Even the biggest cloud advocates will concede the human element. A cloud project brings the same change management issues as an any other IT project - especially if you aspire to lasting change.
But at SuccessConnect 2017, I got a view into a terrific way of addressing the problem of software change: by turning it into a leadership development mission.
My interview guest was Hernán García González, Vice President, Talent & Culture, at Mexico's Tecnológico de Monterrey. If you're an aspiring IT person in Mexico, you've heard of the Tecnológico de Monterrey. Considered the "Mexican MIT," Monterrey Tec is a private, non-profit university that is ranked in the top 200 universities in the world based on the QS ranking (number six in Latin America, number one in Mexico).
HR systems multiply - "How many people work here?"
For González, that means his purview includes serving about 31,000 employees and a total of 150,000 students across two universities (as well as two medical centers with a hospital and a medical school). That's a good size challenge for any HR leader, even if you're working on a consolidated/modern HR system. That was not the case when he came on board in 2012:
The first question was, "How many people work here?" It took thirty days to give me the headcount. Because, if you have nine payrolls, and you have not standardized processes, you have a lot of different ways of doing things. Every campus was different.
Crucial HR data was spread across systems:
The reality was that we had a lot of different systems. We had eight or nine payrolls; we had LMS systems all over the place.
The systems chaos wasn't a result of sloppiness. It was the problem of fast growth:
The institution grew too fast in the past twenty years, and a lot of local solutions started emerging.
knew one thing: the new HR solution had to be transparent:
We started looking at what we needed to do to solve. We wanted one tech, one way of doing things. We wanted the same access to opportunities and transparent information - a very open door policy, where everybody should receive the same benefits based on their grade or their levels. So, very transparent- it was not that way before.
It wasn't that difficult to create a short list: unlike the U.S., there aren't many complete HR solutions localized for Mexico. González's ultimately chose SuccessFactors. Working with partner Deloitte, the began the payroll implementation in February of 2013.
"Don't go live with all the functionality"
With a big push, they went live in January 2014. González acknowledged that moving so many systems onto one in a condensed timeframe has been challenging. Even a simple-sounding prep task like "standardization of job titles" can get complex quickly. González gave other customers this advice:
My strategy was and is: don't go live with all the functionality. Do it one step at a time. We needed to train the managers. It [wasn't just new systems, but new processes].
It doesn't end there. González and team have put in performance appraisals, and in 2015, they put in SuccessFactors' LMS. None of these projects would have stuck to the wall without well-trained managers. But how do you get managers to put their time into training when they are already knee deep in their day jobs?
Transforming leaders - training goes beyond tools
González and his team set up a new program called "Transformational leaders," which roughly translates into "transforming leaders" in English. González knew the training had to go beyond tools.
The tool is only the way inputting data or getting that transaction. For me, the most important thing was they understand the process, and they understand why and what to do. For some of them, this was their first experience with these kinds of processes.
They developed several larger groups of training courses, one focused on talent management, from recruiting to hiring to performance appraisal. Another training series focused more on administrative processes, from budgets to procurement. The final series, on leadership development, is a more aspirational section on leaders as change agents.
The vision thing worked. Rather than tell employees they are required to take admin training courses, Monterrey Tec puts the courses in leadership development context. "It's been very successful," says González.
Even good changes aren't easy ones, González told me the initial reactions weren't so great:
In the beginning, it was not very positive. They didn't want to change.
Persistence paid off:
Now they like it. They rank the program very high.
All of the courses on online, but González and team also conduct a four-hour workshop that 3,000 organizational leaders pass through (in 2017, 600 leaders took the workshop). They use a Facebook group to keep communications going with the 3,000+ trained managers. González: "It's a continuous process because it's not about the tool, it's about leaders being good leaders."
There's plenty of work ahead. González and team are soon to embark on the Employee Central project, a major piece of the HR workflow puzzle. Monterrey Tec is working closely with SAP to ensure that a key piece of functionality they need, "concurrent employee," is going to work for them (concurrent employment allows the tracking of employees who might be issued three separate contracts for each course that they teach).
Almost all of the functionality Monterrey Tec needs from SAP is working on-premises; it's the move to the cloud for Employee Central that comes next. That's in the works for next February.
This was not one of those cases where the perfect HR solution came out of the box. But González told me he's worked closely with SAP to address the issues. Combine that with training/leadership curriculum his managers have come to embrace, and you're on the way:
By the end of next we're going to be 100% paperless in our HR functions. We'll only have to input information one time.
Sometimes the simplest-sounding changes are the best ones.