Telefónica Digital is in the process of deploying Workday’s cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) tool to thousands of employees globally, and has said that companies should be looking to divide their typical deployment timeframes for a project of this size by as many as four times.

Headquartered in London, Telefónica Digital (TD) was created in October 2011 to ‘seize opportunities within the digital world’, and currently has over 6,500 employees. Soon after being spun up by Telefónica, TD began looking at an HR strategy that is quite different from the rest of the Telefónica group.

Computerworld UK spoke to Anthony Shaw, director of HR solutions and strategy at TD, who said that although the company has a large employee base, it also has the DNA of a start-up, which meant that it was suited to a cloud-based approach.

“At the moment TD is pursuing an active Workday strategy, but the rest of Telefónica uses a mixture of ERP technologies. Telefónica in the past has spent time pursuing Oracle and SAP strategies, but when we looked at this we were looking purely at TD, and we are very different from a standard telco,” said Shaw.

“For example, we have a gradeless workforce, so we have a single grade for all of our employees. We also operate a high performance culture, so we run a performance management process every four months.”

He added: “We were also a company of 6,500 people, which had just started up but already had a large existing workforce. So we absolutely needed to get a system quickly in place that would give us one source of the truth.”

The Workday project launched in June of last year and Shaw hopes to have the majority of the workforce live on the product by March 2013 – making total deployment time approximately nine months.

TD has gone live with Workday’s core HR tool, as well as adding its performance management functionality, reward data, and the mobile application. It is looking to add talent management functionality during 2013.

The Workday HCM tool is currently integrated with TD’s payroll systems , which are provided by a myriad of vendors, depending on location. Going forward, Shaw plans to expand the interfaces so that it can also integrate with TD’s cloud-based Microsoft Sharepoint tool and an in-house built e-learning platform, called A+.

Shaw explained that by getting a beta version of the system up and running within four months, TD was able to drastically reduce the timeframe of what could typically take years for a project of this scale.

“We adamantly believe that as a digital business, companies should be going down the beta route. Get the system live as soon as possible, that’s when you can really get feedback from your people,” said Shaw.

“Think of a suitable timeline for doing a project of this scale and then divide it by three or four. When you look at a system implementation across 17 countries, it would be quite easy to say it’s going to take 12 to 24 months. But, with the cloud people should really be looking to speed this up.”

He added: “We got our first business live within four months in Israel, and we basically said to the Israeli workforce go away and really kick the tyres on this thing and tell us what you think. The sooner you get it live the better because that’s when you get great feedback.”

However, Shaw did warn other companies looking to the cloud that migrating data from many disparate systems isn’t an easy task, but advised that the onus of managing data quality should be put on the employees themselves.

“Data migration took us longer than expected, so don’t underestimate this. This was due to the amount of data validation checks within Workday, which is a good thing for security, but it does take time,” he said.

“We relied on a global network of ‘data owners’ to collect and supply the data, which had been held in disparate databases across the world. We wanted to get employee and manager self-service live very quickly, so that we could force ownership of the data onto our employees.”

He added: “So rather than sitting in HQ going through and cleansing the data, we wanted our employees to check their own data and update it. It’s something that’s worked really well, so within the first month of going live we have had over 80 percent adoption.”

Shaw said that this is the ‘only way you can get true data quality’ when you are operating from so many locations, and that he believes not many companies realise this and as a result go through ‘round after round’ of data cleansing.

Telefónica Digital also came to realise, in terms of data migration, that the process templates provided by Workday were not entirely fitted to TD’s processes, and as a result required an element of modification to be accurate.

“You also need to make sure that processes are truly end-to-end. We went live with over 130 processes in less than four months, but you do need to spend time making sure that they are end-to-end and not just system focused,” advised Shaw.

“There are parts of a process that happen off system, as well as the system bits. The cloud tools come with template processes, but in our experience you can’t just lift and shift them, you need to tweak them and modify them so that they work in your business environment.”