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Lessons learned from Telefonica's SuccessFactors rollout

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright November 17, 2015
Telefonica's head of global HR transformation spills the beans on lessons learned from its 2-year cloud HCM SuccessFactors rollout to 130,000 employees

Catherine Leaver Telefonica speaking at SuccessConnect EMEA 2015
Catherine Leaver, Telefonica

Telecoms giant Telefonica is in the midst of a 24-month global rollout of the complete SuccessFactors HCM product suite to its 130,000 employees in 41 countries and 170 different business entities. Catherine Leaver, director of global HR transformation, took to the stage at last week's SuccessConnect conference in Rome to talk about lessons learned from the implementation.

The project kicked off in October 2014 with a 24-month technical roadmap and the final parts of the business implementation are due to be largely completed by early 2017. It will replace over 175 separate HR systems, all locally designed and locally managed, as Leaver explained:

We started with a very disparate and siloed started point, from a systems and process perspective. At the same time, data has been a big challenge for us. The systems were not integrated, so we had no single source of truth for people data.

We hope to get to a point with SuccessFactors, with one single integrated HR system, that will be supported by common global processes, and will enable the single source of people data.

That's a really critical point for us, to be able to really drive data-driven decision making. Previously, just getting people data was an industry in its own right.

The first phase saw rapid roll-outs of talent applications including performance management, recruitment and learning. This was designed to deliver some quick wins early in the project, as Leaver recounted.

100 days in, we launched performance management with 53,000 employees, across 41 countries.

We have unified data in 53 legacy systems. We designed and launched recruitment marketing within 3 months — that's the first time in Telefonica that we have had a global external career site. Equally importantly, it took us six months to build and launch recruitment — the first time we have one consistent source of internal vacancies. And seven months to deliver learning.

All of these modules have been launched to 53,000 employees, so that is not our entire population, but within the next few weeks, we expect an additional 64,000 employees to be coming into the system.

Employee Central is currently in the process of localization, while compensation and mobile interfaces are due for roll-out around the turn of the year. The final phase will be delivery of analytics.

Leaver outlined a series of lessons learned to date, covering points relating to change management, skills needed, business readiness and standardizing data.

SuccessFactors will force change on you

You must not regard this as solely a technology project, Leaver emphasized. SuccessFactors has certain built-in assumptions about how HR works and your implementation will introduce other changes that will immediately impact the organization, she said.

The first message here is to get the HR house in order, and go in eyes wide open. This is not just an IT implementation.

You cannot separate system change from broader organizational change. You have to adapt the two, and you have to deliver the two at the same time.

As soon as you start to implement your first modules, you will immediately have changed the process, and you will immediately have made some alignment of roles and responsibilities. If you ignore that fact, you will struggle to deliver the embedding of those processes.

There's a huge opportunity to rethink how HR is delivered within the organization, but it's essential to do that upfront, she said.

I would really encourage the HR community to sit down and do your big thinking about rethinking HR processes.

[But] if we are going to rethink HR, the time to do it is before you start the workshops, would be my tip.

Leaver highlighted four ways in which SuccessFactors forces change in the way HR is organized.

  • SuccessFactors assumes there are standard global processes. For the HR function, the challenge here is changing the [local] processes and ways of working to the global standard. That is a real challenge for many organizations.
  • SuccessFactors assumes there are common and consistent roles for HR across your business. The scope of a business partner role [for example] will vary from organization to organization, but if it varies significantly within the organization, you will have a challenge allocating role-based permissions.
  • It is really important that HR understands how allocating roles in the system grants access to their users. I think this has certainly taken us longer than we had expected. But this is really important, because it grants access to confidential data.
  • The other assumption that SuccessFactors makes is that you have a culture and an HR operating model based around self-service.

Think about skills

A strong mix of skills is essential, said Leaver, especially within the project team, as well as working with the right partners.

My second lesson learned is around internal program capability. It is quite obvious that you need very highly capable people and flexible people to work on a program such as this.

You absolutely need the strong partnerships. SAP partnership, absolutely critical. The relationship between HR and IT, at both the global and equally local level, is critical, as is that of your chosen SI partner. But don't forget your internal program team.

If I think about the HR side specifically, yes, you need specialists on this program, global process analysts who know their subject matter inside out. But equally importantly, they need to design a process which operationally delivers. Don't underestimate the value of great generalists on a program like this.

Is your business ready?

The capacity of the business to absorb change is an important consideration, Leaver pointed out.

My third point is around SaaS being very fast. One of the major advantages of SuccessFactors is, it is cloud-based. Implementation will be very quick, but it can only be as quick as your organization is capable of receiving.

How ready is your organization to receive this scale of change? You have scarcity of resources to consider.

Other factors impacting the business must also be taken into account, she warned.

If your business is going through the greater change that ours is — mergers, acquisitions, disposals — obviously implementation of a program like this has to be fitted in alongside all of those other business priorities supporting transformation.

Be that the IT roadmap, be that the business readiness to receive the change, these are all factors that need to be considered. The system might be ready, but is your business?

Get the data right

Leaver's final points concerned prioritizing data and reporting. It was essential to think about this right from the start, she said.

Prioritize this from day one, both on the HR side, and equally importantly, on the IT side. We need a culture of data accuracy.

SuccessFactors delivers one source of truth. Fantastic — but only if the data is accurate. Those countries who have an HCM already in existence will find this significantly easier than those who do not.

It's also important to be prepared for the data goalposts to constantly move around, she advised.

People data constantly changes, and when you're going through reorganizations, mergers, as we are, then this changes very quickly. Plan for this to be a constant challenge, and to have the resources and focus to manage that.

Her final piece of advice was to recognize the importance of standard definitions as a foundation for reliable reporting, which in turn builds confidence in the success of the implementation.

You need global reports, and that means you need [to standardize] how you measure things within your processes. If I take a recruiting example, you need a common way of understanding what the company means by time to hire. You don't all have to have the same target, but what you mean by time to hire would have to be standardized.

Deal with reporting in your workshops. Plan it from day one. It is as important at implementation day, as the tool itself.

Reporting builds credibility. Data builds confidence. It drives adoption, so don't underestimate the value of data in reporting.

My take

Invaluable advice from someone who has been there, done that and can wear the T-shirt with pride.


Image credit - Catherine Leaver on stage in Rome - courtesy of SAP SuccessFactors.

Disclosure - SAP is a diginomica premier partner. SAP paid my travel expenses to attend the SuccessConnect EMEA event.

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