by Alan Joch
Few enterprises are as immersed in today’s disruptive forces as Hitachi Consulting Corporation (HCC). The management consulting and IT services company helps global enterprises transform themselves to fuel growth, keep digital insurgents at bay, and satisfy evolving customer demands.
Headquarters: Dallas, Texas
Industry: Management consulting and IT services
Revenue: US$740 million
Oracle products: Oracle HCM Cloud
Vice President, Oracle HCM Cloud Practice
Length of tenure: Four years
Education: BS in computer science, University of the Pacific
Personal quote/mantra: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead
HCC’s solutions solve real business problems, enhance lives, improve communities, and inspire action. For example, HCC offers turnkey retail solutions that embed store shelves with digital sensors to capture real-time data that informs decisions about store-level pricing, inventory management, and merchandising trends. Its Smart Cities engagements are helping municipalities use the Internet of Things to improve traffic flow, optimize water management, and enhance public safety. And healthcare projects bring higher levels of digital innovation and collaboration to industry stakeholders to improve outcomes and manage costs.
But HCC executives don’t just preach transformation; they also live it. Three years ago, they began expanding their business model from traditional consulting services to include turnkey and bespoke solutions packages combining business best practices and leading-edge innovations such as the Internet of Things. From the start, HCC’s leaders knew that success would require more than just a new solution portfolio. The company also had to recast its human resources (HR) department into a strategic business asset that contributes to the future growth of the company.
Underpinning that HR transformation is Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud (Oracle HCM Cloud), a human resources information system that centralizes HR services across HCC’s worldwide operations. Just as important, the cloud platform’s sophisticated data and analytics capabilities turn HCC’s greatest asset—the expertise of its staff—into a more powerful competitive advantage. “It’s imperative for us to get the right information to the right people so our leadership can make decisions backed by timely and accurate data,” says Sona Manzo, vice president of the Oracle HCM Cloud practice at HCC and a leader of the internal HR transformation project.
Nearly two years since HR transformation began in earnest, HCC is realizing many of the initiative’s initial goals, including creating a new role for HR. “HR professionals have been able to move from more-tactical responsibilities to advisors to our business and are playing key roles in strategic initiatives,” Manzo says.A Transformative Year
HCC isn’t the only company seeing a correlation between business transformation and a new role for the HR department. HR leaders named HR transformation as a top priority in “Key Imperatives for HR in 2017,” a report by CEB/Gartner. These trends map closely to the experience of HCC’s leaders. The push for fundamental change was brought about by the company’s new business model and an ongoing growth spurt. HCC is a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., the century-old, Global 100 conglomerate based in Tokyo, Japan. Launched in 2000 with about 450 professionals in the United States, HCC saw its ranks swell to 6,500 people in 22 countries by 2016. More than 2,300 have come on board in just the last two years.
As HCC’s HR leaders managed the burgeoning head count, they also grappled with multiple local HR systems—and in some cases just spreadsheets—that held vital personnel data that wasn’t integrated with the legacy, on-premises HR platform in the United States. Whenever senior executives requested companywide information to make workforce decisions, HR personnel had to manually collect and aggregate the necessary data, which would take days.
17% to 35%
Rise in talent referrals from current employees since HCC began its HR modernization initiative
HR modernization began when HR leadership met with Karen Williams, director of consulting services at HCC, to discuss a replacement for the outdated enterprise HR system. “We quickly realized we were talking about something bigger than a new application—we were discussing complete HR transformation,” Williams recalls.
As transformation talks progressed, Chris Buri, vice president and CIO at HCC, joined in, and a steering committee was formed with business, HR, and IT leadership. They put an overhaul of HCC’s talent acquisition and development processes at the top of the modernization to-do list. In the past, the company typically waited until a new position opened before actively recruiting new talent. Now, the stakeholders wanted ongoing dialogue, fueled by social networks and employee referrals, with top candidates. By cultivating relationships early, the HR staff could identify star talent and move quickly to bring them on board when the time was right. Other goals were a central repository of HR data and expanded analytics and reporting capabilities, and a global platform to streamline compensation, benefits, and absence management, Manzo says.
It’s imperative for us to get the right information to the right people so our leadership can make decisions backed by timely and accurate data.”–Sona Manzo, Vice President of Oracle HCM Cloud Practice, Hitachi Consulting Corporation
Next, the committee began the technology evaluation process that led to the selection of Oracle HCM Cloud. Cloud applications were on Buri’s mind from the start. “We wanted to get out of the data center business,” he says. “As the cloud matured, we increasingly adopted a cloud-first strategy.”
Around this time, a corporate acquisition by HCC hammered home the cloud’s potential for fast-growing organizations. Buri’s team had less than two weeks to bring hundreds of new employees into the legacy enterprise system. “This was a case when after months of negotiations, they suddenly got red hot, and I received word that we’d be bringing all these new people on board,” Buri recalls. “With the old system, it was a challenge to make sure we had enough hardware and software to support the new people without overspending for infrastructure, or just as risky, being so frugal with our spending that we couldn’t handle future growth,” he says.
A modern cloud platform would let the IT staff spin up services to support an influx of new employees. “We could simply bring the new employees into the application and adjust our contract with Oracle to accommodate the additional head count,” Buri says.
The cloud also meant Buri’s staff could forgo routine data center maintenance tasks. “That would let my team focus on more-strategic business initiatives, such as creating reports and analyses for decision-makers,” Buri says.
