Workday Big Data Analytics helps Spectrum mix HR and financial data

Workday Big Data Analytics enables global company Spectrum Brands to produce dashboards that draw data from a variety of disjointed systems.

Simply getting a handle on all the products sold by Spectrum Brands, a consumer goods company headquartered in Middleton, Wis., is a challenge. Rayovac batteries, Black & Decker appliances, George Foreman grills and Remington hair and grooming devices are just some of the products that fall under the Spectrum Brands banner. "I constantly learn of a new product," said Adria McCarthy, director of HR systems and technology.

Keeping track of all the employees at the diverse, global company wasn't an easy task, either. Before the company had a global human capital management (HCM) system in place, the process was tedious and manual, McCarthy said. "Every quarter we gathered 25 to 30 separate [Microsoft] Excel spreadsheets, compiled and cleaned them and then reported headcount," McCarthy said. "We were originally just looking for a data repository." A team of IT, financial planning and analysis and HR representatives evaluated HCM systems from ADP, SAP and Workday through requests for proposals and demos. They ultimately settled on Workday, and deployed the system in 2011.

While the new HCM system implementation helped to assuage the headcount-reporting issue, it wasn't long before the company started to identify some analytics challenges. This prompted the adoption of Workday Big Data Analytics, a new offering that debuted at Workday Rising last September. "We have a very high growth model so [executives] are constantly asking for analytics," McCarthy said. Just last year, the company doubled its employee population.

Besides global headcount, most of the reports that executives found useful required tying in financial data, McCarthy explained. And since the company uses multiple instances of SAP for financials worldwide, assembling the appropriate information was time-consuming.

Spectrum served as a customer design partner for Workday Big Data Analytics and moved into production at the end of summer 2013 in time for the start of the new fiscal year, according to McCarthy.

Thinking big for Workday Big Data Analytics uses

While McCarthy said the product is easy to work with, the concept of big data analytics took some getting used to at Spectrum.

"Our largest challenge was identifying what constitutes a big data case. We [didn't] realize that a lot of the initial ideas we came up with were just more complex reports," she said. A Workday representative assisted the company in coming up with true big data ideas, which McCarthy said are having more impact than the original proposals.

For instance, the first use case at Spectrum was a cost center budget-to-actual report, which combined data from Workday HCM, SAP financials and the company's applicant-tracking system. The end result was a consolidated dashboard that showed users where they were over or under budget. "That was really exciting for our cost-center owners," McCarthy said.

The second use is a complement to the first. "So, [we] know what the variance was in our cost centers, but then immediately after, the second question is, 'How did we get there?' The report that we [are] working on now [shows] all the ins and outs of the components that caused us to be at the final number," McCarthy said. "Those two reports paired together are invaluable." She added that this second report used to take a month to compile at the end of each fiscal year.

Compiling the data to get these projects off the ground required cross-team collaboration, McCarthy said. "We didn't know the reporting tool in SAP, so we had to work with partners outside of our core team and explain to them what we were looking for. As soon as we do, they're ready to help us," she said. "With the big data tool itself, we haven't experienced any problems with [it] accepting any data from any source."

Non-technical workers benefit from analytics data

The company received a day of training, which McCarthy said was sufficient to get comfortable with the tool. While Spectrum's HRIS team is more technically advanced, the HR department also includes less-technical generalists. But McCarthy said this isn't a problem, since only a few people have to work within Workday Big Data Analytics. The rest can access the information the system generates through Workday.

And even for those who work within the system, it's not overly taxing. "It's a very simple environment; you don't have to know code [and] it has wizards to help you through your formulas," McCarthy said. "It's pretty intuitive."

Although McCarthy didn't cite any problems with Workday Big Data Analytics, she did have a wish list item for Workday HCM that affects the company's use of the new tool. "We weren't necessarily bottlenecked by the Big Data application, but more on the reporting capabilities within Workday," she said. However, the vendor has announced that it's working to build out and improve the system's reporting capabilities, she added.

If given the chance to do the implementation differently, McCarthy said she wishes the company had specifically allocated resources to get the project rolling faster.

"The way our operating model is, each person is very involved in multiple projects," she said. "In an ideal world, we would've had a project team dedicated just to Big Data [Analytics] to realize the benefits sooner. But that's not our operating model, so I don't know how realistic that would've been."

And considering the positive results, she would have raised more awareness inside Spectrum about the Workday Big Data Analytics projects.

"We didn't do ourselves justice in really getting the support within the company and getting people to understand what we were looking to take on. I find every time I talk to someone about it they get so excited about what we're doing but they didn't have a good idea" before, she said. "I'm really proud of what we've accomplished."

About the author:
Emma Snider is the associate editor for SearchFinancialApplications. Follow her on Twitter
@emmajs24 and the site @SearchFinApps.

This was first published in March 2014

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