How to Maximize the Adoption of New Procurement Tools

by Thomas Delamarre

The success of Procurement tools is often measured by end-users’ adoption. Unfortunately, even selecting the ideal tool does not automatically guarantee that everyone will use it. There are steps you will have to take after implementation to get your team on board with your chosen solution. And let’s be real: the perfect tool doesn’t exist anyway! 

So, how can you maximize adoption? How can you better convince, inform, train, and engage buyers to embrace and use new Procurement tools? 

This was the question we set out to answer when Cédric Guillouet, Consultant and Founder of Companion joined Thomas Delamarre, Success Lead at SpendHQ during Salons Solutions in October 2023.  

Here is a summary of their conversation and the best practices you can leverage to guarantee successful, long-term adoption of digital Procurement solutions. 

Bring together key Procurement stakeholders

From the outset of a project, it is crucial to identify and involve the right people. To maximize the adoption of a solution, start by forming a multi-disciplinary team that represents departments affected by the tool: Procurement, Finance, Legal, etc. Together, consider the tool’s usage and expected benefits to synthesize each department’s expertise, perspectives, and expectations. These factors will help you identify the functionality each department needs for the tool to be useful for them. 

Beyond identifying key functionalities, the team you form must think collectively about the tool’s various use cases. Think about how it will impact each department. Doing so will ensure that the specifications meet everyone’s needs. This process will also leave each stakeholder feeling that they were a contributing member of the project. This is a critical early step in getting everyone bought in. “It would be a mistake to put the success of an application solely on the shoulders of the end-users. It’s up to the whole project team to contribute to it, both during the implementation phase and when the solution is in use,” stresses Thomas Delamarre. 

The success of a digital project depends on the roles and involvement of everyone: the sponsor, the champions, and the managers. If the stakeholders were an orchestra, the sponsor would be the composer, the champions the conductors, the managers the soloists, and the users the musicians. Each is crucial to the success of the concert! 

The Sponsor: The driving force 

It’s a decisive role, as it is often the sponsor who provides the budget for the implementation of the new tool. And where there’s a budget, there’s always an expected return on investment.   

The sponsor must not only ensure that the right project team is in place; they must also monitor the project’s progress and associated metrics. This follow-up, which will take the form of measurable objectives, is a crucial and ongoing effort. However, it cannot stop at the end of implementation. Once the tool is in use, the sponsor must also set and monitor KPIs such as: 

  • Weekly and monthly logins per user
  • Number of projects created per month
  • Number of outcomes logged per month
  • Logins over time vs. total target

The Champions: Key facilitators   

Frequently referred to as “administrators,” this group plays a vital role in the long-term adoption of a Procurement tool.  

Finding the right person for this role is critical. For Champions to work optimally, their job description must devote as much importance to running the tool as to managing it administratively.  Of course, technical mastery of a tool is important, but it must serve adoption or it will be ineffective!   

That’s why it’s crucial to select the right in-house “Champion,” a procurement expert who understands the purpose of the tool beyond the technical side of its configuration. The Champion will not only be in a position to find more and better ways to operate, but they will also have the knowledge and experience to challenge and identify new features that are useful throughout the organization.   

Last but not least, it’s essential that champions and users speak the same language, which is another reason you need a someone with procurement experience, not just another technical expert. Choosing the right person will ensure a high level of responsiveness in day-to-day management, as well as proactivity in the evolution of the tool and its configuration.   

Managers: The indispensable leaders  

No matter how good the action plan is, it will end in failure if you don’t deliver it. That’s why the role of Managers is crucial. They are the ones who will carry out the action plan by ensuring that their teams use the solution to deliver results. Based on our customers’ experiences, you can help them succeed by making the tool the only solution managers and their teams use. 

Promote, support, and give meaning: the three keys to success 

The addition of a Procurement solution to an application ecosystem should not be taken lightly.  Even if its utility, ergonomics, and ease of use have justified its addition, it is still an additional tool for buyers to use on a day-to-day basis.    

To support the implementation of a new tool, it’s important to find the right balance between three elements: 

  • Promoting and enforcing use
  • Supporting the team
  • Giving the process meaning

Promote and enforce to build a collective purpose  

Once the organization has selected a tool, invested in it, and justified the budget for it, the Sponsor must be able to demonstrate the associated ROI. There must be no exceptions to its full use.  

