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How Cyient streamlined its HR functions with the cloud

The India-based supplier of engineering services is counting on a cloud-based human resource management system to improve efficiency and support its growing business

Like most IT head honchos, Gaurav Kataria not only keeps his organisation’s IT infrastructure humming, he also looks to the cloud for the agility and scalability he needs to keep pace with a growing business.

In December 2016, Kataria, who is CIO of Cyient, an India-based supplier of engineering design services, started using Workday to power all aspects of human capital management (HCM), from recruitment and onboarding to performance management and termination.

“We wanted to upgrade our on-premise HCM platform, which wasn’t meeting all the needs of our growing organisation,” says Kataria. “We were looking at something that was scalable, and what we liked about Workday was its single code base that enabled seamless interoperability between different modules.”

The scalability of cloud-based offerings such as Workday was particularly important, says Kataria, because Cyient expects to make multiple acquisitions across the globe, which means its HRM  system has to support a growing workforce. That Workday was “simply designed” with an intuitive user interface was a clincher too, he says.

With any move to a new business application, there is always a potential need to redesign business processes from scratch. In the case of Workday, Kataria says this was not necessary, as the software comes with a set of preconfigured best practices that can be applied quickly. “We could hit the road running faster,” he says.

Journey to the cloud

More so than ever, business leaders are more involved in IT decision making today. After creating a business case for the use of Workday in partnership with the IT team, Cyient’s head of HR made a recommendation to the company’s CEO-led IT governance board, which collectively approved the purchase and use of the software. “We received buy-in from the top before we selected Workday,” says Kataria.

Having received the blessings from its senior management on the move to the cloud, Cyient embarked on a nine-month implementation project that includes migrating data from its previous on-premise HRM platform. Data migration and preparation was conducted in a sandbox environment, six months before the roll-out.

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Describing the data migration process as straightforward, Kataria says his team made use of migration scripts and templates available through the software. But more than that, his team also took the opportunity to address any data quality issues, and to ensure data was clean and free of errors.

“We didn’t want to bring in old data into the system, so we made a decision to only bring three years’ worth of data to Workday,” says Kataria, noting, however, that the old data can still be accessed through the company’s legacy HRM system.

Despite efforts to ensure data quality and integrity, Cyient still faced data related issues, Kataria says. Workday’s Delivery Assurance service, which offers tools and expertise to identify potential risks in the deployment lifecycle, was helpful in surfacing those issues. “We had to fix the data and delay our go-live date by a week, but I think it was worthwhile.”

As an organisation with a global footprint, Cyient has had to abide with local data sovereignty laws, such as those in the European Union (EU) and Australia. Kataria says the personal data of Cyient’s European employees, for example, are all held at Workday’s EU datacentres. Employees outside the EU who may have access to that data will also need to adhere to non-disclosure agreements, he says.

Data integration

As the master system that houses all employee records, Cyient’s Workday software has also been integrated with other systems such as project management, which employees use to track their projects; Cyient’s corporate intranet that runs on Microsoft SharePoint; Microsoft Active Directory for user authentication and access to email services; and a bespoke payroll application in India which Kataria says has a different payroll structure from other geographies.

“The integration with these systems could be online or offline, depending what works for us and what’s required,” says Kataria, noting that his team has used web services supported by Workday for the integration work. This includes developing a data integration architecture, and testing the integrations points to make sure nothing would be broken with each new Workday release. “But over the nine months before we went live, we had managed to iron out the rough edges,” he adds.

One system of record

Kataria says the Workday implementation has provided Cyient with a unified “system of record” for all HCM functions despite the need to comply with different regulatory regimes across the world. “That’s one big advantage from a business standpoint,” says Kataria, noting that the system will also help to reduce HR staffing needs and improve efficiency of its HR teams by about 20%.

While Cyient has adopted a cloud-first strategy as far as possible, he admits that in cases where there are regulatory restrictions or when cloud platforms don’t comply with security policies, the company will go with on-premise applications hosted in its own datacentres.

To overcome the shortage of talent who are well-versed in Workday implementations in India, Kataria’s team of five people who have been supporting Cyient’s legacy HCM system have been upskilled in cloud application management. “Workday is not the only cloud service we’ve implemented – our experience with other cloud implementations also adds to our knowledge,” he concludes.

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