SDL turns to cloud HR to join up businesses in 40 countries

Cloud computing

SDL turns to cloud HR to join up businesses in 40 countries

Bill Goodwin

Technology and services company SDL has turned to HR as a service to link more than 3,000 employees in businesses around the world into a single company structure.

The technology is central to the company’s strategy to integrate formerly autonomous businesses in 38 countries into a single operation.

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SDL, which is buying cloud-based HR technology from Fairsail, says the project will pay for itself in less than a year, just from savings in IT staff time.

Group HR director Roddy Temperley told Computer Weekly: “SDL is a company that has acquired lots of other businesses throughout its history. We have done a lot of M&A work, and until the middle of last year we ran as highly autonomous divisions.”

Before announcing its integration strategy last year, the company had no easy way of aggregating its employee records.

Replacing spreedsheets and paper

SDL's businesses relied on a mixture of spreadsheets, paper records and a ‘home-grown’ billing and resource management tool to keep track of its employee headcount.

It could take up to three days to work out the headcount in just one division, said Temperley.

SDL, a specialist in customer relationship management technology and services, set up a business applications group within its IT department to drive the integration programme, dubbed One SDL.

Global business applications director Paul Harris said: “An HR system was an immediate and high priority. HR was paper-based in some offices and there were a few HR systems in different countries, largely linked to payroll.”

SaaS essential for quick deployment 

Software as service (SaaS), rather than on-premise technology, was essential because SDL needed to deploy the technology quickly, said Harris.

The company looked at 12 potential suppliers, and drew up a shortlist of four before selecting Fairsail.

Temperley said: “Compared to some of the other suppliers on the market, it was a very good value, very attractive offering.”

Other suppliers offered SaaS tools, but were quoting timescales of 18 to 24 months for delivery, while Fairsail said it could switch on in a week.

SDL signed the contract in June last year, and then spent several months learning how to use the tool and training subject matter experts in its businesses before going live in October.

Picture of whole company

Harris said the project has given SDL's employees a clear picture of the overall company and created a sense of unity in its geographically diverse workforce.

“On day one, everyone could start managing their own holidays and their own personal data,” he said. “They could see where their teams sat in the hierarchy and see the entire organisational structure.”

The new system has also freed up SDL's HR team from administrative tasks, allowing them to spend more time consulting with employees and managers.

For example, reports for the board can now be produced every day at the touch of a button.

“It has been noticeable how HR has changed,” said Harris. “It was very much an admin function previously. Now you get HR people reaching out to you, asking how they can help.”

Fairsail has also freed up IT staff for more productive work. Previously, 12 developers spent 30% of their time just keeping the HR databases running; Fairsail requires just one.

Future plans 

The system will also allow SDL to introduce a company-wide employee performance management programme, which is currently under trial.

 It plans to introduce recruitment modules by the summer, making it easier for the HR department to hire new staff and develop employees' careers.

There are also plans to bring employee benefits onto the system, and to integrate it into the company’s newly deployed Hyperion finance system and Concur expenses software.

Staff will be able to access these systems with a single password through single sign-on technology, which is currently under development.

Harris added: “Fairsail will be our system of record for HR. We will be driving the information into our finance tool, our project management tool and our home-grown tools.”


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