Engaging Procurement Users in an Experience-Focused Workplace

Consumerization of IT is driving changes across every corporate business unit – and procurement is no different. Here are the keys to capitalizing on this trend.

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The consumerization of IT may have been championed by millennials, but its impact is felt by every generation of workers, from boomers to Gen Zs. And as users gain more experience with touch-enabled devices, business units can drive up productivity by using tools that incorporate the same technology and/or user experience (UX).  

The question is, how will this impact the procurement function? In other words, how can CIOs and CPOs work together to source and deploy procurement technology solutions that engage end users?

The definition of better software is software that gets used more, according to Paul Blake, Associate Director of GEP. What makes procurement software “better”?

First off, simplicity, says Blake. “If you just do purchase requisitions for your department, buying office supplies using the same cost codes, why do you need to type them in or even see them if they never change? One difference between good and great software is that if you don’t need it, it’s not on your screen,” he explains.

Simplifying – or narrowing down the tools’ visible functions to only what users need and/or use -- can reap huge rewards in other ways. “You could spend a month tailoring the perfect RFP, building a perfect bid analysis to get the perfect result, or spend those four weeks sourcing four different categories instead,” he continues. “You may not get your desired 11.7% savings, it may only be 10%, but you’ve saved that 10% in four categories, and can now move on and do it again. It’s the efficiency and cadence at which you can do procurement, and how effectively that message gets through to the end users who can take advantage of it. You can take forever to get the best possible contract done, but if that’s at the cost of it ever being used, you’ve wasted everything.”

Business units often ask the CIO for an “Amazon-like” experience when creating or sourcing new applications, as shorthand for something familiar and easy to use. “We’re programmed to think that complex means powerful and the reverse – that if you want something that does the job you’ll have to grind and work hard to learn to use it,” says Blake.

This orientation can color the way IT and/or procurement evaluates potential solutions. “One CPO asked how he could trust that a software solution worked as advertised, since it looked ‘too easy to use,’” he says. Blake advises CIOs and CPOs alike to stop and re-think any prejudice that easy to use, attractive gamified software isn’t serious or robust.

Where does consumerization have the biggest impact on procurement? According to Blake it’s on compliance. “If the end user finds that the easiest way to buy something is to use the system compliant with the strategy, then you can’t fail,” he says.

Blake points to this example. “If someone in charge of purchase order approval has to open hundreds of emails, open the attachments, digitally sign them, attach a PDF and send it off, he may say ‘I’m not going to do that right now.’ But if it pops up on their phone and they only have to put their fingerprint on a sensor to approve them, it becomes painless.” And compliant,

What are the keys for simplifying tools to increase productivity?

  • Simplify the end user’s data entry burden wherever possible – whether casual or power user
  • Leave seldom-used software features or fields hidden or disabled unless necessary
  • Deliver a Google-like user experience with screen elements and/or functions that are familiar to every user
  • Recognize that gamified and robust are not mutually exclusive
  • Make the compliant system as easy to use for increased usage – and compliance

What’s the downside of not adopting a more engaging stance? “The next generation of users want and expect to use gamified systems,” says Blake. “So how can you attract good people if you have complicated, outmoded legacy systems?”

For more info, request a demo or contact GEP.