Procurement Teams want Pretty Simple Solutions.
You may describe it as smooth, sleek, and easy.
The American Psychological Association describes it as intuitive and enjoyable (apa.org 2020).
The ‘it’ in question is User-Experience, widely known as UX, and when you have a good one it’s an objectively awesomely outer-body feeling that encompasses a lot more emotions than enjoyment.
Our world is exponentially digital, and humans have become exponentially tech-savvy, likely with the turn of mobile capabilities. In our personal & professional lives we’re subject to a plethora of solutions and applications; self-checkouts at the grocery store, surfing Netflix to find a good movie, uploading a picture to Instagram, uploading receipts from business expenses, managing tasks during a project, and much much more.
We are users.
At home, at the grocery store, at the gym, at the doctor's office, at fast-food restaurants, at work, and just about anywhere we turn we’re subject to new user-experiences from familiar, or foreign digital applications. We live in a user-centered world, where efficiency is king, and ‘overly complex’ is anything that takes longer than 3 seconds.
As Barbara Chaparro, Ph.D., head of the Research in User eXperience (RUX) Lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida says, “Cognition, perception, sensation, motivation, attention, emotion — all of it comes into play in (user-experience),” she says. “It’s all about understanding people” (apa.org 2020)
Tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Netflix and others have mastered the art of giving that ‘wow, that was easy’ feeling to their customers. These organizations understand people and focus on making life — as a user — as simple as possible when using their applications.
The Personal — Professional Discourse
If you scroll through the applications on your mobile phone, my guess is the majority of your personal applications have better usability than those of your business applications.
When you look around your professional organization, it’s pretty apparent that certain functions have better workplace applications than others. Unfortunately, procurement has long suffered as a function in the organization with poor business solutions at hand.
Well, the vote is in, and the tribe has spoken. Procurement teams no longer want to rely on the Oracle or homegrown solutions. There’s a clear push within the procurement practitioner community that they want ProcureTech vendors to solve complex problems with easy-to-use, easy-on-the-eye, solutions. Their demands are far from unreasonable. Procurement teams simply want access to solutions of the same caliber as Hubspot, or Slack; solutions that marketing & sales teams have had the luxury of using for years. And, procurement is finally receiving the budget to digitalize and update exiting solutions. 78% of procurement leaders, regardless of industry sector say they intend to invest in at least 3 digital solutions in the coming years (PwC 2019).
Procurement teams are looking to close the gap between the usability of their personal solutions and their professional ones.
Procurement Teams want Pretty, Simple, Solutions, and they want them now.
Poor UX can cost you
Procurement is a domain filled with practitioners who are experts in managing costs, risks & optimizing ROI.
So… let’s ask a question that any procurement professional reading this article would ask themselves; what can poor UX cost for your procurement team?
“Studies have repeatedly shown that most employees are not at their desk 50–60% of the time during work hours, which means employees are mobile more frequently than not. With so much riding on digital experiences, it’s safe to say that the workplace deserves better UX” (oakwood.com 2017).
Poor user-experiences can make for inefficient work. Ineffective work equals FTE losses. You can do the math.
Efficiency costs are one thing, but bad business solutions can also impact your team’s cohesiveness, morale, focus, productivity & cross-functional collaboration.
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Data-driven operations & strategy is becoming a new standard in industries at large, but are procurement & sourcing…
Don’t just trust my word. Let’s look at the numbers. A study by Momentum Design Lab found the following:
- 5-15% of IT development projects will be abandoned before, or shortly after delivery due to poor usability. This amounts to $150 billion lost.
- 45% of users give up if registration, entry or onboarding to a tool is too difficult.
- In 2013, Avon pulled the plug on a $125 million software overhaul, after a pilot of the system in Canada revealed that iPad rollout was too difficult to use, and many sales reps began to quit the company. (Momentum Design Lab).
