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/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ettlingheadshotscn_957827.jpgAccording to Mike Ettling, President of SAP SuccessFactors, digitization is the biggest phenomenon facing business today, but the ramifications aren’t as much about technology as the disruption to business models and impact on people.

“Digitization is about fundamental disruption and change in business models, and that’s having a dramatic impact on what people do at work and how the workplace operates. This is the single biggest phenomenon the HR community has to grapple with – as business models change, how do you keep creating a sense of purpose for people in the workplace,” he said. “In today’s globally connected world, the difference between adapting for success and being left behind are the people on your team.

Ettling’s comments kicked off his HR Community keynote at the annual SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG Conference, being held this week in Orlando, Florida. He led a roundtable discussion entitled, “Preparing to Meet the Needs of A Digitally Transforming Workforce.”. The lively session featured comments from Shakti Jauhar, Senior Vice President of Global HR Operations and Shared Services at PepsiCo, Robert Arbogast, Director of HR/OA Systems and Strategy at The Timken Company, and Loral Blinde, Vice President at People & Employee Services at American Airlines.

Rethinking HR with how people live

Blinde said that following its merger with US Airways, American Airlines is transforming to improve the employee work experience, typified by convenient, mobile connectivity.

“Now is the time for us to lay down a foundation for a service-oriented organization,” he said. “Forty thousand flight attendants check in and take off using iPads, and we want to be there with them as they live their lives that way. They expect that kind of convenience and now we have the chance to start that journey.”

Arbogast said that The Timken Company’s business model changed dramatically when it became smaller. “We’ve gone to a whole new business model in how we’re going to act and work differently, changing everything we do from the HR and systems side of the house we’re rethinking what we do and how we do it,” he said. “We have to run simple and simplify everything we do.”

PepsiCo is changing how its 300,000 employees work with a strategy that enables transformation. Jauhar sees this as a never-ending journey as markets and technology evolves. “More and more of the decision-making about how they manage their work is moving to the employees,” said Jauhar, “We’re enabling that transition in a way to helps innovation and energizes a diverse set of employees across many countries.”

Making the business case

All of the speakers agreed that building a business case for HR transformation is one of the most difficult challenges. Blinde credited both the capabilities of SAP SuccessFactors and American Airline’s senior management with his company’s ability to make the right decision.

“We knew the system could scale and the investment in the technology would meet the future of this airline,” he said. “We were also lucky in having a CEO who is all about employee engagement and culture, focusing on making a commitment and creating a foundation for that interaction with our people. This will be the first enterprise-wide cloud system at American Airlines.”

Executive support also had a major role in PepsiCo’s SAP SuccessFactors deployment, allowing the company to achieve consistent global processes across 80 countries.

Arbogast said that The Timken Company faced similar standardization issues after acquiring numerous smaller companies with disparate systems. His team is also using SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central optimization sessions to make sure his organization is taking full advantage of its capabilities as the company grows.

IT role transformation

Forward-thinking CIOS figured large in each of these companies’ HR transformation projects as well. “Our CIO is incredibly forward-looking, and saw that the cloud opportunity would provide the speed and nimbleness we needed,” said Blinde. “Our ability to configure versus program, and to be less burdensome on HR, sold everyone.”

Arbogast said taking IT out of the equation simplified the process. “There’s very little IT left to do, and that was key for us,” he said. “It became apparent that this wasn’t an IT project. Going to the cloud and to SuccessFactors took out all that IT help we needed. That made it easy to run and service the system as an HR activity.”

Future-proofing strategy  

In response to a question from the audience about shared services, Ettling urged the audience of HR professionals to look into intelligent services in the SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite. “If you’re thinking about a shared service center, the whole concept of intelligent services is to meld those processes, giving you the opportunity to actually design a shared services model for the future with machine learning coming into the platform.”

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