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CPA Global transforms HR with Workday

Janine Milne Profile picture for user jmilne May 21, 2017

The clock is ticking for Intellectual Property firm’s switch to Workday.

On June 9, while most of the UK will be celebrating or commiserating over election results, Julie Cormack, global HR Director at CPA Global will still be on tenterhooks. For on that day, the intellectual property management and software firm will go live with cloud-based Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) software.

But Cormack is more excited than worried about the switchover, because it means the company can finally begin to call time on its HR current system, which she points out:

[It] is well past its sell-by date. It’s a geriatric, obsolete system which is no longer fit for purpose.

Although investing in a new system is obviously a big cost and commitment, the current system was also costly to keep “alive and kicking” and was unloved by employees and difficult to use.

Workday came to the table late in the day. Originally, HR was piggybacking on a finance initiative to replace its software, but a change of CFO meant that finance was not ready to push ahead with a major system change. Cormack explains:

As I was ‘decoupled’ from finance, that gave me the opportunity to go back to the market and really review properly what I wanted and see if there was something better out there. I had three months to find myself a new system or go with the system finance had decided. We moved like the clappers in that three months!

The breakneck search led Cormack to Workday, which not only appeared to have a far more user friendly and intuitive solution, but was also able to tune into CPA’s culture and have an implementation methodology that suited the company.

It was still a step into the unknown, however, points out Cormack:

Workday was new to me and although some HR people are very system oriented, it’s not my thing. But I know more about Workday and how to navigate and use it than I have ever done about our current system, and that’s simply by me just going in and testing the user experience. That sold it to me – it’s so easy to use that you don’t need a manual.

Within three months after the split from finance, a deal was signed with Workday and a month later, in October 2016, phase one of the implementation project began.

Big bang

The company chose to take a big bang approach. While its 2,000 employees are spread across 25 locations in 12 countries, the bulk of the staff are in three areas: Delhi, India, the US, and the UK and Jersey, where the company is headquartered. To deal with just those three big areas and leave out the small pockets of people in other regions just didn’t seem a sensible approach, so Cormack took the attitude of 'let’s just get on with it'.

In the first phase, CPA has tackled the core HCM system and onboarding and recruitment, due to go live on June 9. Although performance management is also part of this phase, CPA will not switch over to Workday until August, after the year-end appraisals have been completed.  According to Cormack:

I think what’s most stressful is not about Workday but about the interfaces that we have to build to talk to our existing system – that is where most of my pain points are.

Rather than transfer all data over to the new system, CPA is using this as an opportunity to erase a lot of data ahead of changes to the Data Protection Act coming in next year.

The second stage of the implementation will begin in September, when advanced compensation, succession and time and attendance will be added. Cormack is hoping she will be able to be a little more hands-off this phase, as more responsibility is shouldered by experts in those areas.

By Christmas everything should hopefully be in place, and then it’s time to take a break, says Cormack:

A year of implementation is enough! I think I’d like the organization to bed down a little bit and get used to how things are and get used to Workday. We’d really like to get a grip of the data and dashboards.

While there are always people resistant to change, Cormack is confident that employees will quickly take to Workday, because it is so much easier to handle than the existing system. It will also provide them with the type of technology they expect to use and are already using at home.

Their bosses will have the benefit of far greater employee and team data available to them, she says:
Managers will love this because they now for the first time will have data at their fingertips. They are not going to have to go to India and wait 24 hours for a report.

But the intention is not to let managers go full throttle at the outset, but to gradually give them more control over what they can do.

We are not ready for that as an organization. We will slowly give more and more responsibility to managers. We’re not flinging it to them all at once.

But it will also benefit the standing of HR in the organization, hopes Cormack:

I think it’s going to probably give HR more credibility as a function if we can have real live data at our fingertips. Finance is already planning to piggyback off my reports and given me a list of the reports they want to be able to pull.

It also it frees up the HR business partners to spend less time on information requests and to actually work and partner strategically with the business. I do imagine that will be quite a shift for people as well. It’s not going to happen overnight.

The company has moved fast on this implementation, and if she had her time again, Cormack would have spent longer on the scoping out some of the processes at the beginning:

I wish we had spent more time scoping and looking at the business before we went to the design stage and I think that needed more input from different types of stakeholders. A couple of times we got into something and realised we hadn’t thought it through fully and then had to go back in and change it and that wasted time. That’s definitely been my biggest learning.

Another challenge has been recruitment. Prior to the Workday implementation, the company did not have an applicant tracking system and there was no global standard or rulebook for recruiting. Cormack explains:

Each region was doing its own recruitment in its own way and its own process. I basically forced them to come together on one method of recruitment. That got quite heated because everyone wanted to do it their way.

In the end, however, they did manage to agree on one way of doing things, and now there is a standard onboarding process, which has ended the “faffing with paper” as everything is entered into Workday. Cormack says:

That for us is just revolutionized the recruitment and onboarding process and externally will make us look far more professional and will entice talent to the organization.

So while no implementation is ever hitch or hassle free, Cormack says she is very much looking forward to June 9:

I just want to go live now.

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