9 september 2015, Tour & Taxis Brussels. Marc Van Uytvanck, HRIS Domain Manager at ArcelorMittal, receives the silver Quality Award for best Business Transformation project at SAP Forum. We get the chance to speak with him right after the award ceremony.
Congratulations, Mr. Van Uytvanck. What can you tell us about the project you won this award for?
M. Van Uytvanck: ‘The project was named OneHRIS because it was our intention to build a global HR system. And we did it, OneHRIS is currently being used from Kazachstan to Liberia, in Canada and in Europe. We did not intend to build a payroll engine for each country and to have everyone on the same payroll. That would not have been possible, either technically or organizationally.
We have given the group an instrument to standardize those processes that are not location-bound. Payroll for example is obviously location-bound, due to differences in social legislation. Processes as Performance Management, Learning Solutions or Recruitment are less affected by location and therefore more generic.
This means that other sites or countries in need of a supportive HR system for the generic processes, don’t have to make or build anything. Everyone can use our global OneHRIS system.’
What were your goals for this project?
M Van Uytvanck: ‘Our first goal was to build a system that could support all AM locations as we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel every time. The second goal has more to do with the corporate image of the company in the group. Until a few years ago, the only information that was shared on group level was the number of employees per legal entity. We didn’t even know if the numbers represented men or women, part time or full time employees, blue or white collar or management staff…
Now we have a broad picture with a lot of dimensions. We know which age groups we have, we know in which projects employees are involved, which roles etc. We can map our personnel in different countries and legal entities. Plus, we got rid of those monthly spreadsheets we needed to send around before!
Even with those two goals realized, a different issue would have still persisted. We’ve noticed that other global companies with a global system for personnel administration often have ‘double input’ issues. For example when there is a new hire, those details are logged in the global system ánd in the local payroll. First of all, this doubles the work and secondly, it causes friction since the differences in reporting for both systems need to be explained. One report could show 500 employees and the other report (for good reason) only 495. Why the 5 differences? We’ve seen this in our company too: so much time is lost just explaining differences for a system that is not synchronized.
We challenged ourselves: in this OneHRIS project, every piece of information only needs to be inputted once. We are centralizing what is useful to centralize and the rest we keep local. Without double input. This means that we are working with a system that replicates continuously, just like a mail server replicates with a smartphone or desktop.
This is where we are unique: we are the only company in the world that is organized like this. We create an overall image without additional input and without any errors. Furthermore, this gives us the advantage of flexibility. With a ‘local layer’ and a ‘central layer’, we can expand locally as we please. With a rigid system it can be a nice picture for top level, but no one actually uses it. On the contrary, people will use shadow systems under the radar.
M. Van Uytvanck: ‘The system is built and ready, we keep it alive by adapting it as needed. Our original goals are met, what we do today is mostly expanding the perimeter.
ArcelorMittal has 230.000 employees and today 170.000 of them are using this system (in September 2015). Europe is more or less complete. Asia is 100% operational, including Ukraine and Kazachstan. Those two countries have given us some trouble, with the language and script, but all issues are solved now. We’re less active in the Americas, that’s where our focus lies for the time to come.’
This project was also a realization of your business partner Emeritis, what role did they play?
M. Van Uytvanck: ‘The project had originally started in 2008, but due to the economic crisis it was put on hold. In 2010, we requested offers from ten companies for the implementation of this project. From that list, Emeritis was our favorite. They have taken on the initial project and shortly after that we’ve transferred most of the maintenance work to Emeritis people too, managed by ArcelorMittal. The knowledge of the Emeritis people was very valuable for us and useful when we expanded the solution.
What made you choose for this specific partner?
M. Van Uytvanck: ‘We planned to start simultaneously in a number of countries: Spain, Poland, France, Kazahstan, etc. so we needed a partner who could manage this implementation in every country.
At this point we had to make a choice: shall we go for one big partner with presence in every single country (f.e. Accenture, IBM or Wipro) or do we choose for local partners? The local partners have the advantage of knowing their own market and social legislation, which made them more efficient. To build the global system, we knew we wouldn’t need such an extensive team.
Emeritis convinced us with their flexibility, pricing, and the expertise of the consultants. We had the opportunity to choose for a ‘smaller’ partner since we had local partners in every country. This ‘smaller’ partner has no less knowledge and experience than larger companies, on the contrary.
What piece of advice would you give to other companies in a similar situation?
M. Van Uytvanck: ‘There are two kinds of companies in my opinion. If a large corporation, size Coca-Cola or General Motors, was to roll-out a global solution, they could work with a single larger partner no doubt.
We, at ArcelorMittal, have grown from many different companies in different countries, with a very different culture. We see a necessity to support local initiatives and to generate local flexibility, because we will never convince everyone with a top-down approach. If we would try that, we would provoke resistance and lose all our resources in the subsequent discussions. So if your company values local entities, local initiatives and uniqueness, it’s definitely worth to consider using our strategy: working with a number of specialized companies to form one unity. That, for me, is much more valuable than a forced ‘sameness’.
Thank you so much for this interview!
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