Daily Archives: January 5, 2009

Working with Your Users is Key (to Spend Management Success)

Today’s guest post is from Bernard Gunther of Lexington Analytics.
He can be reached at bgunther <at> lexingtonanalytics <dot> com.

Getting key people involved with the design of any system is good advice. This is especially true for the design and usability of your spend analysis system. The key users for any single commodity include the sourcing manager and the business line owners who drive demand for the commodity. These business line owners may include multiple people from different divisions with different responsibilities. For example, for PCs, the users could include someone from technology who ensures the machines conform to corporate IT standards, as well as someone from a major business line that drive the demand for a specific unit.

Rather than thinking of working with users as a burden, think of it as an opportunity to engage and educate your users and refine the work process. Collaborating with users will help you:

  • create a better commodity structure,
  • demonstrate that you value their input,
  • get user buy-in by incorporating their feedback,
  • find out what’s important to them, and,
  • establish a process for working with each type of user going forward.

A working meeting should cover the existing spending – showing users their spending by commodity, vendor, cost center, and GL codes – both summary and over time. You should ask for input on the commodity structure, the vendors used, the preferred vendors, and any vendors they think are missing. You should ask how they use the data; what value they get from the data and what they would like to have in the system or reports that they don’t have now. If you are doing category cubes, you should review spending patterns, contract compliance and ways to improve the information that exists. The meetings can be formal sit-down sessions with new users, or can be done by email / telephone with users who regularly work with the data and are already providing feedback.

These meetings will probably involve a lot of give and take, but they are essential to improving communication and producing a structure that makes sense to the people who have to live with it. Don’t assume everyone fully understands why these working sessions are important to the company. Let them know why their input is critical. And don’t be concerned if users initially resist these meetings. Their resistance will drop once they have an “a-ha!” moment and start getting value from the data.

In addition to an initial meeting, other milestones that may warrant follow-up meetings are:

  • When someone new takes over responsibility for a commodity. The more they know about their new position, the better they will perform. If you start out providing value, they are more likely to come back for more.
  • At the end of a sourcing event. Ensure that all the learning and changes in the category is properly reflected in your spend cube.
  • On a regular basis, say every 6 to 12 months, ensure that the key users are actually using the data. If they aren’t, why not?

This may sound like a large number of meetings, but, when all is said and done, these users are your “clients”. Is there a more productive way to spend your time than meeting with your client and making sure the service you provide is valuable to them?