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Procurement Transformation: A Modern Road Trip, Part 3 – The Weather

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Preface: For Part 3 in Velocity’s Road Trip blog series – “The Weather” AKA Client Partners – we were fortunate enough to have a real-life Client Partner guest write for us.  She has exposed some vulnerabilities that all organizations face prior to or during a Transformation, but many are too shy to admit.  So, without further ado, we give you Aly Warner and her meteorological explanation of putting a Procurement Transformation into motion.

You work in Procurement and have been meaning to get to that project. THAT project. You know, the one that everyone keeps talking about. Go ahead and say it. Procurement Transformation. What comes to mind? New technology? Quicker process? Better tools?

If you felt a wave of motion sickness come over you when you heard Procurement Transformation, you are not alone. While the term can mean different things, we’re talking about the BIG kind of transformation. Game changer. Roll up your sleeves and dig in kind. It is the type of change that involves and impacts people, processes and tools.

Imagine the care-free ride in your Winnebago with bright sunny skies and clear roads suddenly giving way to driving that RV right into a big nor’easter, a bomb cyclone, or a monsoon as you continue down the highway on your road trip. You weren’t expecting to encounter record snowfall and ice, strong wind gusts, or flooded roads. Now imagine those conditions as obstacles during your procurement transformation.  How do you wrap your head around it? How do you prepare? Where do you begin?

From the Client perspective we were the business leaders and requirements owners (the weather). We began with a squall of activity in attempting to understand our business needs. This was kind of a big detail. In fact, as we learned through this process, defining and articulating requirements are some of the most important elements in laying out a strong foundation for building just about anything anywhere. Knowing if you need a snowplow or an oar, or both, when getting started will set you up for success if you buy them in any other season but winter or spring respectively (in the Northeast anyhow). In doing so, you can avoid trying to dig out your car with a dustpan (not recommended) or buying a snorkel for your truck. In procurement speak, knowing what you need to help define your transformation is fundamental. Is it a new system? New user experience? How about integrated modules? Do we really need change management (aka, road salt, hot chocolate and marshmallows, or Rain-X and faster windshield wipers)?

Wide eyed and curious, we ventured into our sourcing phase to learn about the solutions in the marketplace. As we familiarized ourselves with the options, the focus sharpened to building on our needs and adjusting as we went along.  Once we settled on the right mix  of  tires and wipers, a snow plow, and waterproofing (although at some points we just wanted to trade in the RV for a boat), we dug in further and left the store as a proud owner of the proper source-to-pay (S2P) suite of tools.

Inclement weather? check. Weatherproofing? check. Fueled up and ready to get back on the road? check. Lucky person who gets to drive? check.  Getting started was fun, nerve wracking and exciting all at the same time. We looked to our transformation partner to co-design the project plan, identify the players, expose the dependencies, properly segment the phases, etc. We trusted our driver to help navigate our project and avoid the delays and detours while troubleshooting the issues. It was not long before we as a team began to understand how important of a project this really was.

Even though we felt prepared, as storm clouds tend to do when you try to predict the unpredictable, our project threw us for a loop at times. What we didn’t account for was how far the impact of the detours would take us off track. The timing of milestones was impacted by unforeseen events, just like power outages and road closures. You don’t know they’re there until it is too late. The discovery of new requirements overlooked details and other ah-ha moments followed. Sometimes communication with stakeholders was incomplete or nonexistent (similar to cell tower outages and bad reception). Feedback from our most vocal stakeholders was harsh at times (think zero-visibility due to fog through mountain passes) and it was easy to feel defeated and even have self-doubt creeping in. Not the best time to run out of gas!

We became adept at dealing with the unpredictable and learned how to manage through.  Our leader was supportive and always able to put the big picture in perspective for us. Our stakeholders were as collaborative as their styles allowed and most understood the importance of getting this right and avoiding having to do it over. A valuable lesson we learned was figuring out how to solve each challenge as it came to us in order to see the project through. And, accepting the fact or reality that there is no perfect project but how you manage through it makes all the difference.

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