All posts by Greg Tennyson

A CPO ’s “To-Do” List for the First 100 Days

100 days of being a CPO….What’s on your to-do list, where do you start and how do you develop your action plan to transform the procurement team? 

You’re hired!  After the jubilation of accepting a job wears off and you’re successfully on-boarded to your new company, you learn you have 100 days to develop a plan.  This plan that will begin a journey of procurement transformation that surpasses the expectations you shared during the new hire process.  The opportunity is ‘greenfield’: building out a procurement function where one didn’t previously exist or where the function never took hold for one reason or another.

You’ve been appointed CPO. You have 100 days to develop a plan.  What’s first? 

There are various approaches to transformation and the key is to find the right one for your project.  The approach I will share is based on my personal experiences building out the procurement function (source-to-settle) at a Fortune 50 company, at a hyper-growth entrepreneurial company, and (most recently) at an established, well-diversified healthcare company.

First course of business – assess the current state if you didn’t do so during the interview process.  Have a conversation with anyone willing to engage starting with your new team, executive leadership, and cross-functional stakeholders.  You need to understand your inherited brand firsthand – including the perspectives and opinions of your inherited procurement function.  These discussions are important on several fronts because they:

  • Baseline the present-day function and capture a snapshot of where you started your journey. This will be key as you look in the rearview mirror to see how far you’ve come;
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across the categories of people, process, and technology;
  • Provide key insights on brand perceptions and the history behind them;
  • Help identify advocates, influencers, and distractors; and
  • Finally, provide insights to what ‘should’ be next and offer a semblance of preferred timing

I recommend partnering with a change management guru and a project manager to articulate the business requirements that will form your vision, set a definition of success, and develop a communication strategy and cadence.  Do not underestimate impact of change and the new behaviors that are required to effect better business outcomes.

At my current company, we took a slightly different approach to transformation based on our unique combination of vision, culture, and employee demographics.  Early on we reached out to Marketing to create a ‘drip campaign’ comprised of video vignettes, campus signage, and direct outreach. The whole effort centered on our mascot – Moolah, a big fury, purple creature that was accompanied by a tag line – ‘Spend It Like It’s Yours’ (loosely based on the acronym ‘SILIY’ – pronounced silly).

The objective was to have fun with the initiative, which is one of our values.  The result was celebrity status for Moolah and greater acceptance of the initiative.  Frankly, it was fun to see employees taking selfies of Moolah at all-hands-on-deck meetings.

Included below is a checklist based on my experiences to help develop your plan.  Again, model or pivot based on what you observe in front of you and the expectations of procurement.  There is no absolutely right answer.

Discovery

    1. The Initiative
      1. ‘Why’ is the initiative being undertaken and why now
      2. ‘Who’ – who is the advocate and what role to they play and their plans to stay active
      3. ‘What’ is the motivation, business reasons for the initiative
      4. ‘When’ – expected timing – launch for the initiative and drivers
      5. ‘Where’ what is the geographical, business reach for the initiative, i.e., domestic only, certain BUs only, etc.
      6. ‘WIFT/M’ – beneficiaries?
    2. Your company
      1. Culture
      2. Vision, Mission and Values
      3. Story – market, penetration, success, competitors, …
    3. Existing function and talent
      1. Who plays the role today within the business
      2. Partner with HR to run a title & role search across the company
      3. Ask the pre-existing talent to provide their CVs and interview them
    4. Needs of the organization from the perspective of the business
      1. Functions value
      2. Brand (good, indifferent and what needs to change)
      3. Successes and failures
    5. Identify partners and executive support to advocate for the initiative
    6. Subset – players
      1. Active vocal participants (supporters)
      2. Points of dissension (naysayers)
      3. Bandwagoneers – those on the sidelines waiting for results and uncommitted in the interim

Baseline

  1. Performance to date
  2. People
    1. Skills and gaps
    2. Investments to date
    3. HIPOs (High Potential Employees)
    4. Investments and jettisons
  3.  Process/Policy
    1. Does one exist?
    2. Are there accountabilities?
    3. Spend authority
    4. Document signing authority
  4.  Technology
    1. What do you have?
    2. To what extent is it implemented?
      1. Vanilla
      2. Customizations
      3. Partials
    3. What is next and why?
  5. Quantify behaviors
    1. Buying behaviors of customer
    2. Willingness for change
      1. BUs
      2. Function
      3. Other Shared Services Centers
      4. Legal
      5. Execs

Initiative governance structure

  1. Agree roles/oversight for initiative, for example:
    1. Steering Committee
    2. Advocates within the business
  2. Other key constituents
    1. HR
    2. Legal
    3. Information Security
    4. Finance
  3. Develop RACI

Change Management strategy, approach, methodology

  1. Campaign
    1. Partner with Marketing on drip campaign (pre-planned, gradually released communications)
      1. Tagline
      2. Mascot
      3. Video vignette
  2. Change management leader
    1. Messaging
    2. Signage
    3. Cadence
  3.  Access
    1. Execs
    2. BUs
    3. Leadership
    4. Management
    5. IC’s

Business case to effectuate a different outcome

  1. Executive summary – overview of the initiative
  2. Detailed description of the initiative
  3. Why – what is it in for them/me – market analysis
  4. Organizational design
  5. Funding requirements
  6. ROI/IRR
  7. Anticipated outcomes
  8. Necessary executive support
  • Gain support for initiative
  • Execute
  • Reflect
  • Celebrate your successes

Appreciate that procurement transformation is a journey with a starting point that is unlikely to ever end.  You iterate, detour, and adapt to meet the needs of the organization.  Investment is required in the three buckets of people, process, and technology – and most importantly, the leadership team – to stay relevant.

