The Post Office has recently completed a migration from a 19-year-old SAP HR 4.7 system to SuccessFactors, saving the company money, giving employees the ability to self serve and decommissioning a whole range of manual processes for the HR department.
Speaking during the UK and Ireland SAP User Group conference in Birmingham last week Samantha Winstanley, SuccessFactors product manager at the Post Office, talked through the migration, including some key lessons learned along the way.
In 2016 the Post Office was made aware that its 19-year-old R/3 4.7 instance would no longer be supported. "We had no option but to move forward," Winstanley said.
For those that are new to the SAP product line: R/3 is the ERP predecessor to SAP ERP (ECC), which has now been superseded by S/4HANA.
With that motivation to move, the organisation embarked on a procurement process for new HR software, but ended up opting for a vendor it knew well in SAP by going with SuccessFactors, the cloud-based human capital management (HCM) vendor it acquired in 2011.
As can be expected that 19-year-old system was "starting to creak". The organisation was running eight modules for things like learning, performance and application tracking, all of which were "outdated and not linked," she added.
The Post Office was also paying 5,000 employees and 11,000 subpostmasters through this system, so there was no option of downtime.
The Post Office confirmed to Computerworld UK that this newly upgraded payroll and employee record system is completely unconnected to the beleaguered Horizon system, which is currently at the centre of a High Court case regarding accounting discrepancies which has seen staff accused of theft, fraud and false accounting.
Design workshops started in September 2016 along with some stakeholder management, conversations with external customers and suppliers and initial data gathering along with an implementation partner.
The plan was to move the employee central and employee central payroll modules over to SuccessFactors, before layering self serve capabilities like address changes and absence requests on top, with an initial go-live date of June 2017, which was quickly recognised as overly ambitious, according to Winstanley.
"It was impossible and the reason for some of that was: we closed our Royal Mail pension scheme in March and the data we were taking to do our comparison runs was that particular data," she said. So as the data didn't neatly map over the organisation "had to scrap all of that data and start again".
This did allow the Post Office to review its pay landscape however. "We found 400 wage types in the system, so this gave us the opportunity to reduce that by 60 percent," she said.
As well as moving from an older pension scheme, the organisation was in the process of moving all employees onto monthly pay cycles instead of weekly.
"We took the opportunity to move everyone to monthly pay, which didn't go down well, but it was something we had been planning for a long time, despite pushback from the unions, so this gave us that opportunity," she said.
"So we stripped our system down and started all over again using some clearer, better data and although that did throw out some defects it was a lot cleaner and better and we started to make some progress."
After three test 'comparison runs' the team decided to go live in September 2017, which was pushed back another couple of times to eventually land in January this year.
However, because the Post Office was migrating from such an old system "we couldn't just wrap everything up and upload it into the new system," Winstanley added. "So we had to download everything from the legacy system, check it, upload it to the new system and recheck it and there were 30 files all in all that had to be moved."
The Post Office eventually shut down its 4.7 system on 15 December. The integration team then started to take data and upload it into the new system on 8 January, meaning there was a data gap that needed to be manually filled by HR staff to ensure the January payroll was correct. "Luckily for us it ran through smoothly and we all sat in a room and patted ourselves on the back," she said.
The Post Office is now operating SuccessFactors employee central and employee central payroll for all staff, as well as learning modules, and the next stage is adding compensation, succession and development modules.
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