5 Communication Tips for Procurement Initiative Success

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How do you get widespread adoption of your spend management initiative? It's critical to have an easy to use tool, but you also have to communicate. You have to let people know what you're doing and why you're doing it. It helps to take a page from marketing best practices, says Jim Heininger,  a brand strategist whose firm Dixon-James has done award-winning work in procurement communications, such as the McDonald’s Corporation SpendSmart program.

Writing in SpendMatters recently, Jim shared five communications tips to build support for a new procurement initiative and implement strategic sourcing best practices. His article caught our eye since we touched on this topic earlier this year, in a conversation with Andrew Bartolini who in this year's CPO Rising report suggested roadshows as a way to get the word out about your spend management initiative. Between Jim's and Andrew's recommendations, we're starting to wonder if procurement shouldn't start thinking about having its own marketing department!

Here are Jim's tips:

1) Consider Branding the Initiative. Create an internal branded program to address the cultural and structural obstacles that need to be overcome for success. For example, if moving from a decentralized structure to a more centralized procurement approach, the branding needs to convey the value and simplicity of everyone working together under one common system. Make the name or brand of your initiative aspirational to get people excited. Keep it short and simple, and if possible, articulate the goal and aim of the project.

2) Create “Change Agents.” Educate your core team to be change agents within the company and make it part of their job description. Train them to understand how people change their behaviors and accept new approaches. Give them the right information to share and equip them with the skills to deliver those messages in a compelling and consistent way.

3) Use Multiple Communication Channels and Techniques to Gain Understanding. The essence of communications is repetition so your key messages need to be tested, proven, and consistently shared over and over again. Express leadership report of the initiative, build stakeholder relationships, and share success testimonials to build your story. Deliver all your messages with enthusiasm and optimism for the long-term benefits of the project.

4) Be Transparent. Acknowledge the challenges faced by the new initiative and that it will require hard work. Stress how the outcome will be worth the investment of everyone’s time and energy. Continually report both accomplishments and savings. But most importantly, thank people along the way for their flexibility and contributions.

5) Prepare to Answer the Challenge “what’s in it for me?” and “why should I care?” when developing your communications. To be successful, you must create followers. Before all the compelling facts and hard evidence can convince employees to believe in your new procurement approach they must accept the change emotionally. That requires honest dialogue.