It’s up to the Sponsor to promote this new tool to managers, and it’s up to managers to ensure that buyers actually use the solution. Each one depends on the other to achieve the goals associated with the tool.   

However, imposing the solution is not the same as forcing it through. For example, it can be beneficial to make the launch of an application a special event. Create a collective and unifying moment, for example, around a launch party or happy hour. Stimulate a positive dynamic and create a feeling of belonging to a common project in which each stakeholder will be expected to participate, but also pursue their own interests. 

Support the team to drive momentum  

The Sponsor and the Champions are the key team members who will support and drive the adoption of the new tool!    

The Sponsor must support and monitor the digital transformation that the project initiates. If the goal is to extend the collaborative aspect of the new tool beyond the Procurement department, the Sponsor must promote and even sell this application to other functions instead of relying solely on the goodwill of the targeted populations.  

Whoever owns the budget for a purchasing application must sponsor the tool, from the implementation phase throughout the tool’s lifecycle. A sponsor can’t just be the one who pulls out the checkbook to pay for the annual license, but rather the one who has to spread the word about the product within their department and among the other departments that will be impacted by the new solution,” says Thomas Delamarre. 

If you’re in a context where the solution needs to be cross-functional to the whole company, you need to make sure you have the right level of sponsorship, whether it’s at CFO level, or even at a general board management level, so that they champion collaboration and reinforce it if necessary,” adds Cédric Guillouet.  

As for the champions, they are the guardians of the temple. They have to be able to explain the reasons behind the configuration choices and the dimensions the tool captures. 

They must also be in a position to adjust these elements as the Procurement process evolves within the company to ensure that it stays up to date with ever-evolving objectives. 

Give the process meaning at every step

The majority of Procurement organizations report to the Finance Department. Given the close link between purchasing and financial results, it makes perfect sense to think in financial terms when talking about Procurement.  

This is important, but you also must think in terms of Procurement! If not, you will significantly reduce the maturity of Procurement in your organization.    

Convincing buyers to adopt a Procurement tool primarily for “financial reporting” purposes is probably not the best way to make it sexy. The tool needs to speak their language and be interesting and valuable, not an additional burden. For example, by setting up input and control modes (via dashboards) you can streamline buyers’ day-to-day management rather than just helping them report results.  

One of the keys is to give buyers a new sense of purpose to get them on board: “We’re seeing some customers offering their purchasing teams a share of their annual bonus based on the fact that they’ve filled in their procurement tools,” adds Cédric Guillouet as an example. 

What about the software provider?   

The solution provider can also play a part in maintaining this balance!    

It must offer high-quality service, both in terms of tool support (Customer Care) and monitoring the solution’s value to end-users (Customer Success).   

Doing so in conjunction with regular contact maximizes information gathering and best practices sharing. This relationship will also allow Champions and Sponsors to create enablement content and meetings for their end-users. 

The Provider’s Customer Success team will be responsible for listening to Sponsors to better understand their challenges and provide them with the right use cases, or in some cases even develop certain functionalities to achieve their goals.   

Then, it will help the Champions launch the functionalities and key elements of the desired procurement process in the application.   

Finally, the sharing of best practices between the Provider’s customers will enable Champions and Sponsors to evaluate their own procurement processes as part of a continuous improvement process. 

One of the final key success factors in guaranteeing adoption is consistency. Ongoing support will always be more effective and beneficial than a one-off launch event. Permanent sponsorship, ongoing support, and understanding the value of the tool on the part of end-users are essential to guaranteeing the lasting adoption of a Procurement tool. Without it, we start re-onboarding and re-training users get them back on track… 

To conclude, 3 tips:   

  • The Sponsor must not only be involved at the launch of the application but must also be the person who validates its ROI on an ongoing basis by monitoring progress toward the objectives set at the time of implementation. They must also find new goals after the team meets these initial objectives! 
  • Champions need to be in contact with buyers to help them adopt new practices, not just a new tool. This effort needs to be constant. The more the Champions are aware of the application’s potential, the more they will seek to use new features and updates to the benefit of the users. 
  • Each managerial level must set an expectation that their teams will log results in the application. 

Thomas Delamarre is SpendHQ’s Success Team Lead. With more than 10 years of Procurement experience, he is an invaluable asset to SpendHQ customers and teams alike.