SAP SuccessFactors president Greg Tomb, far right, interviews Christy Pambianchi, Corning's senior vice-president of HR, and Mohawk Industries CIO Jana Kanyadan about their respective companies' digital transformation efforts during the SAP SuccessConnect conference in Las Vegas on Aug. 30, 2017. Courtesy SAP.

Published: September 1st, 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV. – Chances are you haven’t heard of Corning Inc. But you’re definitely familiar with their products.

The Corning, N.Y.-based industrial glass and ceramic manufacturer’s best-known product, Gorilla Glass, is incorporated by more than 40 manufacturers into 4.5 billion devices worldwide, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s Galaxy line.

And with more than 40,000 employees, including a Canadian sales team, and 70 manufacturing facilities worldwide – none of which, we regret to report, are located in Canada – the company was technologically savvy enough to know it needed to modernize its human resources practices as its workforce grew.

Enter SuccessFactors, German developer SAP SE’s cloud-based human capital management (HCM) platform, which went live across Corning’s facilities eight weeks ago after nearly a year of planning, implementation, and testing, senior vice president of human resources Christy Pambianchi told the audience at SAP’s SuccessConnect 2017 conference in Las Vegas.

“In the past, you can imagine, there were reams and reams of training books, and months spent on change management,” she said. “[With SuccessFactors,] we did a soft launch – it was on our webpage, and if you clicked where you would normally access HR you landed on [our new page], and within the first four weeks, over 60 per cent of our employee base had accessed the platform.”

In fact, within its first month Corning’s version of the SuccessFactors platform, dubbed “True Blue,” received 250,000 hits, including 125,000 hits on its career overview information page, during a period that saw 20,000 candidates apply to the company, Pambianchi said.

Despite that popularity, SuccessFactors wasn’t Corning’s first choice: The company implemented an on-premise solution of its own in 2010 which, Pambianchi admitted, offered Corning none of the capabilities that it needed only six years later.

“We had finished an extensive decade of global expansion, and it was clear that the solution we had was not meeting our current needs, and was not going to meet our future needs,” she said.

The company was also more than aware of the increasing popularity of mobile devices at work, and the enterprise world’s increasing reliance on cloud-based software to serve them – a trend underlined by the mobile-friendly True Blue’s popularity among Corning’s many smartphone users, Pambianchi said.

“The fact that we’re not just on your desktop anymore – that you can do HR work on your tablet, or iPhone, or Samsung device, in real time, is a real game change,” she told ITBusiness.ca.

From planning to implementation

Before choosing SuccessFactors, Corning executives set about developing what Pambianchi called “HR 2020,” a breakdown of the HR tools Corning would need to compete in an increasingly digital world – and a key component, she said, was having an HCM platform that could grow with the company.

The choice wasn’t an easy one: Whatever its shortcomings, Corning’s on-premises solution was a global platform that encompassed not only employee data management, but recruiting, talent management, succession planning, compensation, and annual salary reviews, among other HR elements.

Another challenge was the would-be project’s scope: As a global company with thousands of employees, and an on-premise solution designed to accommodate them, Corning had generated a daunting amount of data that needed to be migrated to and easily accessed from the cloud.

“It was really a corporate imperative that we move forward and understand what was out there, and it took some time to investigate the trends,” Pambianchi said. “[We] ultimately concluded that SuccessFactors SAP was at the bleeding edge not only in terms of where the future was going, but in terms of investment capability and ability to support a large industrial partner.”

Also helping ease Corning’s transition was its implementation partner, IBM Global Business Solutions, in addition to teams of experts from SuccessFactors and SAP, she said.

To conduct the migration, Corning began by launching four project teams, each composed of both the company’s global HR and IT staff and representatives from IBM and SAP. The four teams – employee data management, talent acquisition, talent management, and compensation – mapped out the company’s former processes while noting how it could leverage the new features available through SuccessFactors.

“We really took an approach of, why can’t the out-of-the-box solution work?” Pambianchi said. “And unless it was a legal requirement, or some very, very specific high hurdle that I signed off on, we took as much as we could out of the box.”

Meanwhile, the IT and HR teams from all four respective groups began mapping out the company’s data and documenting where and which interface files would have to feed each other.

Both components of the project took about six months to complete, and were followed by six additional months of testing and defect resolution, with implementation testing taking place at around the same time, Pambianchi said.

“It was a huge change for us in not only the HR department, but also the IT department,” she said. “This was the first large-scale transaction global cloud system implemented at Corning worldwide.”

The results, however, are more than worth it: In addition to its popularity among employees, SuccessFactors is far more capable than its previous solution of processing global, highly-matrixed, and fluid organizational structures, which eliminates a great deal of repetitive work, Pambianchi said.

“You’re going to get out of this what you put into it,” she said. “For us, we made it our top priority – the future of HR function and talent capabilities at Corning depends on it.”

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