Technology is Not a Panacea: Change Management with TJ Nguyen

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At REV2019, JAGGAER sat down with some of our speakers for a podcast series on the biggest questions facing the procurement industry today. Among them was TJ Nguyen, Senior Director of the Procurement Center of Excellence at Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Sales and Services Company, or CCBSS. CCBSS is the consortium buying arm of all the bottler-owners for Coca-Cola in North America with a spend of $8-9 billion annually. Nguyen leads the Center of Excellence and the “Flex” indirect procurement team.

Through years of change, including a large-scale digitalization project, the largest question for Nguyen has often been, “How do you set up people for success when it comes to helping them develop their capabilities?” The key is a concerted approach to change management.

Choose the right technology

We all know that selecting the right tool is important. The RFP process is likely to ensure that your company selects a technology partner that checks nearly all the requisite boxes. But Nguyen emphasizes that technology must also be easy to learn and use. Software should enable team members, but overcomplicated interfaces can often become a hindrance. “We push people towards a touch-it-once mentality and technology needs to help with that,” says Nguyen, emphasizing that it’s important to have a single source of truth in your software. When users update a document, supplier, or form in one area of the software, those updates sync across the platform automatically, saving his team from repeat work. A solution without such functionality would slow his team and decrease morale.

“It’s not just always ‘pick up the phone’. If it’s really easy, can you do it through interacting with a chatbot?”

Advanced UI and features like chatbots offer the opportunity to help further streamline interactions with the software, Nguyen explains, especially when it comes to finding information and learning how to perform actions more quickly. “It’s not just always ‘pick up the phone’. If it’s really easy, can you do it through interacting with a chatbot?” Cutting down on phone calls means faster responses and more efficient work for Nguyen’s team, and ultimately an easier, more user-friendly experience.

This is particularly important when it comes to younger workers, Nguyen says. “Millennials have a certain way of interacting with technology that they do in their daily lives, and that must translate to the workplace,” he explains. When digital native employees are forced to work with difficult or outdated technology, they can become demotivated and resistant. Nguyen has first-hand experience working with young employees thanks to CCBSS’s partnership with Georgia Tech, which encourages students to do co-op projects with Atlanta-area businesses. Younger employees “have certain expectations when it comes to technology,” Nguyen says, emphasizing that procurement leaders must embrace that when selecting new platforms for procurement. Having an intuitive user interface can greatly ease the transition and reduce the necessary change management.

“…you have to link it back to some kind of catalyst.”

Find Your Catalyst

Nguyen’s biggest piece of advice when initiating a major transformation project is simple: find a rallying cry. “I think you have to link it back to some kind of catalyst. For us, it was the catalyst of a significant re-shifting of ownership in production,” Nguyen says, explaining that other realignment in the business gave procurement the opportunity to ride a wave of excitement and motivation. As Coca-Cola redistributed ownership of the production line back to regional bottlers, Nguyen saw an opportunity to use the pride and momentum of bottlers to push the digital transformation. While other companies might not have an ongoing transformation project to wrap procurement into, there are plenty of other opportunities to find your why, according to Nguyen. “It could be different for different organizations. You may have a need where it’s ‘we need to improve margin.’ That’s a rallying cry.”

When asked his most significant achievement in the digital transformation so far, Nguyen was quick to answer. “The biggest success is just really getting people to buy in.” Having a driving message behind the transition is key to gaining employee support and adoption.

Choose Your Change Management Leaders

Just as important as the message are the leaders who project it, according to Nguyen. The key for him was to “have people dedicated to the cause of change management, and for CCBSS that meant having a center of excellence.” While a center of excellence has become commonplace in modern procurement, the most important piece is to have transformation champions within your organization whose full-time job is managing the transition. Some company cultures might encourage employees taking on the project on top of their regular duties, but Nguyen cautions against this. “That’s how you get ahead at some corporations – you do your current job and then you do additional things. But in this case, we realized with this kind of change, you really had to have a different organization structure.”

Just as crucial is that the team members embody the project themselves. It’s one thing to lead with words, but another to lead by example. “As a leader in an organization, you talk the talk, but you have to walk it as well.” For Nguyen, this meant embracing the nature of a cloud solution and breaking old habits when it came to file storage. “In the last two years, I don’t think I’ve saved anything on my hard drive. Everything is on the cloud.” By sharing and collaborating on documents in the cloud, Nguyen showed his team firsthand that not only is it easy to embrace the change, but it can make day-to-day tasks much more efficient.

While selecting the right solution is a key part of ensuring a smooth transition, make sure you’re prioritizing leadership and mission in your transformation project. Without it, it can be nearly impossible to get your team to fully embrace the change.

How did the Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Journey with JAGGAER Come About?

 

For more from TJ Nguyen, listen to his complete podcast, embedded above, or check out the write-up from JAGGAER’s Fireside Chat on leveraging data for digital transformation.

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