Lessons From our SaaS Journey to HCM: Collaborate, Communicate and Never Blink

Choosing the right Software-as-a-Service application to consolidate and modernize your company’s Human Resource platform is a significant challenge under most circumstances. Making that transition to unite HR operations of two, newly merged high-tech heavy hitters (Dell & EMC) with approximately 160,000 employees around the globe is a downright monumental task.

After heading up a 90+ member core IT team that worked across IT and the business to successfully bring together legacy EMC and Dell HR systems onto one common HR platform in 16 months, I can offer insights on how to find the right SaaS providers for your HR transformation.

I can also tell you that selecting the right tools and technologies are only part of the process to forge a system that is so critical and fundamental to creating a happy and motivated workforce. Bringing the key players together to communicate and collaborate to define requirements to take care of the needs of your company’s human resources is even more important.

After all, the ultimate table stakes in any HR application modernization program is ensuring employee paychecks are accurate and on time.

Hopefully underscoring that reality, along with some other strategies we learned in the course of this project, will help you in your pursuit of creating a more efficient, cloud-based HR platform.

Agreeing on the Future State

At the time of the merger that created Dell Technologies, Dell and EMC were using different legacy HR vendor tools, applications and processes. We literally had two of everything from an HR and vendor management applications perspective.

The first step in creating a new HR platform was to bring the various business stakeholders together to define what the end state of a unified HR application would look like regardless of which SaaS applications were chosen. Central to that effort was a strong partnership between IT and business leadership. HR and IT worked with teams from each BU to look at everything from job codes to recruitment to payroll—all the processes across the whole HR ecosystem—to determine what we wanted the new “digital” HR experience to be.

These business teams were joined at the hip with IT, working to define IT requirements for how the new platform would interface with the many applications from both legacy companies.

Once the HR team defined a set of operating principles for the new company, the next step was for HR and IT to join forces to evaluate each prospective SaaS provider. There were several large SaaS providers that could serve our objectives. We finally chose a provider based on how they scored on meeting our requirements laid out by both business and IT.

Our IT requirements focused on performance, scalability, and how easy it would be to integrate with the different applications across the company with the chosen SaaS solution. We had more than 275 direct integrations into these SaaS applications, so they would have to scale across the whole IT ecosystem as well as from on-premises to the cloud.

One of the things that I think played a huge role in the success of the program is that this wasn’t a matter of legacy-Dell’s app being pushed on legacy-EMC. Both companies were coming into the process with a blank canvas and team members focused on a unified vision for the new company. That became the key factor in determining the right SaaS providers. While there were debates, it didn’t become confrontational. We kept things focused on making logical decisions to meet our goals.

At the end of the review process, we arrived at unanimous choices for three SaaS providers—one for our overall HR platform, another for an HR portal and a third to provide our vendor management process.

We then set out to integrate the many applications, migrate files, and take the data from each legacy company and restructure it to match the new HR world going forward. We repeatedly ran conversions for some four million records until we achieved 99.5 percent accuracy, and ran extensive system integration and user acceptance testing.

After 16 months, we launched our new HR platform—called My HR—as scheduled.  The big bang launch—in which we deployed our HR platform, the portal, data analytics, and vendor management application in a 7-day span—went off without a hitch.

Lessons Learned

While a single blog can’t begin to cover the many facets of this project, there are some key pieces of advice you may find helpful.

  1. Get business groups aligned to speak with one voice on the requirements for your future HR platform before considering SaaS providers.
  2. Ensure that the Business and IT project leads work together towards a common goal and not separate agendas.
  3. Set a project completion (go-live) date, get everybody rowing in that direction and don’t blink.
  4. Communicate constantly with all stakeholders, across all aspects of the business. You can never communicate too much.
  5. Make sure team leaders “walk the walk” by being constantly involved in every aspect of the project.
  6. Limit the amount of history you include in your new HR system and archive the rest.
  7. You can never start too early to define the launch orchestration sequence, which needs to be precise to accommodate the many interdependencies of business and HR functions.
  8. Get feedback from other companies, similar in size, that have migrated to HCM SAAS cloud solutions.

Certainly implementing the right SaaS applications were important to our HR transformation, but the IT/business partnership and the collaboration of hundreds of people both in our core teams and across the company were what really made this project a groundbreaking success.

About the Author: Steve Crawley

Steve Crawley is a seasoned IT and global business transformation leader. Steve currently leads the Corporate IT teams which includes Finance, Human Resources, Legal, and Facilities. Steve has successfully led numerous business transformation programs. Along with Steve’s Corporate IT responsibilities he is the regional CIO for Dell Latin America. Steve partners with the regional executive leadership team to provide IT solutions for all Latin American business operations.