The Battle-Tested CPO Guide to a Successful P2P Transformation

Greg Tennyson
Greg Tennyson
Chief Procurement Officer, VSP Global

VSP Global is the largest provider of vision insurance in the United States. Tennyson is also an Advisory Board member at Palambridge. Prior to his role at VSP, Greg was the Chief Procurement Officer at Salesforce and Oracle. Greg is also the founding member of the Bay Area Procurement Council.

Read time: 12 mins
The battle-tested CPO guide to a successful P2P transformation

cpo guideYou’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--a 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. What do you do?

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.

The first order 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. 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.

Do not underestimate impact of change and the new behaviors that are required to effect better business outcomes. 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.  

At my current company, our 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 company’s values. The result was celebrity status for Moolah and greater acceptance of the initiative. 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. Model or pivot based on what you observe in front of you, and the expectations of procurement. There is no absolute 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
      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

Of course, it’s not all as neat and tidy as this list. Appreciate that procurement transformation is a journey that has a starting point, but 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 Chief Procurement Officer at VSP Global, the largest provider of vision insurance in the United States, and an Advisory Board member at Palambridge. Prior to his role at VSP, Greg was the Chief Procurement Officer at Salesforce and Oracle. Greg is also the founding member of the Bay Area Procurement Council.