Though slight variations are inevitable, most procurement organizations follow a familiar process for selecting and implementing their tools. Generally, it looks something like this.
- They decide they need a new procurement solution.
- They conduct research and begin to engage with appealing providers.
- They create and distribute an RFP.
- They score the RFP responses to narrow things down.
- They schedule vendor demos and score them to narrow things down again.
- They do their due diligence with reference calls and additional research.
- They negotiate with a few select finalists.
- They make their selection.
- They go back and forth with redlines and suggestions.
- They sign on the dotted line.
- They kick off their project and finally start to talk about implementation.
Implementation is on the wrong side of this list. While it’s often the final step, it ought to figure into Procurement’s earliest conversations.
At a high level, the process of implementing procurement technology can be summed up in four words: design, build, test, deploy. Different providers use different synonyms (one prefers plan, execute, validate, enable; another elects for mobilize, model, validate, deploy), but the main phases are generally similar.
Design is one of the longest and most critical phases standing between you and your value generation objectives. It can include many factors such as creating approval trees, determining supplier on-boarding procedures, and outlining various organization roles and their respective permissions in the software. Most of it can occur without even selecting a provider. That’s why, as a best practice, organizations should kick this process off while they’re still in the evaluation stage. Although different vendors will provide slightly different user interfaces (UIs) and offer various Efeatures, much of the core processes are consistent from vendor to vendor.
Waiting so long to begin design isn’t just flawed thinking, it’s utterly broken thinking. Implementation should be about enabling your plan within the technology to ensure that your planned business outcomes are met in a timely manner. Initial design work should begin prior to vendor engagement to determine both Procurement’s desired business outcomes and the features necessary to deliver on them. This lets you create an RFP with these thoughts in mind rather than one that only runs down a list of common specs.
With this method, the vendor is selected based on your needs instead of adapting your processes to the technology’s needs. This results in a fundamental shift in dialogue during vendor kickoff. Instead of the vendor just beginning to discuss your current processes and needs, having a complete design guide ready for their feedback allows the build phase to commence immediately.
Fun Fact: Almost all solution providers start charging for the software the day the contract is executed, not the day you go live. Starting your implementation before you begin vendor selection can save your company five to six figures on software costs. If you select a vendor that meets your design needs rather than the one that gave you the best demo, you’ll see value generation occur months earlier.