While a misplaced button, messy user interface, or complex workflow may not seem like anything more than a bit of frustration or a wasted 15 minutes when it occurs, that time and frustration can add up.
Remember we’re the users; it’s ok to require solutions that have a user-centered focus.
How UI/UX & ease-of-use play into the decision making process
As Tom Petty famously sang in his hit Learning to Fly from 1991, “What goes up, must come down”.
While poor UX/UI can come w/ challenges and consequential costs, procurement solutions that embody smooth User-Experiences and sleek User-Interfaces pose massive gains for the function, and recent trends suggest it’s starting to play a big role in the purchasing decisions of digital work tools.
WBR Insights & Mintec surveyed 200 procurement executives from Europe, and North America, and found that UX/UI was a red thread as the top selection criteria when choosing modern digital procurement solutions (seen in Graphic below).
As seen here, the third priority and selection criteria are to purchase solutions that require minimal, or no, customization. Less customization means easier time-to-adoption. The faster an implementation project can reach it’s commencement, the less IT resources are required, and the quicker value is delivered to the procurement team and, inherently, the business.
Complex and/or heavily customizable solutions have had their day, but are quickly reaching their expiry. Procurement teams are getting lean, and they want to adopt ProcureTech that remains nimble, whilst solving complex challenges.
Is your procurement team focusing on UX/UI & ease-of-use, as selection criteria in digital procurement solution evaluations, tenders, or purchases?
If so, great! If not, here are some of the reasons why you should bump these criteria up, on your requirement list:
- Less IT Support Needed: “80 percent of chief information officers and IT directors devote half their time to low-value, nonstrategic tasks, according to a Logicalis study. So it only makes sense to choose intuitive solutions that require less end-user training and support. IT departments will then be able to take on more value-added projects” (Marshall 2014).
- Faster Time-to-Adoption: If a solution is easy-to-use than it’s likely easy-to-implement. The quicker you can implement & adopt a solution, the quicker you and your team can begin to reap the benefits!
- Managing Change and Aligning the Team: Choosing to purchase, and giving your procurement team, easy-to-use digital solutions and work tools will make them happy campers. If your ProcureTech solutions are simple to use and fill their function well, then you’ll likely be able to align the team behind adopting the new technology; streamlining change management.
- User Engagement and Frequency: Easy-to-use and engaging solutions & technology will be used with more frequency. Better user-health (metric for the level of use) can lead to more complete data quality, operational gains, and ultimately a competitive edge.
- Impacting Investments & Budget: If you’re going to invest in new digital procurement solutions, chances are you need a sign-off, blessing, or dedicated budget from your C-Suite/Board. If you choose intuitive solutions, with appealing interfaces, easy to grasp value propositions, and low FTE implementation resources necessary, chances are you’ll be able to make a strong business case of the investment.
Embracing a Digital Culture
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times… We are users.
Processes are going digital, and procurement technology needs to reflect user-centered design methodologies; meaning, procurement needs pretty simple solutions!
Digitalization & digital transformation in procurement — something that was once seen as unnecessary, or non-business critical — is becoming ‘critical and of high-value’ to the business. As found in WBR Insights & Mintec’s report, “46% of respondents (procurement leaders) said their C-suite saw digital procurement as critical and high value, while on the flip side of that, over a fifth said it was peripheral to their strategy and of low value” (WBR Insights & Mintec 2020).
We see from the statistic quoted above, that whilst the acceptance of procurement’s digital transformation has increasingly become the norm, there still exists a group of naysayers.
Here’s the thing. Going digital in procurement is no longer ‘peripheral to a strategy’. Digitalization is a race to the finish line and requires C-Suite support and an organizational culture to harness digital transformation. You can think of digitalization as a lengthy marathon, where your team needs to sprint between each mile.
Building a digital culture is the best way to ensure that digitalization efforts will result in wide-spread adoption/acceptance of the vision, and result in competitive edge.
Adopt solutions that mirror the culture you aim to build!
Until next time.