Anyone who has been through a technology implementation will know, it’s not always simple. Having been at Ivalua for many years and been deeply involved in numerous customer projects – ranging from simple to complex, covering the full scope of source-to-pay – I thought I’d share my perspective.
Ensure your objectives are clear to yourself and the technology provider. Most organisations have the same objectives. They want the project to be delivered on time and to budget. There is a third goal, which is perhaps less obvious but no less important. You (the customer) should be able to understand the value that is being delivered as the project is being implemented and you should expect the technology provider to be able to demonstrate the value to stakeholders throughout the project delivery. Whether you are implementing e-sourcing or a full procure-to-pay solution, you need to be able to show the value clearly and have clear processes in place. Each stakeholder must see the value at each stage of the project.
Delivering value is not always clear. Sometimes, further down the road, when you start to plan the implementation, you realise your business has a unique need, for example, or you need certain processes to be carried out in specific ways.
Experience has shown that the best way to mitigate the inevitable bumps in the road of stakeholder expectations is for the CPO to ensure you mobilise enough resources on your side for the project. It is essential to take people off their day-to-day tasks and ensure there are enough people to answer the business and technical questions necessary to ensure the value is clear. This is especially important during the early stages of the project, but no less important throughout the entire process.
The technology vendor needs to understand what your current processes are. They need to see these processes documented and both need to understand if these processes are effective or need to be rethought and find out who knows what they are.
If you want to deliver the project on time and to budget, you need the people who know the ‘as is’ and also what the target is ‘to be’. You must not start the ‘to be’ without knowing the logic of your current systems. Ensure that you have the people in the room, who know the business and the pain points as this will improve how effective the future state is.
Through the process of “design”, as we call it, we go through workshops to share our best practice approach but also to understand what the customers are looking for in a future state. We help them visualise this and get a feel for what the experience will be like.
The technology provider offers a means for business transformation, but the transformation vision and objectives are based on the customer, you must make sure that this is clear for everyone. Ask yourself what are your obvious objectives, but also what are the hidden ones. What are the goals that you have in mind? Make sure it is clear to everyone because this is not a moving target. Is it clear and realistic? And try not to add in additional business processes once you’ve started the journey.
Collaboration and alignment during “design” are key as they ensure all stakeholders are on the same page and prevents further roadblocks down the road.
Ivalua has a 6 step process/phases:
Step 1: Mobilise
This is where we establish and align on the plan. We spend time identifying all stakeholders and we organise the kick-off meeting.
Step 2: Design
This is where we capture and document the customer’s requirements. Based on this we need to understand how to enable the best customer experience in the Ivalua platform. This session can get quite detailed in terms of understanding what the customer needs and showing them how Ivalua works and making sure that we have everything covered in terms of requirements. Here there is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained between keeping things simple and going overboard with requirements, especially when you have a platform that can accommodate a lot. There are 2 design methodologies: Waterfall - build and then show; Agile - build as we go.
The Ivalua specific methodology is an Agile/Waterfall hybrid. We try to gather as many of the requirements in the design phase so that 80% is locked in and we have some flexibility in the remaining 20%. During the design phase, we get specific on as many processes as possible. An example of this could be how should the customer approve PRs, what the business needs in terms of supplier information, etc. The remainder (20%) is reserved for inevitable changes down the road.
Step 3: Build
During the build phase we are creating the customer experience iteratively with frequent interactions with the customer to ensure alignment. They can see various details and still have some room for slight modifications, provide feedback and make corrections.
Ivalua’s job is to create the best and right customer experience based on the design phase. We split the work into sprints, within each sprint the amount of work planned has to be completed by the team and made ready for review. At the end of every sprint, we have a work-in-progress review and show the customer the progress. We show the core project team on the customer side, subject matter experts and everyone involved in the design process. This can be 60-80 people or five people, but it must be all of the right people. Each business needs to be represented at the design and build.
Step 4: Test
Users are involved and provide feedback, during this testing phase we fix and adjust minor things. An example of what can happen at this stage is testing of integrations, that may need to be adjusted to work seamlessly.
Step 5: Deploy
This phase is quite short as we are getting ready for go-live, preparing all environments in the production environment, so we are ready to have data flowing ready for the cut-over in the production environment to the live system.
Step 6: Hypercare
Usually a few weeks after go-live, the project team makes sure everything is going well and that there are no major issues. It is vital to keep the same team from the project engaged to make sure we can quickly react during the transition and so that the knowledge will pass to the supporting team who will take care of the customer’s application for many successful years.
The biggest issues are around getting the right resources and enough resources that know the business. Before you embark on any project you should have a very in-depth understanding of the current situation. Some clients underestimate the workload for design and testing. They think they have their processes well defined in their flowcharts and documents, However, a flowchart for an approval process does not answer all the questions for a design phase. You need to be specific e.g., do emails/reminders have to be sent at a particular stage and what happens after X number of days, who do we escalate to? Sometimes this is a simple process, sometimes not.
Integrations need to have the right people involved from a technical perspective - sometimes legacy systems are older than the current stakeholders and there is a gap in knowledge. For the best outcomes, the right people need to be involved from the start.
Don’t overthink your processes and don’t try to reinvent a process for the sake of it. This is your chance to simplify and adopt best practice, not replicate super complex processes that are from the past. Think about what is possible now with current technology. The technology provider should challenge you on why you do certain things in a certain way if it sees unnecessary complexity. However, only you can remove that complexity in favour of a new process that makes the most of the new technology you are investing in. You may encounter resistance to change as your stakeholders and users may just prefer the old way, and you need to have them in the room when discussions and decisions are being made.
Constant communication. When we start the project at the kickoff we set up monthly steering meetings at the Executive level. There are weekly project status meetings with project leaders, Ivalua, partners and clients to share what has been done, the challenges and what’s planned for the next week. We put any roadblocks or risks on the table and take a realistic health check on the overall project status.
Daily communication between the teams is vital. For this, we use email and phone of course, but at Ivalua our preferred way of communicating is via our proprietary tool where we can track every single decision and new requirement the client has and how we are planning to address those. Everything is recorded, tracked and can be reported against for all communications. It is searchable and also used by clients to interact with Ivalua teams.
This happens sometimes, unfortunately. Sometimes the client says, well into the project that they need something and it will need extra budget. The best way to avoid this is to be extremely thorough in the design phase. You have to have the right mindset at the design phase to anticipate where these future problems might arise. However, when they do come up we listen and be open-minded and we are experienced at problem-solving, but also staying aware of budget and timelines.
In our vast experience, crises can usually be solved in a really simple way. The client may say "your team says it’s not possible", at this point our DNA is to be patient and listen to what the customer wants and needs. We try to keep things calm and go back to the facts. Often when people are honest and transparent we can solve difficult issues with minimum effort and in a very simple way, especially when we take the emotion out of the situation.
Our difference is really in the combination of our technology platform, our culture of customer success first and in our collaborative approach. Our experience ranges from simple, fast deployments to large scale, complex global rollouts and we have the technology as well as internal and partner experience/expertise to make our customers successful. We also have the customer success team who can step back and take the 30,000-foot view of the situation.
To summarise, when you are embarking on a digital transformation of any size, ensure that you know what your goals are, and make sure these are communicated to your internal teams and to the companies you are working with. Have the right people in the room. Complete a robust, open and transparent design phase that will not only mean that you get what you want but it will also guarantee that your organisation gets what it needs, and maximises the investment it is making in this new technology.
This is not a time for reinventing the old, but for having an open mind and creating the future you want.