You will encounter setbacks, and your ability to recover will test the team.  How they (and you) respond will determine the overall success of the initiative.  Most importantly – have fun if you are fortunate enough to have that as a key value at your company.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement. 

The Struggle is Real: Building Effective Procurement Teams

The struggle might be real but, according to VSP’s CPO, the solutions are many when it comes to building the most effective procurement teams! 

The conversation around talent shortages in the procurement space has been going on for five or ten years now. I’ve come to realize that the real problem is not the lack of ready-to-go procurement talent, it is hiring managers’ inability to see a future procurement pro in a law student, a finance professional, an engineer or yes even a sales person.

An investment is required to grow non-traditional sources of talent into procurement professionals, but the end result is often a better rounded team. A procurement team should be comprised of diverse talent by design in order to speak the language of the business.   A homogeneous team will have its own inherent challenges – one being that innovation is harder.

How you build your team depends on the market conditions you are in and the skills or talent profile you are hiring for. Depending on the availability of qualified candidates, you may allow someone to work virtually or look to other disciplines to bring a new resource in and then round them out. But to simply say ‘there’s a talent shortage’ and do nothing about it is a naysayer’s approach. Get creative.

Cross-Functional Procurement Talent

At my prior company, I had an engineer playing a procurement role. I had somebody in finance on the team. I had attorneys on the team. If you restrict yourself to an artificially small portion of the talent pool by insisting upon a fixed skill set you’re naturally going to have hiring challenges. Just keep an open mind.

My philosophy, regardless of the skill set in question, is to hire the best resource you can find, train them, and invest in them. If they stay, they will become successful procurement professionals and if they leave they will be well informed enough to serve as advocates for procurement.

But thinking differently is not just about where we source talent, it affects the skills we are focused on. Procurement will quickly loose relevance if we don’t proactively prioritize soft skills in our hiring practices. Look at the traditional competencies for a procurement professional: the ability to negotiate successful outcomes, the ability to read and redline a contract, the ability to build relationships. In my opinion, soft skills are now more important in procurement than some of the technical skills we have emphasized in the past.

Taking Risks to Incorporate High Performers

All good managers want to put people into roles that will challenge them in a healthy way. I’ve put people in roles that I knew would be hard for them, and I was authentic enough to say, ‘This is going to be a make it or break it situation for you. Grab the opportunity, and I’ll invest in you. If you are successful, wonderful, if not I’ll be your best reference.’ The reality of the situation is that you have to release people if they aren’t a good fit, even when it is a tough decision. But that is not a reason not to make an effort to bring non-traditional backgrounds and approaches into procurement.

In my experience, there is more than one kind of high performing professional. Some lack engagement and become a challenge, but that is not hard to handle. Complacency is a bigger problem. Having a pep talk with people that are no longer motivated is challenging. You have to educate people on what the opportunities are for them. By understanding what’s important to them (work life balance, career development, etc.) you can sort out what motivates them.

The same approach works for building relationships with internal stakeholders. Sit with the business, understand what their challenges are, look at the opportunity from their perspective. I think demonstrating that appreciation makes you more effective. Each of us needs to appreciate the culture we are in and operate within that culture: the culture of procurement, of the company, and of the industry as a whole.

Human behavior is interesting. If somebody has confidence in their ability to do something they’ll gravitate towards it. A lot of individuals are focused on transactions; they are tactical. You can’t just go in and anoint somebody and say, ‘Now you’re strategic.’ You must develop their capabilities and create the expectation that they are no longer in their former role. Otherwise, a week, a year, two years into the process they will gravitate back towards those transactional responsibilities. Being a leader in the procurement space requires us to adapt and be flexible.

What’s Next for Procurement?

I’ve watched procurement gradually shift away from a focus on tactical or technical capabilities to more strategic responsibilities and the development of soft skills. I’ve seen it, and I’ve lived it. The organizations that have not gotten on that bandwagon of their own accord are no longer relevant. That shift has occurred, and technology has been a key enabler in making that happen. When people talk about applying robotic process automation (RPA) or AI within the procurement space, the first steps have already been taken, and we’re trying to figure out how we can further leverage it. Perhaps, through sourcing tools and decentralized buying, procurement’s next incarnation will be as an overseer of technology and broad business outcomes.  Procurement’s role will be centered on value creation in a consultative, advisory role and less about compliance and transactions.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement.