· Features

HR technology special 7/7: an employer's view – Carole Jones, director of global HR strategy and organisational development at Aviva

Overseeing the implementation of HR technology systems has been an exciting journey for my team, in that it has that has given us many opportunities – but it has not been without its challenges.

In 2008, we announced Aviva would be bringing all of its brands together under one global name and we in HR were presented with a tremendous opportunity to create a positive change, not only for our customers, but also our people.

We knew that communication would be critical in implementing our 'One Aviva' transformation strategy and reinforcing our recognition-based employee promise: 'At Aviva, I am recognised for who I am, and my contribution matters.'

Identifying and retaining our talent became a strategic imperative and we started by rolling out a common Talking Talent and Performance process to ensure everyone felt recognised for their own individual strengths.

Technology has played a key role in doing this and in 2009 we selected the cloud-based HR software system Workday as our global HR technology solution. Following a November 2009 pilot, we took the decision to implement the system across all of Aviva's operating regions.

The system allowed us to outsource our application infrastructure, including supporting activities such as system maintenance, performance tuning, backup and storage. The success of this software as a service (SaaS) model has also led to the selection of Cornerstone OnDemand as Aviva's global learning management system, which we expect to roll out beginning in June this year. But it is extremely important that the internal team responsible for implementing a technology platform understands the product, in order to make the process as smooth as possible.

Having business and HR representatives on the project from design to implementation will ensure the solution addresses customers' needs and also helps people across the business become advocates for the system.

For us, the technology has been a catalyst for creating common processes and cutting through HR silos. It has helped people managers ensure their teams feel valued, by small touches like remining them about their colleagues' birthdays.

Its functionality does not allow any customisation, making it is easier to maintain and update with emerging functionality - so agreeing common processes across all markets should happen from the outset. Processes should be defined with the internal customer in mind; however, once live, feedback from the end user ultimately results in system enhancements.

As a global organisation, defining your 'data dictionary' from the word go helps ensure standard terminology is used globally. Furthermore, understanding implications of multinational data exchange and local market data export agreements can be important challenges to work through.

Defining a payroll strategy as early as possible will ensure local market payrolls are not reliant on legacy HR systems for paying employees post-implementation. The speed with which updates to software become available can appear overwhelming, so it is important to create formal disciplines to assess each new release on its own merits and judge how new features enhance processes, affect end-user experience and support HR strategy delivery overall.

Separately, most people managers and employees have access to mobile devices, allowing them to do HR on the go. Making sure company business and data protection teams have assessed and agreed the use of company-issued or private mobile devices for HR purposes should be a priority to set end-user expectations.

Our investment in HR technology has not only acted as a key enabler in helping us deliver our people strategy, it has been a strong catalyst for convergence around HR strategy and process.

Investing in these technologies is a step change from the all too common disparate-legacy HR systems landscape.

Upfront design, data architecture and governance decisions are critical to deployment of these solutions and their ongoing success in your business.

Carole Jones (pictured), director of global HR strategy and organisational development, Aviva