Mark Trepanier has sat on all sides of the HRO desk: buyer, provider, advisor. Upon hearing the story of his remarkable career, we could hardly help but think that nobody could have predicted this path when he
There should be a warning sign on industries such as the fast-growing $59 billion HRO market. Caution: Wild career rides happen.
Consider the case of Mark Trepanier, newly minted executive director of operations for Accenture HR Services. He has been an HRO buyer, a sourcing advisor, and a provider. He has even spent time in the ITO and FAO markets.
“I’ve seen HRO go from being nothing more than a neat idea to a credible business model,” he says with deadpan delivery. “I used to have to spell HRO
Trepanier started out with MCI Systemhouse, where he spent 15 years and worked with two people who revolutionized the HRO market: Jim Madden and Steve Unterberger. This pair went on to found Exult (now part of Hewitt). It was Unterberger who recruited Trepanier to become Exult’s employee No. 30. After four years inside Exult’s operations, Trepanier tested his ability to give buyers advice by moving to sourcing advisory
Following that first advisory experience, he moved to finance and accounting outsourcer Ephinay (now named Core 3). He then went back for a second taste of buyer advisory, this time with EquaTerra. And now Trpanier has ended up as the ultimate inside guy inside at Accenture HR Services, one of the industry’s biggest machines. After sitting on all sides of the HRO desk, he now knows a couple of things about himself. “My DNA is definitely on the operations side of HRO,” he says, “rather than on the advisory side. And I like being part of an engine with real capabilities, rather than aspirational.”
By now, dear reader, you should know what happens when we at HRO Today encounter an executive who owns a big-box resume. We don’t let him sleep until he shares his hardest-won lessons for HRO buyers. And so it was with Mark Trepanier, on a recent Monday around midnight in a 10th-floor suite of a Los Angeles hotel.
“Yes, I think I can teach a few lessons about how to avoid train wrecks,” he touts. Here are his five secrets
No. 1: Know what type of HRO service you want. Are you a financial-capital intensive business that just wants efficiency—driven by savings, seeking the lowest cost-per-transaction? Or are you a business with a lot of knowledge workers and who needs human capital effectiveness—driven by value-added services such as HCM, talent acquisition, employee engagement, and presenteeism? Or are you in-between, seeking efficiency in payroll and effectiveness in recruiting, for example?
No. 2: Beware of the cultural fit. No matter how good a provider or client is, it all comes down to people. If a provider is exclusively focused on the outcome, and the client is focused on the journey, then the client may be left behind or a provider left frustrated.
No. 3: Consider what is the hardest work. For HRO clients, it is preparing for change. All the soft HR stuff suddenly becomes hard, measurable data. For the average HR leader, HRO means transforming from a provider of services to a manager of services. There is a lot of letting go. It is a very difficult transition.
From a provider perspective, the tough stuff is getting resources ready for the transition, which doesn’t happen by itself. There is lots of business analysis work that a provider-operator doesn’t do naturally. You need to map those processes to plan the transition.
No. 4: Think governance. Today’s HRO transactions are long-term deals requiring commitment on both sides. You need fluidity and structure and not just a contract but a set of operating understandings. It’s got to be like Kevlar—strong but flexible. If you were going to focus on one thing, make it reporting. You need fact-based performance data—true integrity and transparency in which the reported details can change over time. Recruiting may be the near-term focus, but three years from now it’s about comp plans. The data shall set you free.
No. 5: Employ sourcing advisors. They are friends. They understand scary, complex projects, and the only thing scary about advisors is their fees. They are very good at defining success and getting buyers ready to buy rather than just kick tires.