Help! My employees aren’t using my eProcurement system.
Despite the potential benefits and growing demand for eProcurement software, user adoption rates remain sluggish at best.
With nearly 90% of companies placing internal employee satisfaction as the top priority in their eProcurement initiatives reported by Hackett Group, end-user resistance poses as one of the biggest barriers in realizing the true potential of eProcurement.
It is important to remember that while eProcurement software could help companies achieve cost savings and high procurement ROI, it is not a solution in itself. Ultimately, it is up to employees to utilize the software to drive cost savings, procurement ROI and efficiency.
To increase user adoption of our eProcurement system, we need to first understand why employees are resistant and what tools and features an eProcurement System can have to help achieve a 100% user adoption rate.
Why are employees resistant?
“People are one of the biggest barriers to change management”, as evidenced by Quayle (2005) studies. Initial apprehension to a new system is not surprising, because changing behaviour and learning new business workflows requires more effort from employees than sticking to the status quo.
However, a bigger obstacle at hand is the disconnect between expectations of employees and the actual performance of the system. Employees have high expectations due to their experiences with B2C e-commerce sites, such as Amazon, where purchasing is simple and fast. In reality, B2B systems’ user interfaces may be more disorganized, with forms and workflows being inflexible and not moulded well with companies’ business structure. When frustrated and confused, users would then most likely revert back to their, though inefficient, familiar manual procurement processes.
If employees are resistant towards using eProcurement systems for purchasing, procurement processes would not flow through the system, and the high-priced technology will go underused. The once promised ROI is then not delivered, derailing the company’s well-intentioned efforts to achieving cost savings and efficiency.
How do I Increase User Adoption Rate?
100% user adoption rate is possible, but pressurising employees into compliance rarely produces high adoption rate. The answer lies in User Experience, Effectiveness of the system and Customer Support system from the vendor.
Since eProcurement vendors are the ones who design the user interface for their systems, they have a responsibility to work with companies to help guide staff. In order to ensure a successful user adoption, eProcurement solutions should be adaptable to best fit into the company’s business processes, and vendors should provide training and customer support to ease user resistance to the new system.
1. User Experience
User experience touches on the emotion, intuition and connection of employees when using the software.
As employees can be quick to judge software, first impressions of the platform’s visual design and user interface affects their experience with the platform. Employees usually judge by the usability and flexibility of the system.
eProcurement initiatives must be based around well-designed user interfaces that are intuitive and easy to use, so users require less training to understand and utilize the platform. While some training is always welcome and necessary, complex systems that are not intuitive create more friction and lower adoption rates.
On the other hand, familiar and intuitive features can help encourage usability. For instance, punch-out catalogues are a specific type of web-based supplier catalogues connected directly to the eProcurement software, allowing users to browse and choose goods & services through suppliers’ catalogues for easy approval and purchase.
In addition to being able to streamline several steps during the purchasing processes, The similarity of punch-out catalogues to the user’s own online shopping experience significantly reduces the time and effort required.
The more flexible a system, the more it closely it can be configured to organisations’ existing systems and workflows, which in turn helps to reduce friction with users. Rather than a one-size-fits all approach, configurable systems can reduce time and effort required for users to get familiar with the system and induce a more pleasant user experience.
Flexibility can be incorporated into all aspects of the procurement process e.g. the nature of the spend category and suppliers you are interacting with, the compliance rules for specific items, the approval hierarchy for requisition and purchase orders. Along with a flexible system, eProcurement vendors would work with the organisation to collate all this information to configure the sourcing process, the P2P process and user interface to meet the needs of the organisation.
User interfaces are also made more intuitive with configurable forms. They are significantly simplified and will only display necessary fields for users to complete purchases.
The effectiveness or operational capability of the system also plays a pivotal role in user adoption. Operational capability focuses on how well the system functions, which encompasses the intrinsic features of the system, such as ease of supplier adoption, assisted sourcing and speeding up approvals.
a. Ease of Supplier Adoption
If suppliers find an organisation’s eProcurement system difficult to use, users will likewise no longer be able to procure the products with their desired suppliers and subsequently user adoption will decline. These difficulties for suppliers often relate to poor user interface, but can also include fees for participation and transactions via the system. What’s worse, suppliers often end up increasing their prices to cover these fees, resulting in additional hidden costs for the organisation.
Choosing an eProcurement system that eliminates this barrier by waiving fees and the need for registration makes it easy for Suppliers to view and submit proposals, further reducing friction for users.
b. Assisted Sourcing
With most current sourcing processes, users are tasked with the manual work of searching, following up with suppliers for quotations and comparing vendors’ quotations.
In eProcurement systems with automated sourcing, users can search for suppliers simply and quickly through filtered searched and curated lists. The system makes use of algorithms powered by artificial intelligence to strategically shortlist a number of suppliers based on various factors, such as location, past users’ recommendations etc.
When a purchase has been made from a particular supplier, details are also automatically recorded in an organisations’ supplier database, so the next time similar purchases are required, users can quickly retrieve, from the directory, the information of suppliers their organisation has used before and invite them to quote in a timely manner.
c. Quick Approvals
Advances in eProcurement systems implements automation-driven technology to speed up the approval process. Especially with urgent purchases, users need fast turnarounds for approvals on requisition and purchase orders (POs).
With manual procurement, users have to follow the linear approval process, following one step after another. Because each step is dependent on the previous step, many experience bottlenecks and slow purchases, especially when approvers are not in the office.
For eProcurement systems with automated workflows, once the user places their purchase requests (PRs) or purchase orders (POs) online, the PRs or POs are automatically sent to relevant personnel to obtain approval, skipping through the unnecessary steps along the pen and paper trail.
For cloud-based eProcurement, approvals can even be completed on-the-go, with email notifications sent to approvers on approvals that need to be processed, so approvals can happen anywhere and anytime, reducing processing time and maverick spending.
Moreover, if the approver is not available, some eProcurement systems allow the appointment of a temporary approver, preventing absences from affecting the speed of processing time.
3. Customer Support
Customer training and after sales support from the eProcurement vendor is essential for successful user adoption. As your organisation is adopting an eProcurement system, Customer support is necessary during implementation, training users and ongoing support.
While your organisation is responsible for reinforcing eProcurement initiatives and Change Management strategies, finding the right eProcurement vendor will help to ensure a smooth migration onto the system.
With an eProcurement vendor who has the knowledge to guide your team through implementation and migration onto the platform, and who will provide support for staff members after implementation, will help users adopt the system better.
b. Customised Training
Investing time to learn a new system is an important step in eProcurement adoption. An intuitive user interface could reduce time and effort needed to learn the system, but training is still necessary to help users learn how to fully utilise the functions of the software. Customised training sessions provide a personalized touch and assistance to suit the needs of users.
c. Ongoing support
The responsiveness of a vendor to the customers’ queries or requests can make a huge impact on user adoption. Event after implementation and training, it is unreasonable to think all users would be able to adopt the system completely on their own. Having the vendor provide support to help resolve issues and answer questions gives users the confidence to use the system, knowing there is help when they need it.
Overcoming the challenge of low user adoption requires the collective effort from several key players – senior management, the eProcurement vendor and users themselves.
The first step is choosing a system with intuitive, well-designed user interface that could be configured to suit your organisation’s needs and workflow processes. Providing positive user experience can go a long way in improving user adoption.
Now that you have the features required for improving user experience, success of the eProcurement implementation cannot be confirmed yet. Metrics are needed to measure the success of eProcurement performance and end-user satisfaction or acceptance. To learn more about these metrics, please read our next article of a two part series on User Adoption.
Read and learn more about successful eProcurement Adoption below!