High among the steering committee’s goals was having a single system of record for all of HCC’s regions, something that was beyond the reach of the old enterprise HR application. With an enterprisewide cloud application, HR and IT managers could centrally assign authorizations for data access based on roles and responsibilities, while also enforcing global security and regulatory policies. The group hoped to fill another gap: the legacy enterprise and regional systems’ lack of mobile services. HCC’s workforce regularly works at client sites and requires access to enterprise data and applications from tablets and smartphones.
Oracle HCM Cloud met all these requirements, plus its modern interface promised to boost productivity and offer an alternative to the legacy system’s hopelessly antiquated interface. “We are seeing an influx of millennials arriving on staff,” Buri says. “They were justified in thinking the old interface looked like something their grandparents would have used.”
The modernization team was also drawn to the Oracle platform’s flexibility. “With many cloud services, customers must adapt their processes to the services’ requirements,” says Matt Revell, director of service delivery at HCC and the person responsible for overseeing the platform after its launch. “Oracle HCM Cloud offers standard processes, but it also lets us tailor processes when necessary.”
A final consideration for the HCC team was the tight security and regulatory controls required to safeguard HR data. For years, IT and business leaders have questioned whether outside service providers would safeguard sensitive data as effectively as onsite staff. “Over time, many CIOs—and I’m one of them—have decided that cloud security is on par with what we can do on premises,” Buri says. “I’m very comfortable that Oracle is addressing the latest security threats and is doing everything as well as or better than we can to protect customer data.”Steady Yields Success
Senior executives signed off on the HR modernization plan in early 2014, with go-live slated for September 2015. The leaders knew they couldn’t rush transformation. Carefully managing the employee experience was essential so staffers would become comfortable with fundamental change. Logistical realities were another challenge. The HR and IT personnel directly involved with modernization also had to perform their usual duties. “Our business is incredibly busy and continuing to grow, and that doesn’t stop because we’re in the middle of a modernization project,” says Williams. “The day-to-day responsibilities had to continue.”
So project leaders devised a time-sharing plan that pulled individuals into the modernization effort when their expertise was most needed, but quickly reallocated their time to keep HCC’s business on track.
The careful planning and steady pace paid off. Since the Oracle HCM Cloud implementation was completed, HCC has seen ample evidence of the benefits of a central HR system that serves the global workforce. One sign of success is how efficiently executives and regional managers can access workforce information when making decisions about HCC’s new direction in its market. “Senior executives need proof that their goals are being acted upon, and now they can easily see how business managers are successfully driving the overall strategy,” Revell says.
First-year reduction in payments to search firms after HCC revamped its talent acquisition capabilities
For example, HCC’s senior executives recently asked Revell for the company’s head count and turnover trends over the last 12 months to assess the investments managers were making for people in the sales and solutions organizations. To gather that information in the past, Revell’s staff had to request the data from managers in each of HCC’s various regions, and then standardize the information because some definitions, such as those for full-time employees versus contingent staff, weren’t consistent. Only then could an analytics group in the United States aggregate the data and run the final report. Today, Oracle HCM Cloud streamlines that process. “The new system centralizes all our personnel information and uses a common set of definitions,” he says. “That means we create reports faster and more accurately, which makes analytics an asset that supports the business case for our new business direction.”
The central system is also making the HR department more efficient by replacing the dozens of discrete processes that had been running in various regions with standardized practices, and enhancing the ability to strategically analyze employee data. For example, HCC routinely reassigns hundreds of individuals a year to posts outside their home countries for customer engagements that require specialized skills. Williams explains that while the new, streamlined global solution greatly improved the global transfer process and visibility to global resources, it also serves as the system of record that feeds employee data for many mission-critical downstream systems. This has not only resulted in improved data integrity but also greatly improved global visibility to our workforce, enabling strategic analysis of our global employee data, says Williams.
HR modernization has also had a significant impact on the full range of hiring activities, from sourcing new talent and acting on employee referrals to ultimately onboarding new people. The referral process used to falter because staff members questioned whether their suggestions were being acted upon. “Now, referrals are handled in a more systematic way, which makes everyone more confident about the system,” Manzo says. “Our consultants are motivated by the embedded ‘leaderboard’ gamification and the knowledge that no matter how many times their social media post may be shared by their contact they will be tagged as the referring party for continuity and rewards.” She adds that referral rates for new hires have increased from 17 percent to 35 percent since the modernization effort began. She also estimates that HCC saved US$1 million in the first year after go-live by reducing payments to search firms and having better insights into other sourcing effectiveness and spend.Continuous Change
HCC transformation experts teach clients that fundamental change is an ongoing process, and that’s a lesson the company’s HR and IT departments are taking to heart. HCC leaders are now expanding their use of the compensation capabilities available within Oracle HCM Cloud to more closely manage sales force compensation. “We needed time to determine how we would be transforming our sales organization, so we kept sales compensation as a separate initiative,” Manzo explains.
That means addressing the complexities of bonus packages tailored for salespeople in each country. For example, “hot skill” bonuses are critical for attracting talent in Asia Pacific locations, but they don’t apply to other regions, such as the Americas. HCC will soon track multiple bonus plans in each country. The company is also exploring workflows that let managers request and approve bonus or salary increases via mobile devices—an improvement over the flurry of emails currently necessary.
Unlike the legacy HR application, the new cloud platform continues to evolve to stay abreast of HCC’s changing needs. “Every six months, we’re seeing new capabilities that give organizations like ours opportunities to grow,” Manzo says. “As our business transforms over time, we are leveraging innovation and opportunities to continually improve our HR function.”
Photography by Shutterstock