Purchase to Pay – how to prevent regressive behaviour

Purchase to Pay – how to prevent regressive behaviour

We all know what it’s like teaching children to eat properly. “Use your spoon, not your hands. Chew nicely. Don’t talk with your mouth full” etc. Then you turn your back and before you know it, there’s beans up the nose and an empty bowl upside down on their head.

Welcome to the world of P2P.

Site LogoIt can be frustrating getting people to change and even when you do manage to alter their ways of working, if you don’t put some structures in place to prevent them from regressing, they will revert to their old behaviours and all of the good change management work will be undone.

I’ve seen this phenomenon on more than one occasion. Not long ago I was called in to support a P2P project in Europe. It was like déjà vu. The project was identical in nearly all respects to a similar project I’d worked on 10 years ago – with the same company, in the same building and with many of the same people. It had taken 10 years but they had successfully undone everything that had been put in place originally.

This may seem obvious but it’s not. Lots of change projects leave a route back to the old world. Ever heard this: ” You must use the system to create POs, but we’ll leave you with a requisition pad just in case.” Given the opportunity people will always revert back to their comfort zone.

Top Tips to avoid regression

1. Make organisational change permanent.

Creating a virtual team by seconding people from Finance and Procurement to implement Purchase to Pay works extremely well. The project develops a holistic flavour that recognises the P2P really does span Finance and Procurement. But if that collaborative structure is not maintained when the project reverts to business as usual, it’s likely that old siloed behaviours will re-emerge.

Put in place a matrix management structure that maintains the co-ownership of P2P KPIs between Finance and Procurement.

2. Develop a regimented regime for new monitoring controls

Implementing P2P is often about creating and/or tightening controls to ensure procurement policy is followed. Don’t simply rely on people to maintain these controls. Put in place a regimented set of procedures to ensure that the maintenance of monitoring controls is highly visible and ensure that there are consequences if things slip.

3. Keep KPIs up to date and visible

Key performance indicators are the measures of success and without them, nobody is aware of whether things are going well or not. Commit to them by making them visible and report them to senior management at regular intervals. This way they’re maintained and regressive behaviour is spotted early.


Purchase to Pay projects are much like other change projects. It is not all about the technology – it is about getting people to buy-in to new ways of working and developing new habits. A level of patience and understanding is required. Even people who want to change are only people and they flawed and they need a structure to help maintain new habits.

Just because people say they understand it doesn’t mean they do understand. Just because they say they’ll do things differently doesn’t mean they will.  Just because they say they’ll eat properly, it doesn’t mean you won’t find them with a plate on their head and beans up their nose the moment you turn your back.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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