HSBC shifts from “universally hated” global HR system to SuccessFactors in the cloud


HSBC is looking to shift all of its global HR systems into the cloud with SAP's SuccessFactors over the next two years in a "big bang" implementation.

It’s a well trodden line in the HR world that millennials don’t put up with bad technology at work. This can be especially troubling for major banks like HSBC as it tries to attract digitally savvy employees into a working environment where new starters are being given ancient hardware with IBM Notes installed (formerly Lotus Notes) and have to go through nine interfaces to perform HR functions like booking a day of annual leave.

HSBC is starting to modernise its technology stack, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The bank is already doing some app development and testing in the cloud with AWS and is using Google Cloud for analytics and training machine learning algorithms.

Adopting SaaS

The organisation is also looking to essentially outsource non-core banking systems into the cloud on software-as-a-service (SaaS) contracts, starting with Oracle for financial back office software, and now SAP SuccessFactors for HR. Read next: HSBC completes first major cloud implementation with Oracle Cloud financial and ERP software

"Why would we build HR technology? That's just stupid," said Georgina Jarratt, managing director, head of transformation at HSBC, at the SAP Financial Services Forum this week. "There is no difference running HR in a bank versus an insurance company, an engineering firm, Walmart or whatever."

HSBC is looking to shift its entire global HR system to the cloud with SuccessFactors in under two years, a project Jarratt said is “really fast, on a level the organisation has never seen before, impacting all 35,000 of our line managers and ultimately all 230,000 staff in 71 countries”.

Read next: How SAP stopped worrying and learned to love the cloud

Jarratt admitted that the current global HR platform is “universally hated” because it is difficult to use, and the “money we pay to run it, which is a lot of money, doesn’t provide any innovation to the group”.

She compared performing an HR transaction within the bank — like booking leave or viewing payslips — as “a bit like banking to be honest”, in that “nobody wants to do it”. She added that some staff have to open as many as nine screens on the current system to perform a task.

Big bang

HSBC is taking a “big bang” global implementation approach within two years for SuccessFactors, a strategy Jarratt describes as “brave or possibly insane”.

The learning module will be the first to be shifted to the cloud, “followed by the core EC modules and some of the payroll capability as well”, Jarratt said. The idea is for a “vanilla” implementation, and when it comes to the data “we are desperately trying to clean it up as we go along”, she added.

Read next: Aon saves millions of dollars in PeopleSoft software upgrade costs with move to Workday cloud

A vanilla implementation is lovely in theory, but as Jarratt noted, business units tend to believe they have very unique requirements. “Working with cloud technology allows me to say no,” she said. “Which people really don’t like. They passionately believe that their thing is truly regulatory.” Jarratt said she was able to talk most business units that complained into adopting the standard system though.

An implementation of this size and speed is tricky enough, but Jarratt said the hardest part comes down to integration. “That is really complicated. We have 1,000 interfaces into and out of the current platform,” she said. HSBC hopes to go live with some core HR systems by the end of the year.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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