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BPX and global HR projects

I’ve been blogging outside the BPX for sometime, over at If you are interested in my views on the HR software space, SAP and the industry in general, drop by.  I figured I ought to come over and blog here too. Craig Cmehill, SDN überguru has been nagging me for a while, and now that the BPX is up, perhaps there is a place where I can add some value even though I wouldnt know a scripting language from abap.   A colleague mentioned that he hadn’t seen much HR related content, actually when you search around SDN there is quite a bit (SDN effect is contagious), but I also havent seen much BPX on HR If I’m looking in the wrong places then let me know….   I then realised that I might as well get the ball rolling myself. There are a lot of HR transformation projects on the go at the moment, and I reckon that many BPX types are involved in them.   I act as a bridge between HR types and IT types so I guess that makes me some sort of bpx’er. For the last 10 years or so I’ve been close to many large HR implementations, so I figured I should share some of my experience here, and maybe act as a catalyst to get some discussion going on the HR aspects of BPX   I’m interested in a whole lot of HR related topics, but I thought I’d get the ball rolling with “global”   Many companies are restructuring HR, often involving BPO and/or shared services. These projects aren’t easy.   Part of my day job here at SAP involves discussing these trends with our some of our customers in Europe. see   They are keen to share ideas on global architectures and processes.   This may help get the discussion going…  The internal HR system at SAP is an example of how to deploy SAP globally. There is one core HR system, and this runs the main HR processes. (the numbers are little out of date)   17 different languages 77 company codes 40 productive payrolls (32 different country versions) 55 countries 32.000 active master data 17.500 ESS users/month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.   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.   It sounds really simple but there are three ways data can get into a global system.   1.Somebody types it in  2.It is interfaced  3.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…   1.Ask why you want a global system in the first place 2.Balance local and global needs – solve local as well as global pain points 3.Communicate Communicate -Change management factors 4.Align with Business, HR and IT strategy 5.Don’t underestimate local politics (Works Councils, unions…) 6.Include HR IT in your privacy planning 7.Learn on the job -templates 8.Executive buy in from beyond HR and IT 9.Partner with your vendor/s   I’m interested in finding out more details about companies that have moved to global systems shared services, and their SAP HCM architectures.   If you are out there doing HR shared services I’m keen to get talking. What are your challenges? What is working and what isn’t? 

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      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      Thanks, Thomas, for taking Craig's advice.
      Having now visited your external blogs, I think we are in for a treat here for fresh perspective and lively opinion.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author
      Nothing like jumping in full force, very nice blog! See you next week.


      Author's profile photo Nigel James
      Nigel James
      Great to see you blogging on SDN.

      Looking forward to more great posts from you.