CloudWorld 23 - move over standardized global cloud HCM

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan September 22, 2023
How Darling Ingredients transformed its HCM function to a global operation with Oracle and Cognizant.


When he arrived at Darling Ingredients nine years ago from a financial background, Mickey McBride found himself inheriting HR responsibility. How hard can it be, he pondered? At this week’s CloudWorld in Las Vegas, he offered some insight into that as he detailed the organization’s multi-year HR transformation program.

Darling Ingredients turns edible by-products and food waste into sustainable products and is a leading producer of renewable energy. It operates more than 260 facilities in 18 countries and re-purposes approximately 15% of the world's meat industry waste streams into value-added products, such as green energy, renewable diesel, collagen, fertilizer, animal proteins and meals, and pet food ingredients.

Sustainability is at the heart of the business, McBride explained:

About 50% of an animal processed ends up on the plate; the other 50% is where Darling comes in. We take that other 50% and do something good with it to avoid landfilling and incineration of that product. We're picking up these ingredients from food production, food producers, grocery stores, restaurants and things like that…We also fuel transportation needs around the world. We have the capacity at Darling to produce 1.2 billion gallons of renewable diesel this year, and in that we play a vital role in the de-carbonization efforts around the country and around the world.

That global reach was one of the factors driving the need for HR transformation, said McBride:

In 2014, we had a major game-changing acquisition, which made us truly a multi-national company. We bought a company headquartered in Netherlands. Not only did it double the size of the company and the headcount, but it brought in operations in 13 additional countries. So when that happened, we spent the next three years trying to answer simple questions like, 'How many employees do we have? What are the demographics? How much do we pay them? Who's good, who isn't? Where do they work?' Very simple questions. We could answer them, but it took weeks and weeks to answer, instead of minutes and hours.

He added:

There are two ways to go when the organization does not really operate globally. You can you can wait on the organization to restructure globally and then come in with an with a global IT tool... Or you can have the IT tool lead and the organization follows. That's more the route that we took.

Oracle global 

In 2018, the company initiated the Oracle Global HR project, with a simple mission statement, McBride recalled:

It was to implement a modern Human Capital Management system to let HR operate more efficiently and effectively and to maximize the our most important resource, which is human capital, around the world. We wanted centralized HR policies with local execution. We wanted to standardize the procedures where possible and, of course, provide a consistent global view.

Migrating HR data to a secure cloud environment was to be a critical aspect, he added:

When you inherit a bunch of legacy systems, not only are they not operating the same way, but the way that data is exchanged sometimes can be through email, insecure manners, systems that are on prem that may be old and outdated. So getting [data] securely in the cloud was an important driver of the project. And of course providing a modern user experience for the workforce and a single source of truth in the global employee data.

Given Darling’s long-standing relationship with Oracle, the choice of provider was “pretty easy”, according to McBride. Systems integrator Cognizant also came on board:

We needed somebody, because we didn't have it internally, with global reach, the ability to get global resources quickly to do global implementations with a methodology that we can trust. And then also [they were] someone that had managed services capabilities, because we knew after we implemented that then it might be broader than what we could support.

Thinking worldwide

The project began with an eight week period during which global templates were created. McBride explained:

It was very painstaking, but the goal was to align on the scope of the program and a common approach to master data structures, like business units, departments, locations, employee classifications, transaction definitions and workflow around the transactions. We came together and brought in participants like the acting CHRO, global HR leads from around the globe, VPs and directors of HR in certain regions, subject matter experts as needed, the PMO and our integration partner. [They] got together and agreed on these rules essentially, came out with a governance structure program and defined roles and responsibilities for the program.

This provided a tactical project plan statement of work, which inevitably changed as the rollout went on, but provided a suitable starting point. Geographically, the starting point was to be North America, explained McBride, on the basis that it had management support, clear decision making authority, resource availability and known processes technologies and integration:

North America was a centralized HR organization. We knew clearly what the scope was and had clear buy-in from management. We had resources that we could effectively act with. We wanted to get early success because the first phase is a learning curve for internal IT team. It builds change management resources within HR , it gains executive management confidence in the program overall, it lets us revise and tweak the approach for the harder phases later on. You remove opposition through success.

After the domestic market, it was time to head out to the rest of the world, which was something of a voyage of discovery:

There was a lot of we didn't know. We didn't know their systems, didn't know their processes and their people. So before embarking on the rest of the project, we did something called Global Discovery...We wanted a map of what we were getting into. It was necessary in our situation due to the HR organizations, decentralized people and processes around the world.

Rolling out across multiple countries also meant dealing with local regulatory and legal regimes. This led to the creation of a kind of ‘heat map’ which denoted the criticality of various requirements in local regions and markets. It also led to creating a prioritization roadmap in terms of the order in which countries would have the new HR systems put in:

We had a geographical roadmap thread coming out of this where we said, 'Look, the primary goal number one here is to is to have a global standard rollout everywhere of core HR, talent and absence management, to establish a single global HR footprint. That was priority one. Then, in parallel, we had a functional roadmap where we were looking for what additional process efficiencies can we gain in different areas, things like benefits, recruiting, onboarding, improving and automating processes? These two roadmaps kind of happen in parallel.


The next four years saw the rollout take place in earnest, a time period in large part dictated by change management and resource requirements. McBride noted:

Obviously, from a cost standpoint, from a burnout standpoint, you want to go with as many 'Big Bangs' as you can at once. But in our case, we were learning. We were centralizing the HR organization alongside of the IT rollout, so we took it slower because of that.

In terms of lessons learned along the way, McBride cited being aware that HCM is part of an ecosystem:

This project isn't just about HCM, it isn't just about HR. You're going to impact other departments. So as you create your rollout plan and you staff your project and you create your change management plan, don't overlook the impact to other areas, like finance with payroll, the general ledger operations, with timekeeping and digital identities. It really impacted our IT organization a lot more than we planned originally.

Change management costs need to be factored in upfront, he added, and choose the right integration partner. Most of all make sure you understand your HR organization and its needs:

How is HR and Payroll aligned? Does Payroll report up through Finance or does it work through HR? If it's Finance, you need to make sure that you loop Finance into your plans and into your steering committee and make sure you get their buy-in. How is the organizational structure aligned to your goals? Are they more focused on operational HR or strategic HR? That might impact your scope. As a manufacturing company, we're very focused on operational and compliance. Now we're getting more mature, more strategic in our HR operations.

And keep updating your roadmap because it is going to change, he concluded:

Communication never ends. Celebrate the wins and enjoy the journey along the way.

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