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Cath Everett

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Self service HR – a cloudy area

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Maxwell Systems is consolidating five siloed HR systems and moving them to the cloud in a bid to automate time-consuming manual admin processes and enable employees to undertake self-service activities.

The US-based company, which employs 210 staff and sells project management software for construction firms, will see its HR system, supplied by Software-as-a-Service vendor Fairsail, go live this Friday.

The new offering will replace existing disparate benefits, payroll, time and expenses and performance review applications as well as a Sharepoint server that was used to create and store HR documentation such as contracts and name and address details.

A key appeal of the new software was that it integrated seamlessly with Salesforce.com’s SaaS offerings, which Maxwell implemented about two and a half years ago to run its sales, marketing, customer service, support, development and financial activities.

Mike Zarzeka, the firm’s vice president of customer operations, said: “Because each staff member is using Salesforce at every minute of the day, we can keep them in one system without having to worry about passwords and user log-ins.”

The idea is that staff can “flip over” after closing a sale or a project and seamlessly access the HR system in order to request a performance review or check how much holiday they have left.

“From an ease-of-use perspective, it’s really important to have integrated systems. We also wanted the systems to be able to share information so, for example, we wanted to tie the time and expenses application that sits in Salesforce with the new employee utilisation and vacation booking application to get a more seamless view of activities,” Zarzeka said.

The move will also reduce the amount of manual data entry into multiple systems that Maxwell’s 1.5 HR personnel need to undertake, freeing them up to undertake more strategic activity. This is because employees will henceforth be able to input and modify their own personal information ranging from emergency contact details to educational history and objectives.

“All this stuff is in cabinets today that are all over the place. We’d been wondering whether we should hire a temp to input that kind of thing, but why do that if staff can do it and provide a more robust profile than was the case in the past?” Zarzeka said.

As to the amount of resource required for a project of this type, Maxwell took from two months from the start of January to build a specification based on its requirements and select a vendor.

A project manager and a second vice president-level executive have also dedicated about 50% of their time to the initiative over the last two months to look after activities such as data cleansing, conversion and migration. Integration with third party systems such as those used by health insurance providers was also an important activity as was undertaking two full weeks of testing to ensure that the offering was secure and worked effectively before going live.

“We’ll continue to evolve the system so we’ll get into skills inventory and how that applies to understanding business resources. That means helping people to see where their career could head in the company based on their objectives and skills, which are matched against the requirements of the company as it continues to change,” Zarzeka said.

A further aim is to deploy Salesforce.com’s Chatter enterprise social media tool in order to help boost staff relations. The firm currently has six offices located in different of the US following a number of acquisitions, but is keen to ensure that employees feel part of a wider community by introducing tools to help them get to know each other better and collaborate more effectively.

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