Mark Stelzner has more than 25 years of HR transformation experience and is the Founder/Managing Principal of IA. He’s spent his career fostering relationships through attention to detail, natural curiosity and a self-deprecating sense of humor. By offering unbiased and candid advice to C-level leaders in nearly all geographies and vertical market segments, he has brought over $3.5 billion worth of value to his clients and employers. A highly sought-after voice in the industry, Mark has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Forbes, CNN and NPR.
At the upcoming Select HR Tech conference, Mark along with his colleague Amie Deak will facilitate the Master Class Ready, Set, Plan — An Expert’s Guide to Transformational Readiness. In this video, Conference Chair Jeanne Achille chats with Mark on why the pre-RFP phase is so important to successful HR transformation initiatives.
I'm so excited to have Mark Stelzner with us today. Mark is the founder of IA and if there is anyone who has done a lot of enterprise implementations and guided those journeys it's Mark. So Mark, thank you so much for joining us today.
Thanks Jeanne, it's a pleasure to be here.
How do you get a client started Mark?
We start with the destination in mind. So, when we’ve spent a lot of time with the c-suite of these very complex enterprises, we're trying to deconstruct what's the outcome that they're trying to achieve. Some organizations are looking at transformation for cost reduction … some are looking at it for engagement … some are looking at it for mobility … and if we don't identify the sponsors, the outcomes, the organizational key care abouts, the barriers, the restrictions, the fears, as the very first conversation then it's a project for projects sake. So, the only way to achieve transformation, we believe, is to clearly identify what we define as a hypothesis. We identify the sponsors, the outcomes, the scope, the deliverables, the geography. We're also talking about what is the hypothesis that you want to validate through this particular transformation. And when we think about the wonderful providers and our ecosystem ... we're talking about who can actually activate and accelerate and validate that hypothesis. So, the way we think about transformation, and also embracing the provider community, is to share everything that the organization is attempting to achieve … have the providers have an informed point of view. And a quick tangent … one of the things that we're looking for more from providers than ever before is coming in with an actual point of view …in terms of anything you might want to know about this organization … anything you might want to know about their destination based on your experience … based on your technology … based on what success could look like through your solution. How will you activate and accelerate your destination?
I remember that you wrote about RFPs being an imperfect engine. It sounds like there's a lot that goes into the front end of this?
That's correct. Yes, there's a lot of effort. I'd say a full third to a half of our project work is before the RFP process. We spend a tremendous amount of time really locking key stakeholders into rooms. We are literally, forensically describing every single step of every single process every single print and file and hand off and stand up over the cube and yell to Janet to print the report and run the Excel. And the reason is, these organizations have never written down to that level of specificity how their work is being done. We also find that upfront work is incredibly helpful in enabling change. So many organizations they go through these initiatives and they just unveil and impose change on the enterprise. Our feeling is let's bring the stakeholders in and let's actually have them be part of the journey.
We take all those artifacts, hundreds of documents then we infuse them into the release process for the RFP …because providers receive a lot of blind inquiries. The RFP is a transactional process. This is a transformational initiative. It requires conversation, it requires specificity, it requires access. None of which the RFP traditionally facilitates. The RFP is walled, it's closed, it’s non- transparent and it's really about getting to lowest cost outcome typically. When we get RFPs back Jeanne, we redact the pricing. We don't let the client see the pricing because human nature is you'll flip to the last page and you'll be like oh my god right and it will shock you one way or another – good or bad. We want our buyers to look at the veracity of the solution to look at the entirety of the offering, meet the implementation partners, connect with the humans that you're going to be working with through this entire transformational journey. The RFP is imperfect in that regard. We do workshops, we do case studies, we do a lot of on-site work to foster a relationship … because at the end of the day that's all we have. It's what this is all about. Sure we're talking about technology. It's certainly an important part of it, but we must have trust, we're going to be on a journey together for three to five years.
I think we are finally hopefully, and you'll tell me, getting to the point where people understand that they are picking a partner. This is not just a vendor relationship, this is a partner. When you enter into let's say a three-year licensing agreement you have to live with each other every day.
Absolutely. And language is really intentional. So we don't use the word vendor in anything that we do. We call them service providers or providers. And the idea is they are truly an extension of your team. And you know, one of the things that's maybe not popular to talk about in the cloud is this implementation is never over. In the sense that you're leasing. You're leasing IP and research and development and a tremendous amount of investment. A lot of organizations buyers really struggle with this notion because they're coming from legacy on-premise solutions. So the great value of having a partnership is the relationship management and governance of how you absorb new capabilities, new information, how you do health checks, the relationship management and governance that the service providers offer to you that's really going to activate your future vision. That's why many clients start with perhaps a smaller scope and will expand over time. It's only through deep and meaningful relationships and a constant form of communication that they can achieve those outcomes.