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On Wedsnesday at Workday Rising, Jason Averbook moderated a great panel discussion with Appirio customers Stephen Francis from W.J. Bradley Company, Colin Joynt from Interactive Intelligence, and John Semple from McGraw-Hill Education.

The topic of the breakout session was Workday as a Catalyst for Business Transformation.  Jason set the tone of the session by showing a short video of an Apple commercial that was originally aired in 1997.

Why does HR need to transform?

The point of the video was not to say you have to be crazy to try to transform HR in your organization, but rather to say that you shouldn’t accept the status quo.  If you don’t think you can change things, you probably won’t and by the same token those who take bold (crazy) steps and believe they can change things are usually the one’s who do.

For HR, this means taking a big swing for the fences.  It means thinking differently about implementing HCM solutions.  It means phase “next” has to be phase “now” and implementing “core” and getting to the high-value HCM “later” (later=never) is a 1999 approach to software deployment.

Driving this urgency to transform are three big trends:

  1. Shift to the cloud driving consumer-grade expectations

  2. The need to rethink talent management to focus on individuals and teams

  3. Workplace 2020 where digital natives expect mobile and social in the workplace

Why traditional software deployments aren’t transformational

However, many organizations continue to struggle with realizing transformational outcomes from their HCM solutions.  From Jason’s experience he gave the audience an all-too-familiar scenario that had every head nodding: we see a great demo, during implementation expectations lower as we realize we’re not going to get everything we want by the go-live date, the implemented solutions looks nothing like the demo leaving everyone wondering what happened.

Jason outlined a few things that contribute to this pattern:

  1. Lack of planning

  2. Too much weight put on the software/vendor (software has no feelings and is easy to blame!)

  3. Focusing on configuration first making Phase 1 tactical, not value-add

  4. Discounting the workforce experience

  5. No real vision past the go-live party

People and process are the keys to successful transformation

Here, the panel had some great insights to share around how to ensure you’re getting value from Workday early and often.  John Semple from McGraw-Hill shared that key to their success was involving the entire team in the strategic process, recognizing that everyone across the business has a stake in the success of the implementation, not just HR.

Stephen Francis from W.J. Bradley agreed and added that the key for him was engaging with Appirio early to understand best practices and then getting Workday HCM up and running very quickly to show results.  Colin Joynt from Interactive Solutions told us how he and his team first built the “wallpaper,” which was a map of the organization’s 80+ business processes.  He and his team then set out to reduce that number to 35, which he admitted not only took effort to re-engineer, but required a cultural change for people across the organization to work differently.  And the value?  Colin’s ambition is to return 10,000 man-hours to the business!

The panel was then asked about the transformation that must happen with people, process, and technology and what percentage of the effort should go into each.  Both Stephen Francis and John Semple agreed that it felt like 80% people, 15% process and 5% technology.  Here, Colin Joynt had a really interesting take.  For him, people and process are really treated as one.  His belief is that three steps are better than four (and he told a story about the 57 manual steps it used to take to make a life-event change), and two steps are better than three, so it’s all about simplifying as much as possible.  In other words, if you create the most simple and efficient process for people to work with, they will be fundamentally transformed through that process.  Further, he believes this approach allows HR to go from a support organization to an enabler of the business.

At W.J. Bradley, Stephen said something as simple as HCM org charts that give folks visibility into their teams is transforming employee behavior.  He said culturally, they were a little lazy when it came to keeping up to date with organizational changes, but now employees want to make sure they are showing up in the right org (especially if they were promoted or initiated a career move) and are now the drivers of changing behaviors.

HR in the future will be more global and less “white glove”

One theme that came out of the panel discussion was the notion that HR can no longer take the white glove approach to serving the workforce.  This isn’t to say that HR can deliver substandard service; it simply means it must create a more compelling and useful employee self-service model (for all employees, globally).

One of the big drivers here is the expanding global nature of the workforce.  Colin made the great point that we simply cannot work with our own time zone-centric mentality.  Little things like localized language, or holding meetings after hours go a long way to connect the global workforce to the HR organization.  At Interactive, Colin built a “Champions” team to make sure he got not only a global perspective as they built out their HCM capabilities but also encouraged dissenters to make sure he was giving a voice to the entire global organization.

What a successful HR transformation looks like

Finally, the panelists were asked to describe what a successful transformation looks like and how it can be measured.  John from McGraw-Hill led off by saying that they are in a constant state of enhancement and what is important (to measure) today may not be important tomorrow.  One way he likes to measure success is by listening to his business leaders, watching to see if they are really using the tools and when they ask, “can the system do X?” he knows a transformation is taking place.

Colin from Interactive upped the idea that success is moving target by declaring, “success doesn’t exist!”  For him, success means there is an end-point and he believes there is no end-point.  Sure, he said, you can come in on time and on budget for the CFO, but the business’ expectations of success never end.  “Dollars and cents are easy,” he said , “but the objectives of the business are constantly changing.”  He keeps an ear to the ground in his organization and when he hears someone say, “you made my life easier,” he puts that in the win column.  He finished by saying HR and IT need to comfortable with the idea of perpetual beta and put away the Gantt chart.

As the session wrapped up, the panelists offered this advice for those looking to transform their organization with Workday.  Don’t go to business leaders with an “efficiency” story.  Rather tell the story how Workday becomes the common language platform for collaboration across the entire company allowing HR, business leaders, managers and employees to build together a system with the potential to be truly transformational.

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