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By Debra Donston-Miller
An enterprise software application can be a lot like a house. When it’s new, everything works well, but it’s not quite “home” yet. Over time, the owners customize, add new touches, and fix or replace items that become outdated or broken. At some point an application—like a house—can become so highly customized that it bears little resemblance to the original structure.
Pella knows a lot about houses. They design and manufacture made-to-order and custom windows, doors, blinds, shades, and services for almost every type of home or building. Since 1925, Pella has been engineering some of the most desired and innovative products and is known for providing quality service and delivering on customer satisfaction.
For a long time, Pella has lived in its PeopleSoft “house.” Through two decades of use, its PeopleSoft human resources and human capital management (HCM) platform became highly customized. It was time to make a change, says Teri Lancaster, Pella’s IT manager for customer experience and human resources.
Pella's journey to new systems began several years ago. “We needed to update the systems that supported the business because we were expanding rapidly and needed the infrastructure to support that growth,” Lancaster says. “After extensive searching, the Pella management team determined that we would move toward Oracle as our foundation. We then began the journey to integrate all of our systems so they could talk to each other and share data needed to drive the business.”
Pella Embraces Oracle's HCM Cloud Platform. (0:36)
One of Pella’s goals was to eliminate—as much as possible—the many customizations it had made to its PeopleSoft application. Those included programs that automate a factory hourly job bidding system; a paperless evaluation process; and custom security and responsibility setups based on the needs of various manufacturing and sales groups that also allowed integration with corporate sites of companies that Pella works with.
“In 2014, we looked at upgrading to PeopleSoft 9.2, which was brand new,” Lancaster says. “But we were already way behind on maintenance and patches, and we found a lot of gaps with 9.2 that we just couldn’t close on our own.”
Working with the business consultants on the Oracle Insight Team, Pella evaluated whether to move to a cloud-based suite. The items on the HR team’s enhancement list included improved usability, the ability to more effectively configure the way features are presented to users, and mobility.
Another driver for migrating to the cloud was establishing a “single system source of truth,” says Lance Traster, senior manager for deferred compensation and risk management at Pella.
“Even though we had used PeopleSoft for years, most of the rest of our organization were still in many different systems for talent management processes,” he says. “Our evaluation process for team members was still in Word docs. We wanted to start moving to application-based processes for talent management which primarily resided outside of the system.”
Pella turned to Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud, a platform that helps businesses manage the full employee lifecycle. Pella determined that Oracle HCM Cloud would help it achieve greater agility, as well as reduce complexity and costs.
Pella recently turned to Oracle HCM Cloud for greater agility, reduced complexity, and lower costs.
Photo courtesy of Pella Windows and Doors
Pella recently implemented the payroll and benefits modules of the application, and it’s working through several adjustments and other issues, Lancaster says. While it’s making good progress, “every week something comes up that we hadn’t anticipated,” she says.
In some cases Pella has decided to adjust the original plan. For example, the company started implementing core payroll and benefits on schedule, but it has decided to delay other modules in order to ensure processes are as efficient as possible with the new system.
“There were some parts that we set aside because our team is small, and we felt like we couldn’t do justice and accurately implement everything all at once,” Lancaster says.
Indeed, Pella learned that rigorous process analysis is a key to the success of a significant transition such as this one. “People say, ‘We have process flows and process maps,’ but when you try to take that from what you know into something you don’t know, the maps have to be realigned,” she says.
It’s also important to set reasonable expectations—among all stakeholders. “We knew change management was going to be key, but the bigger piece of that is the expectation,” Lancaster says. “I think we went into this transition knowing there would be a lot of change but not really having a clear expectation of all of the places that would affect us. Going forward, we’d want to make sure we have the right expectation set and get that message out to all of the people involved.”
Oracle HCM Cloud help you to find and retain the best talent, enable collaboration, and provide complete workforce insights.
From the standpoint of end users, Lancaster says, the transition is going smoothly.
“Business users are pleasantly surprised by the ease of getting to some information,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of reports built and distributed yet, but just being able to look up employees and the simple tasks that a line manager might do seem to be intuitive.”
A bigger challenge goes back to customization. One of the benefits of cloud software is that it forces businesses to rethink the Rube Goldberg machines that many of their business processes have become, particularly when those processes aren’t a competitive advantage.
Pella’s myriad customizations were a big part of what caused problems with its PeopleSoft implementation in the first place, and the company is continuing to move to fewer customizations by using processes provided within Oracle HCM Cloud.
“We made the decision to go to the cloud fairly quickly and then started the project shortly thereafter,” Traster says. “As an organization, we had been so used to saying we want it to work this way and then customize PeopleSoft to make it work that way. This change of process has been a difficult one for us because it’s also been a complete change in mindset.”
Currently, Pella is focusing on the things it needed to adjust from its original scope, including features supporting factory hourly workers and recruiting. The company also plans to work on data analytics and implementation of the learning management system.
While there have been challenges along the way, Lancaster is satisfied with the progress the company has made and looks forward to extending Pella’s use of Oracle Cloud systems.
“Within our roadmap, we plan to automate performance management processes with the goal of making them easier for team members while providing managers the visibility they need,” she says. “Those processes were some of the key benefits reflected in the business case for this project, and it will be exciting to make huge strides in this area.”
Because, as Pella knows better than almost anyone, any house—including an enterprise application house—is only as strong as the materials with which it is built.