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Western Digital taps Workday for global HR management amid big mergers

After Western Digital bought Hitachi GST, global teams from both companies launched a Workday HCM implementation but needed to keep the projects distinct until approval from China.

In an unusual effort, Western Digital Corp. is implementing Workday HCM after acquiring two large companies and...

dealing with a lengthy delay in the project due to restrictions imposed by regulators in China.

"This is one of those very unique implementations involving three like-sized companies integrating together at the same time," said Steve Phillpott, CIO of Western Digital, who is overseeing the company's move to cloud-based applications.

The Workday implementation for global HR management started in 2014 after Western Digital in 2012 purchased Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST), a hard disk maker, from Hitachi. During the HCM implementation, Western Digital needed to keep its operations distinct from HGST for more than three years when it finally received approval from the Ministry of Commerce of China to integrate substantial portions of the two businesses.

While awaiting the approval from China, HGST and Western Digital each separately implemented cloud-based Workday HCM, but it was very difficult because the teams could not communicate with each other and were required to maintain security firewalls between the two companies, Phillpott said. Teams in the two companies could not even talk to each other until a year ago.

A challenging ordeal

"We had to run two global implementation teams," Phillpott said during an interview at the Workday Rising conference. "It was quite a challenging ordeal."

Workday went live for global HR management in May 2016 for 75,000 employees, the total resulting from the merger of the two companies. The system includes core HR and partial components of compensation and benefits and modules, such as time tracking, recruiting and talent management, will be added in the future.

The HCM implementation involved building 200 integrations, including 40 different payroll software systems from providers such as ADP,  Ceridian, and many other payroll providers in Asia. The Workday global HR management system probably has already handled 70 million transactions, Phillpott said.

"The key was getting the base foundation and framework in place," he said. "Now with the base foundation and framework in place, it becomes a platform to move forward."

In May, Western Digital also completed the acquisition of SanDisk Corp., a memory chip manufacturer.

 Oracle's PeopleSoft and SAP SuccessFactors to be replaced

At Western Digital, Workday is replacing two on-premises custom software applications. At HGST, Workday is supplanting three applications of on-premises PeopleSoft, owned by Oracle.

Workday will eventually replace SAP SuccessFactors, which is used globally by SanDisk, during an HCM implementation.

Teams are already assessing and building the requirements and architecture for integrating SanDisk, which includes an additional 8,000 employees.

The Workday system, primarily core HR, is working well, Phillpott said. 

He said Western Digital chose Workday because of its product maturity, user interface and customer service.

Special importance on user feedback

Workday puts a big emphasis on product feedback from users, Phillpott said.

"They are actually reaching out to the users and saying, 'What are you looking for?'" he said. "As we were going through the evaluation process, that was one of the things that stuck in the minds of the team."

Western Digital uses ServiceNow software as the global service ticketing platform. Workday is the system of record and holds all the core HR data. Employees can use Workday for self-service to request changes of address, for example, but if they have questions or need HR service, they use ServiceNow to submit their requests.

ServiceNow, branded HR Central, gives the company a system to handle employee questions and to approve these requests such as answering questions about benefits or changes in status. "If employees have any question for HR, anything about data not being right or information not being uploaded, for example, they can go right to HR Central," Phillpott said.

ServiceNow provides single portal for users

ServiceNow also provides a single portal for all users across different departments.

The ServiceNow portal is a central location for all his lists of issues, he said. "I can see open IT tickets, open HR tickets and open facilities tickets."

Employees at global manufacturing plants access the system via kiosks, Phillpott said. The Workday global HR management software receives about 120,000 logins a month from those 200 kiosks, he added.

PeopleSoft is still handling information from time clocks at manufacturing sites, he said, adding Workday will be deployed next year for that purpose.

In the coming months and years, he expects to see benefits from receiving Workday's major updates each year.

Workday takes care of overall infrastructure

With on-premises PeopleSoft, Phillpott said, IT at Western Digital spent a lot of time on infrastructure issues such as fixes and upgrades. "Workday takes care of the overall infrastructure. It moves the IT skills to higher-value activities like data management and process management and the reporting and analytics. That is good from an IT standpoint."

He said it is also a big advantage to combine the multiple silos of data in the different on-premises systems, adding that data will be easier to manage when it is combined into a single global system.

"It's a good start to our journey," said Phillpott, who deployed Workday when he was previously CIO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals. "I know that journey, which helps."

Next Steps

Mary Kay learns from China during Oracle project

Abbott Laboratories develops good chemistry with Workday

Workday mobile application limits controller

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