Accounts Payable News® – Hubwoo and Nationwide – a tale of classic tailoring

September 29, 2013

“Carnage” is not usually a word you associate with a customer case study at a conference. But that’s exactly what I heard yesterday at the eWorld Purchasing and Supply event in Westminster. Having read, helped to write and heard plenty of case studies, I’ve got a lot of time for a company and their partner who are prepared to really give a warts an’ all story.

Nationwide’s wasn’t unusual in that they, like many established organisations, used an equally established, well founded set of processes, perfectly fit for purpose in 1990…The challenge was to take some of the stuff that worked, and wrap a 21st century coat around it. And, if you’ll forgive the stretched metaphor, in Hubwoo, they found a perfect bit of classic tailoring – established, secure, but with an eye to long term trends. With significant year on year savings identified, it wasn’t a business case that was too hard to make.

The trouble for Nationwide was the “Big Bang” approach they took to implementation, rather than a more gradual roll out – an approach taken as they had to shut one system down before starting on the other. That, coupled with a misaligned communications message had them “queuing out the doors”. Not exactly the result they were going for. It’s not that Nationwide had bad comms – in fact they did many of the right things – they appointed “champions” to take the message forward in the teams,  and took a creative approach to online employee engagement with a “play area” for people to see how it would work before moving on to the real thing. All excellent ideas. Ideas in fact that many others could learn from.

So why the carnage? Happily for Nationwide, they took the time to find out. Rather than fudge and hide, with long term implications on success, there was an open and frank conversation between the teams. And it seems that essentially it came down to human engagement. The solution was great, did what it said on the tin, worked perfectly. The trap nationwide fell into would be familiar to many who’ve undertaken a similar project. The “champions” were not the end users. The people who were going to be using the system were not a part of the process – so didn’t feel engaged. Not only that, but while the online training was great, people wanted people. Or at least the opportunity to choose.

But was the project a success? Nationwide say yes, without a doubt. Would they do some things differently? That’s a yes too. But with 90% 3rd party spend on PO, and dramatically increased efficiencies – it’s a step they’re so glad they’ve taken. The next steps are likely to include e-invoicing, a push towards “no PO, no pay” and the merging of Procurement and Accounts Payable into one department.

So the journey’s not over yet for Nationwide, and from talking to Hubwoo, it seems that they have a few interesting things up their sleeves too. I can’t wait to find out.


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