Serving the Big Boys Too

June 24, 2010

One of the knocks on software as a service is that it scares off large, complex companies.

HR applications delivered over the Internet, the thinking goes, are not flexible or secure enough to serve the big boys. But a growing number of corporate giants are upending that logic, including Singapore-based Flextronics. The 165,000-employee provider of electronics manufacturing services has embraced multiple HR applications delivered as a service over the Internet, including learning management software from Cornerstone OnDemand, compensation software from SuccessFactors and a core human resources management system from Workday.

“We’re not afraid of SaaS,” says Debi Hirshlag, Flextronics’ vice president of worldwide human resources.

The company likes that software as a service, paid for on a subscription basis, has lower upfront costs than the traditional method of buying a license to own an application and installing the software on in-house computers. In deciding to go with Workday’s product in 2008, Flextronics also looked forward to fewer hassles related to software maintenance and upgrades—in the SaaS approach, those are largely handled by the vendor on its machines.

Like other large companies that have grown by acquisition, Flextronics already faced a host of HR information technology challenges. The company, which carries out manufacturing tasks for clients including Cisco Systems, Lenovo and LG, had 80 separate systems containing HR data as of a few years ago.

Workday has helped Flextronics reduce that number. Flextronics has gone “live” with Workday’s software in the U.S. and Canada as well as Mexico. As a result, Flextronics has limited its use of an Oracle HR application to data archiving purposes, retired a PeopleSoft HR system altogether and stopped using an SAP human resources tool provided through outsourcer Convergys.

Flextronics expects to begin using Workday for sites in India and China this year, and is planning to get the entire global company on the application by 2011.

Hirshlag says Workday had to enhance its security features to meet Flextronics’ needs, and the vendor’s upgrades several times a year can cause challenges. Customers have a window of just a few weeks to start using the latest version of Workday’s software.

Still, Workday has won over Flextronics. Dan Croteau, president of the company’s medical division, is among the software’s fans. He likes the frequent releases of new features, such as an update making it easier for supervisors to give spot bonuses.

Croteau uses Workday at least a couple of times a week. “It’s like a cockpit for all your people,” he says. “It’s so intuitive.”

It’s also flexible enough for Flextronics.

“Workday is highly configurable, where we could have totally different business processes at every site and even building levels,” Hirshlag says. “The application no doubt has its limits, but we’ve not yet run into them for configurability.”

Workforce Management, June 2010, p. 32 -- Subscribe Now!