Warning: I know as much about databases as I do about using the genitive form correctly in German.
At the beginning of June SAP IT moved the SAP-internal HR system from Oracle to an IBM DB2 database. In parallel, IT completed the implementation of a Unicode universal character set, which will allow the use of all known non-Latin characters in SAP business systems. Both moves have increased the speed of the internal HR system.
My friends in HR and IT said this happened with a minimum of fuss.
Moving quickly away from databases, to something I know a little more about. Global HR systems.
The internal HR system at SAP is actually a super of example of how to deploy SAP globally. There is one core HR system, and this runs the main HR processes.
17 different languages
77 company codes
40 productive payrolls (32 different country versions)
32.000 active master data
17.500 ESS users/month using absence ESS
In one single instance, on one client.
I’m not saying that this architecture is the right one for every “global” company, but it is technically possible to do all the core HR processing worldwide on one system. It is an approach that works for Procter and Gamble and many other multinationals too.
While looking for something else with the windows desktop search (neat tool but to be trully compelling it needs to work in my sock drawer) I came across a draft of an article on global HR IT that I wrote a few years ago, and I have included a couple of paragraphs from it here. May interest…
Global. The word “global“ itself has undergone much abuse. From being a simile for big and large, i.e. companies with a turnover of 10 billion), to mean big organizations that are somewhere else (i.e. For someone sitting in Kansas, the British tax office is a “global“), and even those bits of the business that aren’t in the US. The analyst and vendor community are probably equally responsible for this confusion. Whatever definition of global you use, my advice would be to be consistent, and don’t assume that everyone else has the same definition as you do. How you manage the seemingly simple concepts of local and global will be the single greatest influence on project success.
The local side of the story:
It is easy in sitting in the corporate HQ, perhaps in the US, and see the benefits of a global system. You probably have implemented the solution you plan to use for your home country. Your payroll and admin functions run smoothly. Perhaps you have had employee self-service and other technologies running well for some time. You take it for granted that your vendor delivers technology support for legal changes. You have a team of skilled HR technology specialists, either in HR, as part of IT, or easily available on the market. You now want to move to the next step, “go global”
But in distant subsidiaries things might not be the same:
The HR function may operate at a tactical level. Scarce resources focus on meeting local legal requirements and challenges, often with limited systems support. The HR function reports to the local Managing Director, who is interested in delivering low costs and profits, and doesn’t care about global talent management.
So, when distant subsidiaries don’t embrace your global vision, it is probably not a conspiracy, but a reflection that they are bogged down in local administrative challenges.
When scoping a global project, remember that it needs to deliver local benefits too. Otherwise, forget about local support in the long run. Global needs local buy in, otherwise no data will flow into your glorious global solution. Data does not magically appear in these systems, it needs to be put in. Global headcount reports might help corporate, but they don’t make local HR any more effective. A globally compliant HR system running compliance for the major countries will do that though. Look to see if you can address local pain in a global project. Global processes should help reduce local burdens, not create them. Problems that you may have solved in head office years ago might loom large in a subsidiary. If you don’t know the state of systems and process sophistication in your subsidiaries, it is time you did.
There are three ways data can get into a global system.
- Somebody types it in
- It is interfaced
- It is there already
Let’s explore these a bit.
It is tempting to “command” subsidiaries to capture key data into your global system. This might work. It means the subsidiary runs two systems, one for local needs and one for global. If HQ has a lot of power, it means a lot of typing for subsidiary. If not, it means an empty system.
To get around this you might build interfaces between local systems and the global system. Again this can work, but your IT resource soon gets tied up in writing and maintaining 100s of interfaces. Not much space for innovation or change, especially if naming conventions and standards are all over the place. MDM and XI have begun to make this sort of architecture more flexible and cheaper than in the past, but there is no magic dust.
The best way is that global data is already there. If the global and local systems are one single system there are no interfaces. An employee hired in China is in the global headcount report automatically. When the employee is promoted rapidly, the talent management system picks this up, instantly. This is the first prize. The local organization goes about their daily HR business, yet global data and processes are driven off the same data source.
It demands a global system that can meet local needs too. This is not easy, either for the vendor, or for the implementer.
Large-scale global projects aren’t easy. Anyone, vendor or consultant that thinks otherwise is simply wrong or lying to you. Corporate politics, local and global differences, time zones, differing cultures and priorities make these projects a real challenge. To succeed you need a system that can meet local and global needs, a great team, an experienced project manager, and a methodology and executive buy-in and active support. There are no short cuts, no magic applications. Hard work, discipline and a focus on detail are essential. Here is a list of points I discuss with customers when we talk about global HR, it may be useful…
Ask why you want a global system in the first place
Balance local and global needs – solve local as well as global pain points
Communicate Communicate -Change management factors
Align with Business, HR and IT strategy
Don’t underestimate local politics (Works Councils, unions…)
Include HR IT in your privacy planning
Learn on the job -templates
Executive buy in from beyond HR and IT
Partner with your vendor/s
If you are interested in talking to me about global HR system deployment, drop me a note, or if you want me to write more on this, then ditto.
I’m hosting a workshop in Zurich on monday and tuesday where some interesting companies and people will be talking about talent management, we have sessions planned on shared services later in the year. I’ll blog about it next week.