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Cisco HR moves to cloud with Thomsons SaaS

Cisco taps Thomsons for massive SaaS project in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia.

In a sweeping and complex cloud project that began six years ago, Thomsons Online Benefits is implementing a benefits system for thousands of employees of Cisco Systems Inc. in 62 countries.

The project for Cisco HR involves integrating information from more than 700 health and other vendors for more than 13,000 employees of the networking company in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. The SaaS-based software replaced largely paper processes.

The Cisco HR system from Thomsons is boosting employees' participation in key benefits such as health, pensions and travel expenses, and providing them a single sign-on to access the information, said U.K.-based Charlie Johnston, a vice president of human resources for Cisco.

"It's also a great platform for engagement," Johnston said. "It's a way of engaging with your people, using technology to get messages out there. You have more flexibility to do more than just pure benefits."

Global buildout for Cisco HR

Cisco first deployed its HR system in England in 2009. It now covers about 7,350 Cisco employees in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Israel, Norway, Belgium and Spain, according to Johnston. It is being rolled out to an additional 6,000 employees in another 55 countries. He said there are about 13,350 employees in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia.

The software captures data of employees via Cisco's HR system and workers' own input, and then distributes the information to providers or vendors via automated reports and data feeds. The transmission method can vary in a country depending upon the sophistication of a vendor's system, said Chris Wakely, senior vice president for enterprise accounts at Thomsons. All Cisco employees in the affected countries will have a consistent enrollment and management experience, Wakely added.

During the implementations, Thomsons was flexible in customizing its Darwin software to fit Cisco's branding and other requirements, Johnston said. As an example, Thomsons configured its software to meet Cisco's specific benefit requirements. All of Cisco's eligibility rules are now part of the software, ensuring that the system manages all calculations. Employees can only view the benefits that they can obtain, and the benefits are reflected in "total reward statements" for employees that the software also manages.

Thomsons also customized Darwin for Cisco's employee-facing portal, which includes Cisco's logo, imagery, coloring, font and tone of voice.

Johnston said the selection of London-based Thomsons was largely based on global experience and a shared culture of innovation.

Thomsons also helped Cisco structure a campaign that won over employees and significantly increased participation in benefits, he said. Historically, employees at Cisco took benefits for granted or they would be detached from the administration of those benefits, he said. After the deployment, about 93% of employees in England, for example, signed on to the system, he said.

An employee can also log in just once to obtain access to applications for different benefits. In the past, employees needed to log on to different systems to find information about pensions, an option for a company car, along with base salary and bonus, for example. "Employees now have that single point of contact, a place you go into with your Cisco ID and password, find out the information you need, and manage it all in one simple online experience," Johnston said.

Cisco uses the software to regularly run campaigns that focus on choices for benefits that might be available in a certain country. "The most important part is that it becomes much more proactive," he said. With the data supplied by Thomsons, for example, Cisco could offer more training, more management support and maybe more policies if it sees an unusual amount of claims in a country.

There were no pain points that stood out during implementation, Johnston said.

Employees can access the system from their computers at home, he said. "From a personal perspective, I can change my pension contribution or look to update my personal information or make a request of a healthcare supplier," Johnston said. "I know I can go to a single place. It's intuitive. It's available to me when I want to use it."

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