Dealing with the P2P skeptics

Posted by Pete Loughlin in Purchase to Pay 23 Aug 2015

Despite over 20 years of progress in Purchase to Pay, there remains a resistance to change in many quarters and a proper approach to change management is key to helping business realize the benefits of P2P.

I’ve been guilty of making inappropriate assumptions about the sophistication of businesses and their employees. Not all businesses operate at the bleeding edge of technology and neither is everyone OK with the networked economy. E-procurement is like magic to many and electronic invoicing simply beyond comprehension. And it’s these people that we have to bring with us when we implement purchase to pay best practice.

Site LogoIt’s easy to dismiss the skeptics and put them in the box labeled “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. But that’s as unfair as it is ignorant. It is certainly not the way to manage change. To manage change effectively you need to understand people’s fears and concerns and respect them. It’s only then that we’re able to help them move forward.

Here’s an example.

In an old-world organization where paper requisition pads are still used, people were concerned that e-procurement was giving them more work to do. It was felt that e-procurement was part of a conspiracy by procurement and finance to delegate their work to their customers. “We don’t have the resources to do this,” they’ll say. “That’s procurement’s job” or “this is the work that finance have always done”

For anyone thinking “which century is Pete thinking about” let me introduce you to the real world. Yes, these conversation went on in the 1990s but believe me, they still go on today.

So how do you tackle these objections?

First and foremost, listen, understand and respect. Then, think of an analogy that people can relate to.

Even the most dyed-in-the-wool skeptic buys books from Amazon. It’s cheaper and it easier. Do the skeptics still say “but going to a book shop gives me access to experts who can find the book I’m looking for. They’ll put it in a nice bag. And they accept cash”? No they do not, because although Amazon makes you do the work of the bookseller – you need to put the author’s name into the search engine for example – you can shop from your settee. You don’t need to spend half the day getting to the bookshop and back. It’s easy and guess what – Amazon have a virtually limitless stock.

And e-procurement is the same. Yes, Procurement delegates some of its work to end users but everyone benefits. Users are empowered. It’s easier and quicker to use an on-line catalog than to write up a paper requisition. And Procurement can focus on getting better deals for the business. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

We used to have typing pools – an army of women who could type. Today, we type for ourselves. Can I seriously compete in business if every communication requires me to dictate to a secretary who then passes her shorthand to a typist? Email has empowered people at all levels to do the work that we used to have people to do for us. Resisting the use of e-procurement is like calling for a return of the typing pool.

What this analogy does is gently persuade the skeptic that their position is untenable. Without confrontation, it helps them to understand the common sense of what is proposed. The real reason for their skepticism is fear of change. It is a genuine fear that we should respect but when we position it against something they’re familiar with, they can be persuaded to embrace change.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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