Eversheds' five secrets of e-sourcing success

With over 50 offices worldwide, Eversheds is one of the world’s largest corporate law firms.

At the forefront of innovation in legal services and in an increasingly competitive market place, the organisation needed to develop a robust procurement strategy that would help it to compete effectively and react to market conditions more quickly.

Traditionally procurement’s role at Eversheds had been to drive down costs and reduce the supplier base, but the firm was keen to ensure procurement delivered a stronger value proposition, with strategic partnerships in place throughout the business.

In any type of business, it can be a challenge to get hold of robust, workable spend data and analysing it to provide the level of granular detail needed. Often the data received is coded for where it sits in a budget line and not necessarily where it sits on the procurement strategy line. To better understand and manage all supplier contracts within the business, the firm decided to adopt a contract management tool. This would enable all supplier contracts to be held in one place and key stakeholders could easily access them. This would then help us build a procurement strategy based on renewal dates as well as spend. Ease-of-use and transparency were important factors when choosing a new solution to avoid any resistance or barriers to the legal team or other stake holders accessing and using it.

Having reviewed a number of options, we chose a source to contract solution as it encompasses both contract management and e-sourcing which enables us to not only run e-auctions for low-cost goods but automate and workflow all our tender processes.

When it came to introducing this new technology into a business, we decided upon an incremental change, by mapping the culture of the organisation and gaining traction across the business rather than jumping in at the deep end. Our strategy for the adoption of any new system is based on the 'TAPP' principals: technology, assets, people and processes, and the roll-out of the new contract management database was no different.

There were a number of key drivers for success to ensure a successful roll out:

• The right software supplier. In some ways this can be more important than the product itself. Good software needs to be backed by a professional and attentive supplier who ensures a smooth implementation and is constantly investing in the development of the solution. Getting it wrong might not only mean financial loss but could also potentially leave you with egg on your face – perhaps not the best way to gain business engagement when you’re trying to introduce a new procurement process. The supplier we selected came highly recommended by our peers and we felt extremely comfortable with them – there was a lot of work ahead and we needed to be able to work together in a true ‘partnership’ approach.

• The right product. Technology is constantly changing so we wanted a product with a strong roadmap of innovations and improvements within its future upgrades. Eversheds is known for being a law firm that constantly innovates, so we are very cautious of products with no technology road map as we don’t want to end up with something which in five years’ time hasn’t kept up with the latest technology or procurement thinking. The fact that our software provider ran a user group was also key. This forum allows us to contribute to future developments and talk to other users which is invaluable as a law firm looking to stay one step ahead. My team really enjoy the user groups and often come back using functionality they hadn’t used previously or ways of using the system to drive value in other areas. As a result of a recent user group one of the team developed questionnaires to gain feedback from our suppliers on their latest environmental initiatives. This will enable us to work with our supply chain to more accurately monitor our suppliers’ carbon footprint and it also contribute to our corporate responsibility objectives.

• The right team of people. As a law firm with a global presence, Eversheds believes that diversity and creating synergies within teams is fundamental to our success. A diverse team was needed throughout the entire implementation and we deployed the strengths of all our team members. Our project manager was on the Eversheds’ graduate programme, but what she lacked in experience, she more than made up for with enthusiasm and tenacity. We were able to support her with our experience. We also involved our in-house legal team at the very early stages of the implementation process. This ensured by the time we went live, any queries they had on liability and contracts were ironed out and they were fully engaged in the new system and the benefits it could bring to the organisation.

• Listen to the experience of others. Attending the user group before committing to a new piece of software was really useful. Your software supplier should have one, and if they don’t, this could signify they have something to hide! We listened to what other companies were asking for and what hurdles they had to overcome. This of course differs for all organisations but understanding the culture of our own company helped us to recognise what areas we needed to put resource into before getting into a similar position.

• Using the correct leaderships skills for this kind of project is vital to its success. We would recommend you look for an inspirational, interactive and transformational leader. Someone with previous experience of similar projects is ideal. Often a great deal of time is spent in collecting the contracts from cross functional departments at all levels of the firm. Having a leader and senior sponsor of the project with sufficient gravitas and engagement skills to gain buy in from others is of great benefit. Constantly motivating the team, promoting successes and setting a clear vision helps keep everyone on track in achieving the end result.

These tips were instrumental in helping us successfully roll out of our new system in just four months. Dozens of suppliers are actively using the portal and hundreds of contracts are already in place in the database.

Adopting any new technology or ways of working is always a challenge for any organisation and there are inevitably new people, processes and cultures to contend with as the roll-out progresses. These key points should be at the heart of any new software implementation as they can help overcome any challenges that present themselves along the way.

Joanna McCarthy is procurement manager at Eversheds

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