Electricity distributor Ausgrid is in the final stages of implementing a new central HR system based on SAP’s SuccessFactors.
Head of people services & systems and business transformation lead Felicity Colbourne told the SAP HRConnect 2020 conference that the SuccessFactors project, known as ‘HR Essentials’, is part of a larger transformation exercise at Ausgrid.
That transformation has been underway since the utility was privatised by the NSW government in late 2016.
“Since the privatisation, which itself involves significant restructuring, Ausgrid has embarked on an enterprise-wide transformation,” Colbourne said.
“At its core, this transformation has been a people transformation.
“This sort of program can be a major lift, even if everything was going the right way. But at Ausgrid, we've also had a number of external factors come along the way.”
Colbourne said a combination of severe storms, bushfires and COVID-19 had all impacted Ausgrid’s transformation plans.
“Some of these factors have fundamentally resulted in our original transformation plans having to be reprioritized or ... in some instances redeveloped,” she said.
“This has been required to ensure that we can respond to emerging challenges.
“In 2020, we were focusing on accelerating our transformation program, and that was going to be across processes, technology, information and our people practices. But as we all have encountered, 2020 brought a whole load of new priorities.”
Ausgrid continues to pursue its people systems transformation, HR Essentials, but Colbourne said the program was paused for almost four months late last year “to assess whether the system itself was actually going to meet the needs of the business and what they needed”.
HR Essentials was needed because today Ausgrid “still has multiple HR systems, all standalone, creating manual handover points, and a lot of inefficiencies.”
Additionally, HR governance and procedures hadn’t evolved “to reflect our business and how they operate now and what they need,” Colbourne said.
“HR Essentials will address many of these pain points, and also ensure managers have true self-service that's fit for purpose for them.”
While temporarily pausing the program had been hard - “there's momentum, and the teams are passionate and want to see it through” - Colbourne noted it also turned out to be the right thing to do.
“We went back and ensured we'd fully articulated high-level principles of the business processes and the governance rules, we'd completed extensive business engagement, and we'd really tested [this] with the business so that they understood and accepted the future state, and we had their buy-in before we closed out the build,” she said.
“We also established a whole new steering committee and program delivery model that better represented the complexity of the project.
“Right now we're nearing the end of actually moving into the final stages of implementation, and these changes have certainly paid off.”
Colbourne said that Ausgrid is emerging from a sustained period of change with the discipline and resilience to continue transforming despite ongoing challenges.
“There's one thing I certainly can be confident in predicting in the next 12 months: we are going to have a lot more changes ahead of us,” she said.
“It's really important for us as leaders in people in culture to make sure our organisation is strong, that we're adaptable and we keep evolving, no matter what the universe has in store for us.”