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null How to prepare for a successful MSP implementation



Last year Hays released the Human Capital Catalyst whitepaper, a new report which sought to blow open the discussions about why an Managed Service Programme (MSP) implementation in complex organisations is rewarding-but can be challenging.

The responses were exciting, we received so much feedback from people who said it was refreshing, that they were pleased to see an honest account and also acknowledged that the challenges we highlighted in the whitepaper were indeed ones they were struggling with themselves.

On the back of the success of our whitepaper we have decided to organise a series of roundtable sessions which are designed to create an informal, closed door environment for peers to address practical topics and considerations connected with the implementation of a complex MSP (multi business or multi country).

Recently, I had the pleasure to lead the first session of the series where I was accompanied by an interesting mix of peers consisting of 10 HR and Procurement professionals, all representing international enterprises. 
Some were highly experienced in implementing an MSP, with and without success. Others were at rewarding stage of an RFP, getting themselves ready for the implementation and we also had a few guests that were at an early stage exploration phase of their contingent workforce situation.

For our first kick off session, we decided to keep the topic quite broad with “How to prepare for a successful MSP implementation” and so a very interesting and open conversation started where the main discussion points were around change management and stakeholder management. Also being 2 of the 7 chapters, or lenses as we call them, in our whitepaper.

Change starts as soon as you start talking about it

One of the attendees representing an international high tech company working in a procurement role, shared with the group how they already began their internal conversations about an MSP and the implementation years before their implementation began. Far before they even went to market for an MSP.

These early stage conversations gave them important insights into what the best approach for the implementation would be. Throughout my career I have implemented many MSP’s and almost all of them started with the IT department, mainly due to the high rates in these roles and therefore the high savings potential that comes with that, yet surprisingly enough, our guest at the table did the complete opposite. His organisation knew, that the IT department would be the “toughest nut to crack” and they choose their approach not from a cost saving perspective but from a change management and adoption perspective. This company started with a lower volume department with a willingness to change as their pilot, making it relatively easy to build a best practice case study to take to the rest of the business. I would like to emphasize “relatively”, because in my 20+ years working experience I have never witnessed an easy change during an MSP implementation to be honest. The very important consideration in this approach was that the company had to accept a slow growth of results of the MSP and of course we have to realise that slow achievement of results is not always an option for every company.

Starting with a smaller department worked out successfully for this company, but we also experienced a similar approach which taught us to be wary of starting too small. One of our European clients recently selected a pilot area as proof of concept. Already soon after the start of the implementation, they subsequently discovered that the volume of new requisitions was far lower than expected. The result was that it took the pilot four months longer than originally planned to get sufficient workers into the MSP, to be able to demonstrate the proof of concept they had aimed for. The resulting delay had a material impact on the MSP, the overall speed to savings was slower and the internal confidence in the programme fell.

A key difference in my two examples of starting with small volume departments is the management of expectations and the stakeholder management. Our guest at our roundtable session communicated very clearly to his internal stakeholders that expectations of results should be low for the first phase of the project to avoid disappointment and possible rejection of the further roll-out. Again, this emphasises how crucial clear and honest communication is at all levels and all stages of an MSP implementation.

The interesting learning from this part of our session was that when you are making the, very often difficult, decisions about the order of roll out, there are a number of considerations. What we do see and we also learned from our research for the whitepaper is that most organisations, when considering a complex MSP prefer a staggered approach to provide success stories and enable learns to be applied.

Consider size to begin with, some examples show that big can be better, especially when it comes to results, but big can also be complex, and the more complex the implementation is, the more thoroughly the change needs to be managed. There is no right or wrong for starting big or small. In the preparation for an MSP implementation, in both cases it is of high importance to investigate how ready your specific stakeholder group is for the change and to manage expectations regarding the speed the results of the programme will be realised.

The right stakeholder engagement

Another guest at our roundtable, representing a large technology and entertainment company, shared his experience of their failed MSP implementation which led to a fully rejected programme. One of the biggest learnings he shared with the group was that it is crucial for you and your provider to be on the same page regarding the key objectives of the programme. MSP’s tend to be all about compliancy and cost saving, which is not surprising as most MSP’s are led by procurement. In this particular case, this company doesn’t have a procurement department at all and the MSP was led by HR. In their approach, one of the main objectives was improving their access to talent. The MSP partner however, by default, started the implementation journey focused on process efficiency and cost savings. So client and provider were walking on two different paths towards different objectives, already quickly drifting away from each other. I asked the question, could this programme have been successful at all? Perhaps with another approach? and the answer was a cautious “yes”. With clarity about the objectives of key stakeholder groups and clear expectations about what good looked like to them, the MSP partner would have had a better understanding of the specific company dynamics and therefore would have been able to implement a program set up for success.

The chapter about stakeholder management in our whitepaper teaches us about primary and secondary stakeholders. During the discussion one of our attendees mentioned that as humans, we tend to avoid the difficult discussions with possible reluctant hiring managers with quite a daring statement of “keeping ourselves safe and not pitching to the difficult people”. However, he then followed this statement with some advice from his experience on both sides of an MSP, “it is much easier to have these battles earlier to allow yourself the opportunity to make tweaks and build flexibility into your program”. In many cases we find that winning the battles with the most difficult stakeholders is often more important than the easier ones. By avoiding challenging conversations, primary stakeholders are often aligned too late. There are many examples of this that were shared during our discussion such as: hiring managers hearing about an MSP or VMS for the first time during the kick-off meeting or finance managers not being involved in the process resulting in a disfunctional invoicing process, both caused multiple problems for the whole program, including huge delays.

The difficulties aligning internal stakeholders do not only fall with the primary stakeholders. Each of our attendees echoed the challenge of aligning with their secondary stakeholders too, including their own HR departments. The experience at the table was that HR has little involvement in the contingent workforce process and with some MSP providers sticking to their “traditional” objectives of cost savings, compliancy, and process efficiency that is not showing signs of changing.
All attendees fully agreed that these objectives are crucial in the definition of what success looks like for an MSP, but what about improving access to talent and revamping the way in which a company attracts contractors, for example? These are typically HR flavoured topics but are not currently considered as the main priorities of an MSP. The interesting question at the table was “shouldn’t it be one of the priorities as well?” Especially considering the growing developments towards Total Talent Management Programmes where temp and perm process are brought closer together. 

This last part of the conversation inspired me for a possible interesting topic to discuss in one of our next roundtable sessions. “Who should have ownership of the contingent workforce hiring process, HR or Procurement?”

Discuss the challenges of workforce management with other senior procurement and HR professionals

Your opinion or experience on one of the topics presented here is very much welcomed at our roundtable sessions. We hope that you will be part of our next conversation! For more information or to register your interest in attending one of our upcoming roundtable sessions, click here



Debby Van Rhoon
Sales Director, Hays Talent Solutions

Debby joined Hays Talent Solutions in January 2018 and she is responsible for the growth of our business in EMEA, advising prospects in making informed choices when looking for a workforce programme. Her broad experience enables her to propose thriving solutions for many industries across the region.

With over 20 years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry, a degree in business strategy and change management and a Contingent Workforce Professional (CCWP) certification released by Staffing Industry Analyst, Debby is well placed to field any questions you may have about implementing workforce management solutions.

Within Hays, Debby specialises in EMEA focused multi-country solutions and she supports and advises procurement and HR professionals across Europe in developing and implementing the best workforce management solutions that provide them with a competitive advantage and access to the best talent.