People And Process Transformation Before Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation

In this fourth and final installment in this Keynote Series, we talk about the "judicious deployment" of emerging technology without losing sight of the human side of digital transformation.

To achieve this "balance," Mattress Firm's VP of Indirect Procurement, Quave Burton, discusses the importance of motivation through employee recognition while challenging her team to "stretch themselves" to learn new and better ways to achieve strategic objectives.

Ground Zero

For Quave, the journey of transforming procurement at Mattress Firm started at ground zero.

When I say ground zero, there wasn't a procurement department when she started working with the company. As she explains it, she was immediately on a transformation journey, starting with getting the right people to do the right things.

Fortunately, and with the full support of senior leadership, the organization was ready and willing to make changes.

At this point, I think it is essential to stop and stress the benefits of having to build the foundation for procurement transformation, starting with people before introducing technology. As anyone who has been in our industry for some time will tell you, in the past traditional ERP-based procurement initiatives have generally failed to achieve the expected results. Many studies estimate that the failure rate is between 50% and 75% - some even put that number higher.

The three main reasons for this less than stellar performance are poor User Experience, data inaccuracy, and analytics.

Despite introducing more advanced and intuitive "by-the-drink" technology solutions, CPO's dissatisfaction with digital initiatives remains high.

What was different with Quave's people-first approach is that digital transformation began with an understanding of her new team's skill sets so that they could better align and leverage technology. In other words, she sought to enable and extend people's abilities to do their jobs within the framework of a "collaborative understanding" through her team's participation in the initiative from the start.

Why was this collaborative approach to automation of the procurement function so important?

Because digital transformation is almost always seen as a technology update versus a positive evolution of the way people think and work. The only way to make this transition successfully is to understand how people work so that you can demonstrate how emerging technology will make their jobs easier and enable them to be more "strategically productive."

Strategic Productivity: A New Vision

As Quave said, on day one, when she joined the company, there "was not a procurement department." She then clarifies that while there was technically a procurement function within the company, its focus was more on tactical purchasing and buying versus making a strategic contribution.

In outlining her plan to senior leadership, Quave said becoming strategic meant that procurement's focus needed to shift to leveraging information and data supported by a strong process.

By transitioning from being a functional and transactional procurement department to one with a more strategic focus on achieving key company objectives, her team would deliver significant benefits across the board, including meeting their ESG goals.

Facilitating Change

It is hard to disagree with Quave's approach to transformation. I am sure you will agree with me on this point.

However, can Quave's success translate into success for your company? Will a people and process-first approach work in your present environment?

According to Quave, the environment for change didn't really exist when she started. While there was both the desire and commitment to change, the reality of meeting the demands of everyday tasks meant that she had to adopt an incremental, one step at a time strategic change management mindset.

That said, when the opportunity presented itself to move forward, she was able to turn data into meaningful insights and demonstrate her team's ability to deliver value beyond traditional cost savings. By making it easier for both internal and external business partners to understand how procurement can do more, all stakeholders could see the direct link between procurement's actions and outcomes with the judicious introduction of technology.

The takeaway from Quave's session: Nothing facilitates organizational change more than game-changing success for everyone. 

<< SIG Members: Download the complete slide deck from this panel session in the SIG Resource Center >>


Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, SIG

Dawn Tiura, CEO and President of SIG, SIG University and Future of Sourcing Digital Publication, has over 26 years leadership experience, with the past 22 years focused on the sourcing and outsourcing industry. In 2007, Dawn joined SIG as CEO, but has been active in SIG as a speaker and trusted advisor since 1999, bringing the latest developments in sourcing and outsourcing to SIG members. Prior to joining SIG, Dawn held leadership positions as CEO of Denali Group and before that as a partner in a CPA firm. Dawn is actively involved on a number of boards promoting civic, health and children's issues in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Dawn is a licensed CPA and has a BA from the University of Michigan and an MS in taxation from Golden Gate University. Dawn brings to SIG a culture of brainstorming and internal innovation.