It’s easy to underestimate the importance of Leadership Advocacy when it comes to implementing a successful SAP Ariba project.

As director of the Ariba Managed Support (AMS) program at CCP Global, I’m often called in to consult with companies that – even after 2, 5, or 10 years – feel that their Ariba solutions are not worth the time and effort they put into purchasing and implementing them. I’m usually their last-ditch effort to salvage that investment.

What I often find is that the people who need to use it refuse to do so and there are no consequences for that refusal.

That can be avoided if there is a comprehensive change management strategy in place from the very beginning of the project to the end, starting with Leadership Advocacy.

Three Factors for Good Leadership Advocacy

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1. Project Sponsorship

I once was hired to help a multi-billion-dollar company salvage an Ariba system they’d had for three years and virtually no one was using.

I discovered that only one executive was championing the switch to Ariba. A single procurement VP in a sea of VPs. Other divisions of the company were ignoring it, and he had no power to change that.

There was no visible sponsorship from the very top of that organization from Day One. And that meant too many people assumed changing to an automated procurement system was optional.

My investigation revealed a couple of roadblocks. The first was technical issues that made the system less user-friendly. That explained some of the resistance from users to adopt it.

This is a common problem too. But It has less to do with change management than with not understanding that Ariba is a powerful, complex system. It needs dedicated, talented administration and support people. My colleague thoroughly addressed that issue in Six Ways to Avoid SAP Ariba Post-Deployment Failures.

In this case, on both issues, technical difficulties and lack of leadership, my team and I recommended revamping the system it and re-selling it – to everyone.

We put in Guided Buying and made other corrections so it was easier to use. Then we went back to the executive suite and told them: We need your support so the users understand this is required and are held accountable.

Once we had that buy-in, we were able to go back to the users and say, “We know we’ve been telling you about this for a couple of years, but now there’s a new look, a new feel, and we have more support.”

2. Bolstering Vision and Mission

One successful way to present this systemwide change is to create a vision and mission for the change.

That includes touting the benefits. For example, automation, streamlining the workforce, consolidated purchasing, greater efficiencies, or cost savings in various areas. Whatever the person trying to bring Ariba into the organization envisions how the system will improve processes or increase profits.

When executive management understands those benefits, ensure the entire workforce recognizes the vision for how the company is going to bring Ariba in across the organization. Clarify that it’s important to the company for x, y, and z reasons. But also, that it’s important to the user or the supplier, or the people in Procurement and AP for whatever reason. Then they’ll clearly understand the role they play and the impact on the organization.

For suppliers, it’s the opportunity for expanding their customer base when they’re enabled on the Ariba Network, or increasing on time payments. For the buyer, maybe something they do now takes 10 clicks, but in Ariba it will only take two clicks. Maybe it’s finally having true purchasing collaboration options

In other words, communicate that it’s not just a change, it’s a change for the better.

3. Fostering Accountability

The point of having the support from the top, then communicating the vision and the mission to everyone else in the company is to encourage compliance. The goal is for people to voluntarily learn and use the system.

However, when a potential user doesn’t want to change, they often aren’t held accountable. Sometimes for many years.

That’s a serious flaw because If buyers are walking to Staples purchasing office supplies with their corporate cards, or suppliers send emails to accounts payable so AP can cut them a check, there’s no accuracy in the main benefit of Ariba. That benefit is visibility into spend management and the procurement process. Those manual processes also take more time and manpower than Ariba’s automated systems, further reducing the return on investment.

Everyone should be told from the beginning: You work for our company. We require you to follow the system as we have set it up.

That needs a top-down approach too. I’ve seen many instances where someone on a supervisory level or in mid-management signs off on expenses or orders or invoices that they KNOW should go through Ariba. Everyone needs to be held accountable so that doesn’t happen.

Putting someone in charge of compliance keeps the system working. That means having an in-house administrator or compliance team in place from day one. Alternatively, a dedicated, outside compliance team, such as CCP Global offers through its Ariba Managed Support services, can fulfill that function.

Those teams, or that person, generates reports and sends those reports to the executive leadership. The leader then picks up the phone and says to that manager (or their boss): Why are you signing off on these things? Why aren’t you making sure the people that report to you are using the system?

When users know they’re monitored, it incentivizes them to log into Ariba next time and use the catalog.

Be Proactive about Leadership Advocacy

In the best case scenario, a company integrates these procedures BEFORE implementing SAP Ariba. That ensures success from the very beginning, so that I’ll never need to show up in the building. But it’s never too late to fix what’s broken either.

In the next blog in this series, we’ll discuss Communication, and how early, targeted, and clear communication wins over even the most reluctant user.

CCP Global's SAP Ariba Managed Support (AMS) team has salvaged many languishing SAP Ariba systems. Contact us to see how we can help you get the ROI you expected from your Ariba investment. 

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