At Efficio, our main goal is to transform procurement from a widely operational exercise into a strategic, value generating exercise. As part of this, we need to appreciate that not all businesses and procurement teams are the same. To tackle this effectively, we need to gain a real understanding of the company and the individuals that make those teams.

This is why all our procurement digital transformation projects start off with a discovery phase. It may surprise you to know that this is led in tandem by our consulting team and our user experience team. The work in this phase revolves around understanding structures, processes, and people within the scope of the project as well as outside of the scope too.

Looking a little outside of the scope of the project can yield valuable results. During a recent project, we identified a team that was not initially involved in a certain process, but whose skills could actually enable it to function more efficiently, so we brought them on board.

However, understanding the people and the contexts in which they operate is key. Deeper level interviews yield rich information about the individuals which we can then turn into artefacts to aid with understanding, design, and communication throughout a project.

A commonly used tool for this is a “persona”. Personas are used widely in many sectors, but the personas we often use are slightly different.

Most persona documents will have some demographic information (name, age, marital status, number of children, pets etc.), some reference to “pain points” and usually a section entitled “goals”. Goals will often include things such as, “get a promotion”, “retire early”, “have a good quality of life” etc. There is often a whole host of other information added to ‘fill out’ the user’s life, usually from the perspective of being outside of work.

However, at Efficio we approach this differently, and we do it for a reason.

Powerful personas

The personas we create are not constructed in this manner. They may play a role in playback sessions and meetings, but that is not why we create them. We create personas to communicate to the team working on the digital transformation project who their clients are and why we are working on their project, and most personas are not really fit for this purpose. For us, the most important things to establish when working to transform a procurement department are their key objectives and challenges, the barriers to growth and ultimately, what drives them to do the job they are paid to do.

If all members of the project team understand these things, they work with more purpose, they ask more questions, they probe and understand where delivery is most important.

Consider a situation we experienced recently. One of our senior consultants and our UX Lead were interviewing the procurement team at a large global company. Through the interviews, we discovered that each procurement professional was highly-educated and many came from a non-procurement background.

We learned about the categories they looked after, their day to day, their month to month, but we also learned about what made them tick, what frustrated them at work, how they felt about their role and how we could make them feel better about their role.

An interviewee from one of our projects in the pharmaceutical industry gave us a nugget that epitomises the reason we approach things the way we do. During the conversation about his working life, he finished with stating that at the end of the day, the work he did meant that lives were saved. Not just one life, or that he got the best price for the services his team were sourcing, no. It was that he helped save lives. Multiple lives.

The effect this has on the design, development team, and project team, is profound. They know that lives are at stake and understand that really, this is what drives the people we’re building software for. More questions get asked internally, more thought and time is taken over making sure the right solution is developed and delivered. The quality team push themselves harder.

This of course, relies on information being communicated well and that is where a properly constructed persona comes into play. The goals are no longer “get promoted” or “source a service at the best price” they become “save lives” and “improve people’s quality of life”.

Building stronger working relationships 

Those day to day pain points we examine, those touchpoints we look at under their service delivery, all become more important. People on the team might question whether they’ve misunderstood - this discovery phase we carry out helps us to avoid those potential misunderstandings. Executing this approach well will enable stronger working relationships, a comprehensive understanding of the client’s aims and the challenges they’re facing, as well as their motivations, better facilitating the process of the transformation project.