- A VMS implementation is only as clean as the data. The way you collect and organize your data can make or break your install.
- In order for an implementation to be successful, it may need to go in stages.
- Take full ownership of the elements assigned to your internal team.
When your organization is implementing a Vendor Management System (VMS), all of the common software implementation advice applies: Your software vendor should supply an experienced project manager who has been through the process and can help you achieve your goals. All parties affected by the change, whether internal or external (such as your Managed Services Provider (MSP)), must also be on board to help streamline the process. Internally, you need strong leadership and buy-in to ensure success.
These are obvious guidelines that apply to any software implementation project. A VMS installation offers its own unique set of challenges and potential pitfalls. Some are based on the nature of the application and the complexity of the processes you want to manage. Others are related to the sheer scope of the project as it relates to your contingent workforce management program. There are a lot of nuances that must be addressed by the application and implementation process. In addition, you must be sure to take full ownership of the tasks assigned to your organization. Your vendor can only do so much to keep the implementation moving forward. The success of your VMS implementation depends on your attention to these potential pitfalls, and the effort you make to circumnavigate them through focused planning.
Know Your Data
The biggest pain point many project managers experience during a VMS implementation is the pre-work: specifically data collection. Data collection, cleansing and organization is so critical to a VMS implementation because you must assess all of the data before you can make effective decisions on how to configure the application (workflows, approvals, business rules, reporting, etc.). If you begin the configuration process without full visibility to all of the data, your project will almost certainly end in failure.
There are two possible scenarios for a VMS implementation: a replacement of an existing system, or a brand-new installation in an organization that has never leveraged VMS technology before. Thanks to the maturity of the contingent workforce management market, many companies already have a VMS in place. This means that they also have a substantial body of data that was collected by that system – but something was lacking with its form or function – the level of visibility or the overall. This type of “replacement” implementation is much more focused and has more clearly defined goals than a net new project: the customer has already been through it once and knows where improvements can be made. By collecting honest feedback from current users and gathering details on the specific program enhancements you’d like to see, you can help accelerate the process of collecting and scrubbing data and defining key system configurations.
If you’re starting from scratch, it can be a greater challenge to determine the proper configuration of interrelated application components. For example, rate sheets can be related to region structures, which may drive how your requisition sourcing is performed. You will be presented with important decisions that may lead you to feel like you must make sacrifices. A very common “sacrifice” comes from feeling like you are sacrificing granularity for simplicity. For example, if you currently have very complex approval requirements in place, strongly consider simplifying the rules for the sake of streamlining both the application configuration and your overall business process. A complex approval hierarchy can easily spiral out of control, with multiple levels of checks and balances enforced by the system that result in frustrated end users and longer cycle times. We find a much higher rate of “configurer’s remorse” when the more granular or complex route is chosen. ALWAYS demand justification before choosing the more complex path.
Define Your Goals
Throughout the implementation process, keep your primary drivers in mind. These could include cost savings, compliance, user experience, process efficiency, visibility and so on. Early on, you should establish a set of goals for your VMS. Be sure to prioritize your goals so that the implementation can be focused and your metrics can be strategically defined. As part of this process, be sure to identify which elements are essential and what is “nice to have.” For example, many organizations that are focused on cost savings create complex billing scenarios based on tenure-induced rate reductions. However, the level of tracking and configuration required to enforce this within the system (or the resulting disruption to your business might negate any anticipated cost savings. As you work through the requirements associated with your contingent workforce program, keep simplicity in mind.
When planning your VMS implementation, think, “What is absolutely required?” rather than “What is everything we could possibly do?” If you consider adding a complex process or an extensive system configuration, work through the reasoning behind it and be sure to justify it. Every element of the system must have demonstrable business value, or it is not worth including – superfluous fields and excessive steps detract from the value the system can add to your business.
You should also consider whether a phased implementation could be beneficial. Even though the initial impression of this method may be that it will prolong the process and lead to a delay in realization of ROI, the opposite is often true. By implementing one category or line of business at a time, you may be able to achieve results more quickly, and this method may help validate some of your assumptions. A phased approach can be necessitated by many factors, including the readiness of your lines of business, other IT initiatives, M&A activity, or simply the sheer magnitude of the program. When working in phases, clients typically find that they are wiser at each stage, having learned valuable lessons that help them tweak and improve subsequent phases. Over time, as the system begins to collect data, they are able to gain deeper insights into their contingent workforce management processes.
A software vendor can only do so much to keep the implementation project on track. There are several factors that can contribute to the overall success of your VMS implementation. Don’t rely entirely on your software vendor to make these things happen.
- Gain consensus among all key decision makers on which data is important, what key metrics should be measured, and how different data elements are defined. Identify key decision makers whose responsibility it is to break the analysis paralysis and keep the project moving.
- Make sure all key decision makers are available for meetings when significant decisions need to be made. If they are unable to participate, this will hold up your implementation process.
- Prepare all of your data BEFORE starting to implement the software. Attempting to do these things simultaneously will slow the process and lead to rework.
- Establish processes in areas where they are lacking. Use this opportunity to add additional definition to your business’ workflows, and leverage the software to enforce new practices.
Make the System Work for You
Remember: Your VMS is there to help support your business processes and to put new ones in place where they may not exist today. A VMS implementation gives you the opportunity to question and validate existing processes and rules. Only by doing so will you get the most from your contingent workforce management program.
About the Author
Peter Parks is vice president of product management at Provade (www.provade.com), which delivers a vendor management system for global workforce spend management.
Provade has been breaking the mold of “typical” VMS application platforms for large and medium-sized businesses for nearly a decade. Built on Oracle’s enterprise platform, Provade VMS helps businesses realize significant benefits in their contingent workforce management and services procurement programs.