some advice to make the most of this test phase:  

  • Write a few scenarios in advance, keeping in mind that concrete use cases are necessary for the tool to work properly.   
  • Identify “champion” users and leverage even the most reluctant ones in order to cross-check different feedback.  
  • Involve your internal customers and stakeholders during the configuration process and encourage them to become active contributors using the tool.

#4. A Go-Live Event

The most successful projects are the ones that make an impression. Regular communication about project phases will make it easier for teams to understand and gradually buy into the solution. Make sure you communicate your objectives to stakeholders. Don’t hesitate to distribute a provisional project plan and communicate the go-live date internally. 

The project “go live” must become a real event. By planning a widely communicated kickoff, you can create excitement around the launch, which will lead to buy-in and accelerate adoption. 

Go live is also an opportunity to highlight the role your purchasing function plays within your organization. Many formats are possible. For example, you could opt for a half-day session dedicated to user training followed by a speech from the project team, the purchasing department, and other sponsors (such as finance and internal customers). 

Don’t hesitate to end the session with a networking opportunity, such as cookies and coffee with the project team, the procurement manager, and even the purchasing and finance teams. The key here is to create a positive dynamic around the new tool and ultimately highlight the steps you’re taking toward digital purchasing transformation. 

#5. Step-By-Step Digital Transformation

It’s a common mistake to deploy 100% of a digital solution in one step. Being ambitious is good, but being smart is even better! Our advice: introduce new features as your users become familiar with the solution. Focus first on the tool’s main features, collect user feedback, make sure users are mastering each part of the tool, and then deploy the next feature. When you introduce all features at once, you risk scaring your users and inhibiting full adoption of the solution. 

But don’t just take it from us. See what our clients have to say about iterative implementation: 

Vlad Craciunescu, Indirect Procurement ControllerZalando

Digital transformation of Procurement is a continuous journey. My advice: Start, get going, implement 80%, roll it out to your users, get feedback, improve, and move one to the next one.

Julie Ramoneda, Digital & Telecom Purchasing ManagerLVMH Group

The key is to get started, going step by step by prioritizing one’s needs. The benefit of a progressive approach is to the ability to start testing and then imagine new use cases.

#6. User Adoption

Resistance to change is human. Even the most intuitive tool requires support to optimize usage and ensure long-term adoption. This is the key pain point for any digital project. It must be orchestrated from the outset and managed over time. Remember that the solution administrator plays a critical role here. In addition to ensuring adoption, the solution administrator must maintain a daily link with users. Our customers have noticed that the adoption rate is even better when a user-support process continues beyond the initial training sessions. 
Here are some user adoption best practices identified by our customers:  

  • Communicate during every stage of the project: You selected the tool for good reason! Don’t hesitate to regularly showcase the benefits of your solution within your user community. 
  • Create an internal user guide: This playbook should reflect all the specific rules for your organization. 
  • Set up a process to onboard new users: Your process should involve a welcome message, share the user guide, and set up training sessions. These steps ensure that users have the resources they need to become proficient in the tool.  

Have you noticed that users have lots of questions in the months following implementation? Don’t panic, it’s a good sign! It means users are interested and actively engaging with the tool. 

When this happens, organize a Q&A session and invite all members of your user community.  Our advice: don’t hesitate to rely on vendor support throughout this process. The “customer success management” approach is made precisely for that! 

#7. An Engaged User Community

You are surely not the only one using a new digital procurement tool. So don’t hesitate to rely on your vendor’s existing user community. Many procurement software providers have launched user communities with the sole purpose of sharing experiences, highlighting new features, and discussing tool roadmaps. This is an opportunity to engage with users who have faced similar issues!  

For instance, SpendHQ’s PPM gathers its customer community once to twice a year to present new features and deepen knowledge of the tool through customer feedback. It’s also a great opportunity to share user commentary and purchasing best practices among peers. 

The success of a procurement digital project is based on the technology and the vendor that supports it, but a winning project requires much more than that. The human element is fundamental! You need a vision, the right project team dynamics to ensure long-term adoption, and a committed customer team to steer and drive the project.