Patent group prepares for tough data protection laws by moving HR to the cloud

CPA Global to replace ERP-based HR system as it gears up to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation

CPA Global, one of the world’s largest patent advisers, is replacing “horrific” human resources (HR) technology with a cloud service as it prepares for Europe’s new data protection laws.

The patent group, registered in Jersey, plans to replace its enterprise resource planning (ERP)-based HR system with a cloud HR service.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force next May, will place stringent new privacy requirements on companies, backed up with fines of €20m or 4% of turnover, whichever is greater.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Julie Cormack, global head of HR at CPA, said the project will help the company demonstrate to its clients that it is compliant with the new law.

“You can’t get it wrong because the fines are too heavy,” she said. “We need to show our clients we are ready.”

The company had previously raised questions over the quality of its HR data.

CPA, which provides patent advice to Microsoft, Merk and Canon, began looking to replace its existing HR systems – understood to be Oracle EBS – last summer.

“The system we use at the moment is horrific,” said Cormack. “It is loathed by managers. We have no access to HR data, no applicant tracking system. The performance management system is dreadful.”

The company, which employs about 2,000 people worldwide, runs its HR from a central operation in India.

It can take 24 hours for HR managers to receive the data they ask for, and data quality – a key requirement of the GDPR – is not always all it should be.

Original plans put on hold

CPA originally planned to move its HR systems to IT supplier Oracle’s cloud service as part of a project to migrate its finance system to Oracle.

“Just as the project was getting going, we had a new CFO come on board, and he said ‘I haven’t got the appetite for this project’,” said Cormack.

The HR team had three months to evaluate alternative suppliers, including SuccessFactors and FairSail – now owned by Sage – before it opted for Workday. “We liked workday’s culture and engagement,” she said.

CPA’s CEO, Simon Webster, sees the potential of technology to enable CPA to become a leader in intellectual property, and was enthusiastic about the project, said Cormack.

“He took very little persuading because he hates the way our existing HR system was done,” she added.

Big bang launch

CPA plans to go live with its cloud HR service across its operations in the US, India and the UK today (9 June), working with its implementation partner, which is understood to be OneSource Virtual.

The project will lead to long-term savings in support and licensing costs for CPA’s existing HR system, based in India, which is maintained by CSC.

“We were going to have to spend a lot of money keeping our HR technology going with support from CSC,” said Cormack.

The cloud HR system will give managers accurate information about the workforce, salary information and reports without having to make requests to India.

“They are going to be able to make informed decisions more quickly,” she said. “We will be able to keep a closer eye on our workforce and cost base in a timely way.”

CPA will also have access to an applicant tracking system that will enable it to recruit candidates more easily by linking in to job boards and LinkedIn.

For the first time, the HR team will be able to measure the cost to hire, the time to fill vacancies, and how many referrals they have had.

Workday simplified

CPA has simplified its Workday software, and does not plan to make the full range of options available to managers and employees.

“We are not ready for a culture of full service,” said Cormack. “We are not throwing everything at managers, saying do that.”

For example, Cormack went into one menu in Workday as an employee and discovered that one tab offered 27 options. She reduced it to eight.

Once the system goes live, staff will be able to update their photographs and their personal data. They will also have access to all their employment documentation, including contracts and changes to terms and conditions – which are currently not available.

Save HR staff time

The project will free up the company’s 37 HR staff, including 18 in India, from dealing with requests from managers, to spend time on higher-value work. Cormack estimates that the project could save HR staff 30-40% of their time.

Two HR staff at CPA’s shared services centre in India will become systems administrators for Workday, working alongside an IT specialist.

Cormack advises other companies embarking on similar projects to make sure they spend time agreeing standard HR processes before rolling out the technology.

“I would have spent more time on planning our processes up front than we did,” she said. “We did find some things did not work. I would have spent more time thinking about process and bringing in other parts of the business.”

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