How to get them on board

21 June 2009

22 June 2009 | Jake Kanter

More than half of buyers have experienced problems introducing suppliers to e-procurement systems, according to the latest SM100 poll.

The survey of 100 purchasers found 55 per cent had trouble "on-boarding" vendors to new procurement technology. This included any type of software associated with purchasing, from e-sourcing to spend management systems. The remaining 45 per cent said they had never experienced problems integrating new technology into their supply chain.

"Supplier adoption of e-procurement is fraught with issues," said Duncan Stirling, head of recruitment operations at BT. He argued suppliers complain about different technology formats and have to be "pulled" into systems rather than volunteering.

Stirling urged buyers to engage with the market in advance of introducing new technology and view e-procurement as a means to improve service delivery, rather than to simply reduce costs. Other common issues noted by respondents included suppliers' reluctance to participate in e-auctions and difficulties transferring vendors on to purchase-to-pay systems.

"We had a number of issues trying to get suppliers on board with a new e-procurement system," said one buyer for a FTSE 100 company.

She advised: "Ensure the technology you are proposing is common-place in the market and make sure you explain the benefits to suppliers."

John Milne, procurement director for engineering firm Hampco, argued problems are often more deep-rooted: "Human resistance, inertia, technophobia: Buyers can overcome these obstacles by waving the big stick or by gentle cajoling, depending on the value of the supplier to the purchasing organisation. The big stick usually prevails."

Elsewhere, interim purchasing manager David Taylor, who had not experienced any problems introducing e-procurement, said a good understanding of technology was important to successful implementation.

"If you know what e-procurement is, how it works and how a supplier fits into the process, you can answer their questions and remove their fears."

Sandrine Segers, a buyer for aviation firm EUROCONTROL, added that technology must be introduced in small steps as a "big bang" approach rarely works when changing business processes.

SMjun2009

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