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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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The relationship between HR and IT is driving process improvement at a global children’s NGO


We recently interviewed Mark Banbury, Global CIO at Plan International, on how the NGO is using HR technology to save children’s lives. Here Mark tells us more about how the IT and HR departments are working to maintain and leverage the cloud HR technology that now adds value across Plan.

For Mark, creating greater connection between the HR and IT department was important from the beginning of the cloud HR implementation project both to ensure the implementation succeeded and so that any future changes could be processed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“We hired the right people in the project implementation team with a broad mix of skills. Of the four that were hired, one of the individuals came out of our HR team. She was an HR assistant and knew very little about systems but a lot about HR processes. And another had come out of our global IT helpdesk so she understood IT but knew nothing about HR process.”

“Another had come out of another NGO and had been working on a global HR implementation project. So she understood HR projects but didn’t understand Plan. The other came from the local county council in Plan so she understood how to work closely with HR departments and map process to software but she had never worked in the NGO.”

Why take this approach? It meant that the full breadth of concerns and ideas were brought into the mix from the beginning and the team had to work together to make important decisions. The approach also resulted in upskilling in key areas which meant that, when transitioning out of the project phase and into the maintenance phase, all stakeholders were aware of how the others worked.

In terms of HR and IT, the approach has enabled IT to gain a much better understanding of the ins and outs of HR, what they need from an HR system, how they optimise and progress things in Plan. At the same time, Plan has made the teams in HR much more literate on systems, how to get what they need from IT, and how the constraints of software affect what they can and can’t do.

Going forwards, the HR department has functional experts in key areas, such as recruitment, performance management and succession planning. These functional experts are extremely well-versed in how processes work in their area of expertise and also how this process is reflected in the HR system, in this case SuccessFactors.

These functional experts are responsible for the ongoing optimisation of the process itself and the software process. So the Director of Resourcing will know all the senior HR leaders in individual countries, who will feed back on local compliance issues and any innovations that have resulted in, for example, reduced time-to-hire. The Director of Resourcing can then – in collaboration with IT – update the software to reflect the learning if they feel it is valuable enough to roll out globally and become part of the ‘way Plan does recruitment.’

Then there’s the HR director – her global strategic plans feed into what the organisation does and gets cascaded down into the functional experts, where necessary, who can configure required process changes to meet strategic goals.

So you’ve got strategic vision from the HR director and learnings and ideas from HR staff on the ground which get fed into functional experts who then work with the IT department to implement software changes.

How will the ongoing IT/HR relationship work?

According to Mark, the functional expert model is building across every department, not just HR and IT. If you’re in the finance team, you’ll know the ins and outs of running a general ledger but not about implementing a full ERP system and what has to be done with backups and security. So IT provides IT support to those who know the actual process very well.

The functional expert model works – the experts know their business areas and processes and not just the business processes that currently exist but the reasons behind those business processes.

Projects like cloud HR implementation requires you to continually look at existing processes and ask if they are fit-for-purpose – is the end result optimal? That allows you to question underlying assumptions and grandfathered processes and better align with what off-the-shelf software can do. This does not stop when the software has been implemented. The journey towards better decision-making never ends.

And that is the job of functional experts – to streamline business processes globally and ensure that they deliver favourable outcomes.

IT will continue to provide a help desk to solve basic employee issues – such as logon problems or those needing a password reset. They will also own infrastructural problems, such as problems that need to fed back up the chain to the vendor, or to an implementation partner. But the process experts – in this case people like the Director of Resourcing – will retain responsibility for ensuring the software workflow is fit-for-purpose.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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