CGT CIO of the Year 2020: Mark Vaupel, Hormel Foods
Did You Know?
Hormel Foods has welcomed a "collection of creative companies and people" into its family of brands including:
- Applegate, acquired in 2015
- Justin’s, LLC, acquired in 2016
- Cidade do Sol, acquired in 2017
- Columbus Manufacturing, acquired in 2017
- Fontanini Italian Meats, acquired in 2017
- Sadler’s Smokehouse, acquired in 2020
On-Premise No Longer
Project Orion is an all-encompassing mission, spanning human resources, payroll, finance, supply chain and enterprise performance management. As such, Vaupel and team developed an explicit program-management process and timeline spelling out various deployments and responsibilities.
After going live on New Year’s Day 2020 with human resources and payroll, the next deployment was put on the books for April. Then, of course, the world went upside-down in March.
Suddenly, the team that had been working shoulder-to-shoulder was now scattered throughout the globe. For many Hormel Foods team members across the enterprise, this involved transitioning from almost always working from an office prior to COVID-19, to working remotely from home. Shifting to remote was admittedly a big adjustment for everyone, including Vaupel.
Telework was a new experience for him, he concedes. Hormel Foods occupies a vast campus with multiple buildings, and prior to COVID-19, Vaupel would drive over to attend meetings in different buildings rather than dial-in for a conference call or set up a Zoom. It was certainly a far cry from today’s Zoom happy hours and Brady Bunch-style team meetings.
- Amy Morrison, Director Infrastructure
- Eric Tupy, Director IT Strategy and Enterprise Architecture
- Michael Frederick, Director Application Services (also playing the role as Project Orion Program Manager)
- Stacy Jech, Director Security and IT Operations
*Photo courtesy of Hormel Foods
At home this spring, Vaupel and his wife, Annemarie, a Hormel Foods marketing director, navigated the new normal of telework, conducting meetings screen-to-screen instead of face-to-face and staying in touch with their adult sons via video chat. (Let it be known the Vaupels are a Microsoft Teams family as is Hormel Foods.)
But the Vaupels — and the rest of Hormel Foods — quickly adapted, and much of the digital collaboration foundation the IT team had implemented was readily put to use. In citing the horse analogy used at the start of this article, Vaupel notes that some of the digital capabilities across the broader Hormel Foods team evolved a good five years in just three months.
For Project Orion, the planned in-house intensive training was instead redesigned as a remote experience — the only real solution if the team wished to stay on schedule. While they built in an extra month to develop added communication and ensure employees would receive the appropriate amount of training, putting the brakes on Project Orion was never an option.
CGT CIOs Through the Years
“We never even really considered it,” says Vaupel. “We looked at it and said we can adapt to the environment that we're in. It’s such a critical and important project to our company's success.”
Thanks to these efforts and agility, Project Orion was able to progress seamlessly. In keeping with the spirit of the consumer goods industry, Vaupel quickly and readily cites his team, as well as Hormel Foods executive VP and CFO Jim Sheehan, as key drivers in this achievement. While Vaupel may have led the venture, the hard work from his team, the Orion cross-functional project team, the broad enterprise support, the partnership with Oracle, and the guidance, direction and insight from KPMG, made it a success.
“Jim was the one who challenged me and the Project Orion team to ‘be bold and think differently’ as we started this transformation initiative,” he says. “This set the stage for the strategy and direction that we are executing against with Project Orion from a technology and business process perspective.”
Hormel Foods also took it upon itself to identify a team of employees who were given formal change management responsibilities — another new initiative for the company. Helping employees understand why these dramatic changes were being made and what the impact would be on them specifically, as well as providing the necessary hands-on training, was equally crucial in bringing it to fruition.
Project Orion is enabling Hormel Foods team members to refocus their energy away from manual processes to look at more strategic-related capabilities and insight to provide to the business, providing a basis for improved data analytics and driving better decision making. It’s also serving as a foundation for strategic capabilities and emerging technologies that will become critical to the company’s future success.
“Project Orion is really driven around [utilizing] capabilities such as process automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics,” explains Vaupel, “to optimize all of our business processes in order to deliver the best, safest food products in the world.”
What's the first thing you do every morning?
The first thing I do every morning when I get up is make coffee.
What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
Spend at least half an hour reading.
Which piece of technology helps you stay productive?
What are you reading right now?
Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
What did you miss most during stay-at-home orders this spring?
1. Going to restaurants with my wife. 2. Cooking and hosting dinner parties at our home.