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Advances in human capital management software transforming HR duties

HR leaders Robert Weinman and Debbie Lynch explored the challenges of implementing Oracle human capital management software.

Two HR leaders said that advances in human capital management software will mean some dramatic changes for industry professionals in the years ahead.

"It will transform the nature of the HR professional, who you hire, what skills they need to have," said Robert Weinman, vice president of benefits and HR operations at TIAA CREF, a financial services provider. "On a small scale, our whole HRIS staff is going to need to change. Or their duties are going to need to change. People will [need to] be able to configure this new system, do these upgrades every six months or so. In terms of supporting the business leaders, you are going to have to have a different skill set to do that.

"The whole focus on learning and the social connectivity of a workforce requires HR people with different skills and different focus than we have been required to [have]. That is where things are headed. It's going to change the nature of what HR does and what it is expected to do."

At the Oracle HCM World conference, Weinman and Debbie Lynch, chief human resources officer at Ansell, a global manufacturer of hand and arm protection products, spoke on a panel. Both companies are implementing Oracle cloud human capital management software.

Data analytics, cloud rise in importance

Lynch said analytics will move the needle for HR.

"It is an area where we are at a huge deficit right now. I don't have a global recruiting system. I can't even tell the executives how many openings they have around the world. It's almost embarrassing as an HR professional not to be able to have that data," Lynch said.

"For me, everything -- what we are moving toward -- is to be able to give better data to the business and with that data, to have insights. And that will mean a huge transformation. I don't think my HR team realizes it yet."

For human capital management software, TIAA Cref is currently using an old version of PeopleSoft. The company considered upgrading it but decided to go with Oracle human capital management cloud software.

"We believe that the cloud is the future of these systems, not the old enterprise system," Weinman said. "We made a decision to go to the cloud. We want to avoid consistent costly upgrades over time. We wanted to be able to leverage the best thinking of experts in the industry to get more frequent upgrades and enhancements to our systems. The cloud made sense for us."

TIAA Cref plans to go live with Oracle human capital management software at the end of April, starting with core HR services.

Meanwhile, Ansell implemented Oracle E-Business Suite in North America, with only limited use currently in that region. It also plans to launch Oracle HCM Cloud for recruiting, onboarding and compensation.

Lynch said the journey can be difficult at times, especially for a large enterprise such as Ansell, which has 13,000 employees around the world.

In North America, Ansell had several years ago implemented an Oracle system, but there was not a lot of involvement from HR, according to Lynch. The HR team was leery about implementing another one.

"There was a lot of skepticism and baggage in the North America organization," she said. "Slowly we worked through it. We are at a point now where they are starting to get excited. It's taken at least six to eight months. It is a journey to get them to the point where they really do feel this is making a difference in the organization."

The company also plans to implement E-Business Suite in Europe, Middle East and Africa and Latin America but hasn't gone live with it yet.

"We are close to doing that, but what I am really conscious of is data validation and making sure that data is as close to 100% clean as possible," Lynch said. "If it's not,” he said, there could be a backlash on HR, and “we don't want to be there. I am very conscious about moving forward to that next step."

Lynch also faced language barriers. "We had to fly to Brazil and work with the Brazilian team because it was difficult for them to understand," she said.

Team with finance to build a business case

When seeking to purchase human capital management software, the two HR leaders said it is critical to work with colleagues in finance to build a business case for the change.

"Think like a business person," Lynch said. "I always consider myself a business person first with an HR professional background. I need to make the business case to my colleagues on the executive team that this is a good investment for where we are going. With that, it is amazing what you can do."

Weinman said that he might not have been successful in selling the business case without the support of IT. He said the key was to lay out the project as an investment for the future instead of an expense.

"Don't be afraid," Weinman said. "In talking with our IT folks, it became clear to me this is just the right thing to do. Pick the right business partner for yourself, make your business case and go with it."

Pitfalls to avoid with HCM software

Weinman and Lynch also shared some lessons learned.

For example, Weinman is confident the Oracle system will go live at the end of April as planned, but the timeline is tight.

"We did do a lot of planning," he said. "One of the lessons I've learned, no matter how much planning you did, you probably needed more time to do it.

"Everything takes longer than you hope and expect. Contracting takes longer. Data conversion takes longer. Because data conversion takes longer, you can't test your interfaces when you plan to."

"You really need to build in more time if you can, have contingency plans in place so that you can go down two tracks concurrent to the extent you can," he added. "There is just a whole host of things that happen that your best laid plans don't get you ready for."

A project can hinge on ensuring that data is as correct as possible, Lynch said. Titles need to be right, for example, or employees will question the effectiveness of HR, she said.

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