Change Management for SAP Ariba Success: Transformation

The buzzword “transformation” is everywhere. Procurement Transformation. Supply Chain Transformation. Finance Transformation. P2P Transformation. That’s because implementing an automated procurement system like SAP Ariba is a big change.

Catching Up from the Beginning

As we discussed in the previous articles in this series there are four main pillars to leading a team to embrace the changes that SAP Ariba represents They are Leadership AdvocacyCommunicationAlignment of Roles and Processes, and Training. Properly implementing these strategies can make that big change a true transformation.

Go Big or Go Home

In addition to the change in how people do their jobs, if you need to make a process or policy change, this is the time to that as well. That enables you to take advantage of the fact that these are compliance issues and share that everyone simply must make the best of it.

That also positions leadership as being on the side of the user and letting them know you’re trying to make it easy for them. Your audience for this transformation isn’t just learning what keystrokes to make in this new system, they are also learning the purpose – again that mission and vision. In other words: why they must make this change, why it’s important, and why they’ll be held accountable now.

These encompass those first three pillars – Leadership, Communication, Alignment – and is wrapped up in the final pillar: the training.

Remember, this is a PROCESS

Changing from a manual or older procurement system to SAP Ariba can take months or even years from the time the initial decision is made, to the actual date of Go-Live.

Which, again, brings us back to communication. There will be different people across the organization that have been involved but in different stages. Maybe they only read the initial announcements, or they see quarterly updates, but they’re not really involved until later. Then there are other people who play a much more important part, designing and testing and being the subject matter experts.

Because so many people are involved in different ways that it’s important to put a framework in place to continually remind people how processes and roles will be changing. This is also the opportunity to remind them that they’re expected to be on board with these changes.

That may be done with an internal website or a SharePoint site, or some other internal communications tool so that it’s there for constant updates and access to training tools. For those who may not have seen all the updates, this can work as a historical record as well, so they can go back and look at communications that they may not have bothered to read when they first came through.

Tell the Truth

It’s tempting to ignore issues within a company’s processes, possibly because it can be easier that way. But when making a big transformation that will have a significant impact on people’s jobs, in some cases even leading to layoffs, it’s important to be upfront with the people who are trying to learn and use the system.

The risk of letting people hear it through the grapevine, is that rumors and assumptions about the system can flourish, which can lead to non-compliance. I’ve seen departments who “heard” that their department didn’t have to use the system, so they simply didn’t bother.

Two-way communication should also always be encouraged so people know that management, part of that Leadership Advocacy that’s so important, is staying in touch.

For example, if AP says, “Hey, you made us get rid of all these people, but we still have to enter all these invoices and it’s a mess.” The reply from management shouldn’t be crickets, it should be an acknowledgment that not all suppliers have come on board, but it’s something that’s actively being worked on.

Or, if facilities heard that the ordering process doesn’t work so refused to use it, that non-compliance should not be ignored. Rather, schedule a special training class so they can learn how it DOES work.

Ariba solutions don’t always work perfectly out of the box, and it’s good to acknowledge that so that users don’t become discouraged. But also make sure they’re aware of what did go right, and how the things that didn’t are going to be dealt with.

Keep up the Momentum

Going back to the sheer length of time that instituting SAP Ariba takes, that process does not end with Go-Live, it should be continuous.

If the leadership team has been saying for 12 to 18 months, “We’re going to deploy Ariba, we’re going to need you to play a part in it, we need your time we need your effort,” and then you have Go-Live and no one ever hears anything else, they can assume that using it is not that crucial.

This has to do with momentum and the story that was told to “sell” Ariba to the users.

And that communication doesn’t have to last forever. Once you get past those first 6 months and people have access to that micro-training and get comfortable with the system, perhaps quarterly updates will be all that’s necessary.

Or maybe some key wins – like automation, supplier adoption, savings – can be a pinned dashboard that stays on the SharePoint site and everyone sees when they log in. That lets the users know that their time, their investment, and their participation are important to continue meeting the vision of having this new procurement system.

This also allows the administrators to communicate important information about SAP Ariba’s quarterly updates: if something that somebody wished could be better or different becomes available, that’s just a continuous improvement that everyone can share.

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