Avoiding the Process Orchestration Trap

Great technology can still fail to deliver results

Hi readers,

📰 In this week’s edition:

Process Orchestration is currently having it’s ‘time in the ProcureTech sun’.

This series is about helping you understand the nuances required to be successful when implementing these tools, if you choose to do so.

After reading, let me know what you thought in the poll at the bottom of this email.

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ICYMI 👀: Here was my most popular LinkedIn post of the week:
21 “Must-Read” Books for Procurement Professionals

📋 Job Board

Here are 5 job postings that caught my eye this week:

Andritz is looking for a Procurement Manager
Full Time | Hybrid | Charlotte, North Carolina 🇺🇸

Blackstone is looking for a Global Head of Procurement Operations
Full Time | Hybrid | London, UK 🇬🇧

DSJ Global is looking for a Senior Sourcing/Procurement Analyst
Full Time | Onsite | Santa Monica, California 🇺🇸

Honda Aircraft Company is looking for a Senior Procurement Manager
Full Time | Onsite | Greensboro, North Carolina 🇺🇸

OMERS is looking for a Manager, Strategic Sourcing
Full Time | Hybrid | Toronto, Canada 🇨🇦

🌙 Sunday Night Note

Last week, I detailed how procurement process orchestration tools flip the script on traditional ProcureTech architectures by allowing you to start with a process in mind and add the applications into their appropriate spot within that process.

This is in contrast to what happens today: stitching together applications to end up with a process.

This is a subtle but powerful nuance that increases flexibility, agility and visibility into your end-to-end procurement process. Furthermore, this ultimately leads to higher productivity, performance and business impact from teams using these tools.

How Do Procurement Process Orchestration Tools Increase Business Impacts?

Fit-for-purpose procurement process orchestration tools have narrowed the gap between business users and technology with:

  • Low-code/No-code tools (read: You don’t need IT to make changes)

  • Best practice, deployable procurement process templates (read: best practices at your finger tips)

The next step?

  • Dynamic Machine Learning (ML) supported process change proposals based on solution usage (read: the system analyzes how you use the system, identifies potential process improvements, suggests them and implements them automatically when approved)

This greatly increases the scope of changes a business person can make to the system without the need for IT department involvement. Theoretically, this gives you the superpower of speed and agility! No more IT required after initial setup. Yipee!

No more need to:

  • Raise a improvement request ticket

  • Prioritize it

  • Explain your requirement to an analyst (who may or may not know procurement…)

  • Approve the configuration/functional specification document

  • Wait for the changes in your QA environment

  • Test the changes

  • Ask for corrections

  • Document release notes

  • Deploy the change

  • And finally, get your change in a production environment and train relevant stakeholders.

Excited Season 2 GIF by The Office


Hold on… Hold on… Not so fat…

Are we celebrating too quickly…?

Implementing great technology has never ensured great outcomes.

It simply ensures you have great technology implemented…

(Read that again…☝)

Why would Process Orchestration be any different?

The Process Orchestration Trap

The “Process Orchestration Trap” is believing that this new generation of tools are a ‘silver bullet’ that dispense you from the need to put good continuous improvement processes and governance in place…

If IT is out of the loop, this just means you can no longer rely on them to enforce change request management and governance…

It means you need to take ownership of this process directly in procurement.

What would that look like?

Instead of the earlier change process involving IT, a “business-only” alternative for managing changes to a procurement process orchestration tool could be:

  • A process improvement request is raised from anywhere in the business (ticket, email, AI recommendation or otherwise depending on the size of your organization)

  • The Procurement Process Owner reviews, approves and prioritizes the request

  • A procurement business analyst / admin / super user analyzes and designs a process/rule change to satisfy the request. They ensure it makes sense in the wider context.

  • The business analyst makes changes in your QA environment and tests them until the test results are satisfactory

  • The BA deploys the change to your production environment where all users are now affected by the change

  • The new process/rule is live and a release note/communication may or may not be needed depending on the type of change

In this variant, IT has been taken out of the loop but the business analysis work to ensure the desired business outcome results from the new process or business rule still needs to happen.

The Realistic Benefits of Process Orchestration

Great process orchestration tools remove friction currently associated with the traditional enterprise change request management lifecycle.

This in and of itself is AMAZING. But… It’s not a miracle…

Critical thinking, in the form of change request management and governance, is still required (and will always be).

%s illustrative only

Process Orchestration tools make changes easier (read: agility, flexibility, visibility) from a technological, process and change management perspective. However, they don’t make them trivial… They also don’t directly affect your data quality/structure or operational model choices either (unless you want to get meta and orchestrate your vendor master data processes of course).

This is a great gain for organizations that are willing to chase it. But it’s not magic.

To further illustrate, let’s say your procurement processes and business rules aren’t standardized across the business today. You have different geographies and business units that are all running procurement differently…

Even with a Process Orchestration tool, you will still have the hard process alignment and change management work to do before you can manage employees with standard intake workflows…

That or… You’ll end up configuring dozens of different workflows for different business units and geographies, each with their own rules and variants.

So It Begins Helms Deep GIF by antoniomaza

If that's your plan, welcome to process/workflow management hell….

Implementing and operating technology is trending towards becoming table stakes… However, aligning humans to a common mission, vision, set of processes and business rules remains the differentiator…

The Process Orchestration Trap is failing to put in place good change request management/governance processes thinking a new piece of technology changes this fact.

Without a realistic implementation/operational plan, you’ll quickly end up with a headache inducing, tangled up ball of processes configured in your solution… (“garbage in, garbage out” as the saying goes…)

Read part 3 to see how to think about deploying procurement process orchestration tools to give yourself the best chances of success given this immutable reality.

💭 Quote of the Week

There will come a time when you think everything is finished. That will be the beginning.

Louis L'Amour

That’s it for today.

When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help:

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Apply to work with me on your digital procurement initiatives — I’ve been helping Procurement teams digitalize their processes and practices for 12+ years. If you are digitalizing procurement processes, call me first 📞

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Till next time,

P.S. I’d love your feedback. Tap the poll below and leave a comment.
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