HR Platform at Evonik Goes Global

Foto: Evonic
Mike Drews, Evonik (Photo: Evonik)

Portland, Oregon and Melbourne, Australia; Zurich, Switzerland and Umbogintwini, South Africa – the Evonik Group employs some 33,000 people in over 100 countries worldwide. The specialty chemicals company, which garnered revenues of €13.6 billion in 2012, manages its global operations from its headquarters in Essen, Germany. The task of organizing employee data for 33,000 people falls to Mike Drews from the HR Information Management department at Evonik Services GmbH (an Evonik subsidiary with annual revenues of €302 million) and the HR Corporate Center in Essen. In 2012, working with SAP partner Kivala-HR, Mike Drews and his project team set out on a quest to revamp Evonik’s entire personnel management system. The goal of the project was to establish a central SAP ERP Human Capital Management system that all the subsidiaries around the world could use for their personnel administration tasks.

“We wanted to create a global HCM data core solution as a platform for future added-value processes,” explains Drews. Specifically, the aim was to create a Single Point of Truth as a basis for employee data, their organizational assignment, and the organizational structure of the company. This platform would provide the basis for enabling global HR requirements and processes − including reporting, recruiting, and performance management − and thus providing senior HR personnel and company managers with the very latest in IT support for day-to-day human resources tasks. It would provide organizational data for non-HR workflow scenarios and support global IT processes (such as identity, license, and authorization management). Equally importantly, it would also enable the company to meet its statutory compliance obligations.

Goals: cut hardware and software costs; map support processes more efficiently

Having implemented a unified solution, Evonik planned to consolidate all of its data and switch off the company’s legacy systems. “This would enable us not only to cut hardware and software costs but also to map our support processes more cost-efficiently and respond faster to new and changing business requirements,” says Drews of his expectations for the project.

Next page: Kickoff in early 2012

Planning work began in January 2012. The first step involved defining the global design/template and searching for a project partner. Evonik had already worked with Kivala-HR on several smaller projects. Factors in favor of choosing this particular service provider, with locations in Geneva, London, Denver, and Essen, were its proven global template approach, its end-to-end data management strategy and, most importantly, its international presence.

The design phase, based on the Kivala Global Template, kicked off in April 2012 in Germany, and the first location went live in July 2012. “We selected the SEAANZ (Southeast Asia Australia New Zealand) region as our initial roll-out region, because we had received a request for a new HR solution from Singapore,” reports Drews. “At the same time, we harmonized the existing SAP systems in Germany, Belgium, and China − including payroll and time management − and integrated them into the global solution.  The remaining countries and regions were rolled in in April 2013.” The group now supports employees in 45 countries in one system.

Project milestones: global HR solution, pension payments, definition of guidelines

During the project, Mike Drews worked closely with Frank-Reiner Gross, a managing partner at Kivala-HR. When asked to pick out the project milestones, they name the following four:

  • Development of the Evonik Global Template for Organizational Management (OM), Personnel Administration (PA), Time Management (PT), Payroll (PY), Travel, and Learning Solution (LSO).
  • Definition of naming conventions and development guidelines
  • Definition of rules for local developments and requirements
  • Set-up of a complete testing organization based on the SAP Solution Manager

In terms of the company’s day-to-day operations, reaching these milestones meant that the first pension payment for January 2013 was processed error-free in mid December 2012. Similarly, the first payroll run in Belgium and Germany passed off, according to Drews, “without any notable errors” in January 2013.

Next page: 70 employees at peak periods

When project activity reached its height, there were some 70 employees involved − half from Evonik and half from Kivala-HR. “During the test phase, we gave employees from the user departments a chance to get their first taste of the new solution,” reports Kivala-HR manager Gross.  But this was also the phase that features most prominently in the category of “lessons learned”. “We seriously underestimated the testing effort required,” says Drews matter-of-factly. “We simply didn’t have enough resources for testing when we needed them, and many employees were committed to several projects simultaneously.” If he could start over again, that’s something that he would do differently, admits Drews.

Lesson learned: more employee resources for the project

The same applies to communication and change management. Although this was a focus area right from the start, the project team significantly underestimated the time and resources required. One of the main reasons for this was the lack of a separate project organization. “Knowing what we know now, we would definitely take more care to assign specific employees to the project, because the act of balancing normal day-to-day operations with the Global Data Core project and other projects that were running in parallel made it very hard to keep the momentum going,” says Drews with hindsight.

Vision for the future

Looking to the future, Evonik now has reporting and other HR processes in its sights. For example, the new Global Data Core solution will form the basis for expanding corporate reporting, extending business intelligence reports, and defining additional management dashboards. Evonik also wants to standardize key HR core processes − from recruiting and performance management (target-setting, performance appraisals, compensation and bonuses) through talent and succession management − and implement them on a modern, integrated platform. In that respect, the post-project phase is also the pre-project phase. Or, expressed in corporate speak, that’s “We have a vision for the future.”