Oracle’s self-serve HR project: http://www.itbusiness.ca/index.asp?theaction=61&sid=26295 

By Shane Schick

The Canadian arm of CarQuest Auto Parts will be the last plank in a company-wide project to deploy software that will allow employees to take control of common human

resources functions.

Elements of Oracle Corp.’s Self-Service HR applications are already being rolled out across more than 12 of the auto industry supplier’s distribution centres in the southeast U.S. The central U.S. region will come next, and CarQuest Canada, which includes 250 stores and a distribution centre in St. John, N.B., is expected to complete its implementation by next summer.

The self-service HR project is part of an over-arching company initiative, called Journey to the Elite, to make CarQuest one of North America’s leading employers. The firm was already a user of Oracle Financials following a migration from ADP, and used its Canadian arm as a beta tester of Oracle’s 11i applications.

Claude Hould, CarQuest Canada’s director of human resources, said his firm wanted to move out of what he called the “”stone age”” of sending paper reports down to the payroll department to be entered into its database. CarQuest employs at least one HR coordinator for each distribution centre. These employees spent about 80 per cent of their time just updating the Oracle database with half-completed forms that had been submitted to them. That made it difficult for HR to travel, support management and provide service to store locations, he said. Self-service of routine tasks should free those coordinators up.

“”The old HR was behind the troops ordering the food,”” he said. “”The new HR would be the parties to go out and check to see where the enemy is.””

CarQuest got started on the road to self-service with a series of terminals installed in all its distribution centres. These allow staff members who don’t work with a PC to access their pay stubs, which they have been doing for more than a year. Oracle software will expand the applications they can use on the terminal, including enrolment in training courses.

The company has a program called CarQuest University, which offers a series of career development tracks that include how to run its store system, hiring for the culture, management enhancement and future leadership development. When users sign on through the terminals or at their desktops,, the system tells them what courses they can take, the schedules and helps them book their location and hotel.

“”We’re hoping they won’t pick Florida,”” Hould joked.

Oracle Canada joined its corporate parent in automating its internal HR processes three years ago, including travel and expense reporting through a business-to-employee portal. Karen Williams, Oracle Canada’s consulting manager for HR, said she was involved in that project, and said it’s wise to approach self-service incrementally.

“”Initially it was a very view-only (situation) — you would verify if information was correct, and then if there were changes, HR would do it,”” she said. “”As the phases went on, people got more comfortable using the application.””

One technical hurdle still to be overcome is connecting CarQuest Canada’s database with its U.S. counterpart, Hould said. Doing so would bring a compelling element of mobility to the forms that get passed between employees and HR, said Hould.

“”If they were linked — let’s say if was the same database — there’s a workaround that we have where the rep on the road could still access information and validate it and forward it on to a central data entry spot, which is in Raleigh,”” he said. “”We’re almost there — the next step is that you do it right from the store.””

Williams said users are typically quick to appreciate the benefits of self-service once they’ve gotten used to it.

“”The incentive to the employees is they are being empowered to access the information they need right away,”” she said. “”In the olden days, if you want to call it that, HR was a bottleneck at times.””

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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