I have had the good fortune of working with Yazaki North America during their multi-country Employee Central, Recruiting and Employee Central Payroll rollouts in 2016. It was truly a pleasure to work with this team and this article is a summary of my experiences and lessons learned.

After Yazaki’s initial 13,000 employee Mexico Payroll go-live in February, 2016, I was tasked with rethinking the program for the upcoming Yazaki North America SuccessFactors rollout. My goal was to use what we learned in the first wave and to put the remainder of Yazaki’s SAP SuccessFactors Americas roll-out on a successful path as well.

Looking at their full scope, I realized we needed a strategy that focused on getting the core HR and Payroll components in place first in order to be successful with Talent Management at a later stage. After strategizing with Yazaki’s CHRO Lynn Weaver and Program Lead Becky Widlak, we decided to go for a big bang implementation for both Mexico and US for these components. It was a big challenge because together, these two countries had 10 different HR/payroll systems that needed to be replaced by a single SAP SuccessFactors solution.

Our scope was ambitious. We set out to implement SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting, Employee Central, SAP SuccessFactors Time Off for Mexico, Employee Central Payroll for 55,000 employees across both countries, BenefitFocus, and Workforce Management. Beyond the SuccessFactors solution, multiple integrations had to be built along with an expanded scope that included their internal Medical Control system. Additionally, a significant change was made to their financial structure in Mexico in 2017 that we had to account for. Finally, we also decided to utilize the new Point-to-Point (PTP) connection between Employee Central and Employee Central Payroll in order to future-proof Yazaki. This required a conversion from Dell Boomi AtomSphere integration to the new Point-to-Point (PTP) integration.

In the end, we created a 9-month project timeline for both countries that included the implementation of core HR and Payroll, with a go-live for the payrolls in January, 2017.

I am proud to say that today, December 26, we received our “Go” decision from the Yazaki Executive team. We are officially live with all items in scope for both countries, on-time and with no significant issues.

As I look back on the project, I want to share a few lessons learned and key reasons why I feel we were successful in this project. These will help other customers embarking on similar projects:

  • You don’t need to select one of the big 4 partners in order to undertake a project like this. Yazaki wanted the best resources for their project and chose to utilize a more creative cloud implementation approach that focused on skills rather than marketing allure. With nine vendors managed by a PMO team of four people, we were cost-conscious, but also extremely successful at bringing together the best resources for the job from multiple sources.
  • Maintaining a close relationship with SAP is absolutely necessary. Our Customer Engagement Executive and SAP Support Manager were essential components to our success.
  • Hold your vendors accountable to put forward the right resources and don’t settle for taking lower quality or junior resources or swapping experienced senior consultants for lesser resources. Demanding the best resources does pay off over the long turn.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. It might sound like a cliché, but we had a very smooth cut-over because we stuck to a proven test strategy that included payroll parallel testing. We also practiced our cut-over (data conversion and configuration sync) in multiple environments. It’s tempting to cut corners on steps like these, but they are essential to a successful project.
  • Don’t shy away from the SAP SuccessFactors Instance Synchronization tool.  Despite some flaws, it still reduced our cut-over time significantly.
  • SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting is fully functional and ready to handle the load. Yazaki processes over 115,000 applicants per year without a hitch.
  • SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central can absolutely replace your full core HR system. I know that some customers are still hesitant, but there is no need to keep old systems in place as an assurance or risk mitigation. Hybrid models can be extremely complex to keep up and running. When you embrace the cloud, you should embrace it fully. Yazaki made the right choice to go “all in” on Employee Central, which kept the number of integrations to a minimum.
  • SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Payroll holds its own. Yazaki has processed 13,000 weekly employees for over 9 months without significant issues. We expect this new increase to two countries and 55,000 employees to also be flawless. Yazaki chose to rethink their payroll strategy and have discovered that a best practice, centralized payroll strategy can be perfectly complemented by Employee Central Payroll. Even if you’re a current SAP on-premise customer, I would still recommend moving to Employee Central Payroll directly rather than inserting an unnecessary step in between or trying to integrate to your current environment. Employee Central Payroll is just a better bet for the future, especially with the new PTP integration.

Overall this has been a truly remarkable project. Our vendors, our consultants and the people that matter the most –  the Yazaki client teams in both countries – always kept believing in their goal, “One Yazaki”.

Finally, I do want to thank my PMO team and most importantly, Becky Widlak, who has been my partner in crime throughout the last 13 months and has been relentless in keeping Yazaki’s commitment. And, of course, my two country program managers, Elaine Kennedy and Ulises Gonzalez, for our friendship, support and continued debates over strategy and execution that were invaluable in helping to make this project a success.