Ten killer questions for choosing an HR IT system

Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS) chose a cloud-based HR system, to manage its 3,700 disparate global staff, on the basis of 10 killer questions

  • Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS) is implementing a cloud-based HR system to manage its 3,700 disparate global staff, after basing its choice of supplier on 10 key questions.

ISS is now in the process of implementing a software-as-a-service (SaaS) HR system from Workday across its global operations.

ISS operates in about 70 countries and has grown its workforce rapidly over the last decade. But it had always completed HR tasks manually.

ISS recruited Camilla Aitchison as chief human resources officer two years ago and tasked her with updating the company’s HR processes. This involved implementing an IT system to automate previously manual tasks.

“We did not have a proper HR function for the global operation but with pockets of HR in certain regions of the world where we had lots of staff. I came in to look at the people strategy,” said Aitchison.

“We did not have a global system and required one that could be used from any of our locations.”

ISS's ten killer questions for choosing an HR system

  1. Is the HR system used globally – i.e. in over 100 countries?
    ISS operates in 290 locations in 65 countries across the globe.
  2. Is the system self-service and manager self-service?
    ISS has a strategic requirement to build accountability and responsibility at all levels.
  3. Is the HR System multilingual, including English, Japanese and Spanish?
    English is the business language but self-service will require all ISS staff to access and use the system. Being able to read and input in their own language will encourage usage.
  4. Is the system available as a SaaS offering? How will the system be supported and upgraded from an R&D perspective?
    SaaS can automate quality updates, which lends better security and saves maintenance costs.
  5. Is the system suitable for self-service for 8000 users across the internet?
    The system must be scalable since ISS is growing so fast.
  6. Is the system used in low-bandwidth locations?
    ISS operates in many places with limited network resources, such as Papa New Guinea, Somalia and Nigeria.
  7. Can the system migrate and store existing payroll numbers?
    ISS does not want to have to change all existing payroll numbers across the world, which would add cost and complexity to the implementation project.
  8. Does the system come with good integration tools?
    ISS wants to integrate it with other ISS systems such as the intranet, Active Directory, the finance system, payroll systems and Salesforce.com.
  9. How easy is it to generate management reports?
    ISS does not want to rely on external reporting tools that require additional resources to manage.
  10. Does the company have a well-defined implementation process?
    ISS has limited HR resources to implement the system and so needs a system with well defined implementation project plan and process.

Aitchison said that in retrospect she would add an additional question: “Is the system accessible to staff whilst travelling on smart phones or tablets?”

Choosing an HR IT supplier

ISS identified 10 system providers and asked what Aitchison described as the 10 killer questions (see panel, right). These questions included whether the system was available in the cloud.

“One of the key questions was whether the systems were available as SaaS,” said Aitchison.

The company's desire for a system that was the same across the globe, that could be updated easily, meant a cloud-based system was ideal. Because the system is centralised, changes can be made in one place.

“We support staff in about 70 countries and we needed a system that we could update easily,” said Aitchison.

Critical business requirements

She said HR IT is not a priority at ISS, so the company wanted a system it did not have to worry about updating. With the cloud system, it is updated once centrally when required.

Other important features included multiple language functionality; the ability for the system to work without broadband; and it had to have an intuitive self-service, said Aitchison.

ISS’s HR department chose the Workday system in April 2011 and had to convince the board that the investment was worthwhile. This took time because it was difficult to demonstrate benefits, as the company had not used a system before. 

“The business case was difficult because there was nothing to compare it to,” said Aitchison.

Benefits of an HR IT system

ISS used research to prove the business value. It showed that using manual methods took 172 hours to complete a report on global headcount. In contrast, with the Workday system, the data is automatically available.

It also revealed the system would reduce absenteeism. If it reduces this by one day a year for 30% of the workers, the savings would pay the licence fee for a year.

ISS started implementing the system in May 2012 and plans to complete it in time for every staff member to conduct their self-appraisal using the system before the end of December 2012.

ISS already uses cloud services in its operation through Salesforce.com. Aitchison believes the cloud HR system will be more secure than having instances on every machine.

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