In the process of moving HR and payroll systems to a business process outsourcing (BPO) solution using Hewitt Associates and Oracle On Demand, Karim Rasched, business change manager for Marriott Hotels, Ltd., says he's learned a number of important lessons.
Clean up internal business processes before moving to an outsourcer. "If you can simplify your processes, it becomes easier to negotiate the deliverables with a particular partner organization," Rasched explains. "Recognize that it is not as simple as just taking a particular process, passing it over to a provider, and hoping that you don't have to think about it any more."
Expect ongoing change. "We recognized very early on that we needed a partnership relationship with Hewitt, rather than a straightforward supplier-buyer relationship," Rasched recalls. "These kinds of processes are in a state of flux because our organizations change all the time. We must be able to support each other when new business challenges arise. It's an ongoing relationship."
Seek outside help. Employ a third-party consultant to help define desired business outcomes and the metrics that will measure them. "Be clear about your business requirements and what you expect your outsourcing provider to provide," Rasched says.
Avoid customization. "Very early on we decided to keep the applications as 'vanilla' as possible and design our processes around the way that the applications were conceived," Rasched says. "That has made a significant difference to our ability to upgrade without a lot of testing effort and creates very few technical issues compared to if we had launched an intricately customized implementation."
Implement an effective governance structure from the outset. Marriott reviews service and performance results with Hewitt twice a month. This also gives the companies a chance to discuss any new developments or challenges that arise. Marriott, Hewitt, and Oracle also conduct more-formal monthly reviews, based on a regular report that Hewitt prepares to analyze the previous month's key performance indicators and any technical issues. "We have also retained our steering group meetings with senior managers representing all of the partners involved in the original design and implementation of the solution, where we talk about long-range planning for future developments and activities and also resolve issues that may since have arisen from the original project," Rasched says.