Global SAP HR and what’s next? Are standardized HR processes in 70 countries for 25 thousand employees the end of challenges? How can the system be used to meet the changing business needs? In the company which wants to invest in people there are a lot of possibilities. Talent management is one of them.

Strategic decision

JT International is a tobacco company based in Geneva. JTI employs 25,000 employees in 69 countries, including Poland. On the one hand – the dynamics, creativity and energy, on the other hand – accuracy, long-term planning and focus on quality. Thanks to continuous investment in the best people and recognized global brands, for over a decade it has recorded a continuous growth.

SAP HR has been used by JTI since 2004. For the first three years, the main goal of the company was to standardize HR processes. At the end of 2007, the same system and almost the same core processes functioned in 46 countries for 16,000 people. The payrollaccounting still remains outside SAP HR and each country handles these issues separately. In April2007, JT International acquired Gallaher Ltd, which meant a big integration project. In parallel, the company invested in upgrading the system to version 6.00 and in the prototype of the talent management functionality. Today, the data for 25,000 employees from almost 70 countries and more than 100 locations is stored in one system, in one client.

How is it organized

The system is only a tool supporting the business process, and the go-live of the system is just the beginning of tasks facing the organization. That is why in 2010 JTI appointed the Benefit Realization team belonging to HR function, whose main task was to realize business benefits arising from the implementation of the SAP HR system. The second task of that team was to build relationships with HR management at the level of the headquarters, regions and global functions.

A good example is the implementation of talent management processes in 2012. For two preceding years, the business reasons for such implementation had been discussed at various levels.We knew that we could benefit from this technology, but we were wondering whether it made sense to implement it. And whether the organization needed it and whether it was ready for it.

The company began from forming a “steering committee”. This was not a committee falling under the definition in the project management methodology. It was rather a group of people who determined the objectives for the processes and system functionality.This committee consisted of top leaders from the HR area – heads of regions or selected global functions, and representatives of the central personnel development unit as well as representatives of the implementation project from the Benefit Realization team. It is they who organized monthly “steering committee” meetings and helped its members make major decisions on future processes. During these meetings, for example, it was determined whether the development objectives should be part of the annual evaluation document or the employee development plan, or whether a manager should approve the employee’s self-assessment in respect of the required competences for his/her position, or only view it.

This approach has one fundamental and well-known advantage – a so called “buy-in”. With the engagement ofpeople from the top management, we are confident that we will get support from them when it comes to make changes. It is much easierto convince the HR Director from the selected country to implement the global process when the head of the region understands and supports specific changes.

In addition, the steering committee meetings were held to ensure that the system would be adapted to the business reality. One can easilyimagine that in such a group no one wondered whether the solution of SAP AG was compliant with the SAP HR system standard or not. The most important was the process and the interest of the organization.

Naturally, compromises were often made in subsequent iterations. If you can achieve an objective in a similar way to how it was initially planned and save tens of thousands of dollars on client solutions, why not do it? But when some of thetools did not exist in the system or the standard offered something significantly deviating from our expectations (for example, an application for the development of the employee competence profile in the portal – the WebDynpro JAVA version up to EHP4 inclusive), then the price ceased to play a major role. Eventually, it was aboutthe tool to be used by future leaders of the organization. It should be efficient, attractive and convincing. So it was worth investing extra money.

What is the plan?

The business processesdefined in this way were handed over to the project team, which was a real mix of personalities. It comprised members ofthe Benefit Realization team and HR personnel from the farthest corners of the world (from Canada or the U.S. through the Canary Islands, Madrid, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan to Malaysia) who treated the participation in this undertaking as the next step in their careers. They were expected to work in the team for a year or two. The team also included IT experts.

In the area of HR-IT, we were dividedinto two groups – the SAP HR Project Center and the operational support team. The first groupprovided innovations, the other ensured their efficient functioning for many months after the completion of the project. Althoughno one knows our organization so well as we do, the two groups often used the third-party support, including BCC (now All for One Poland) resources for a few years.

Implementation projectsin JTI were carried out according to the internal project methodology which is very similar to the ASAP (Accelerated SAP) approach.The tasks were supervised by SAP Delivery Center – a team watching over all SAP projects in the company, whether in the area of planning, logistics, finance or the said HR.

The Talent Management project took approximately 9 months in 2012, including 4 months on testing. Configuration and programming works made up a total of more than 500 days of work of consultants and SAP internal experts, squeezed in a little over 2 months. In total, 25 people from 15 countries were involved in the project at various stages.

What is under the hood?
JTI uses SAP ECC 6.04 (EHP4 level), NetWeaver Enterprise Portal 7.31 with the AJAX framework. The TREX data retrieval system supports the talent management functionality, and three applications from Nakisa support the visualization of the organizational structure, the succession planning, and data quality checks.

Talents for development

For many years, the annual employee appraisal documents have been stored in the SAP system. We’ve addeda development plan, internal CV, a tool called career compass (which helps the employee understand what is required for working in another business area (for example, if someone wanted to move from IT to HR)), as well as many useful reporting tools. For example, thedashboard, which shows the status of the documents in the organization (HR and managers can view who have already closed the appraisal process, and who has not), or a report that shows the aspirations of employees and their willingness to change a workplace (mobility).

All functionalities are available in the portal for employees, managers and HR staff. We put a lot of effort intomaking them really user-friendly and intuitive.

Functional scope
SAP HR is a central information system for HR in all JTI branches worldwide. The data on all JTI employees is stored in one system, in one client. The functional scope includes:
1.      Personal data administration
2.      Global organizational structure (including employees reporting to different countries)
3.      Global employees (e.g. expats)
4.      Working time management restricted to recording of basic absences
5.      Talent Management, i.e.:
a. Periodic appraisal
b. Internal CV of an employee
c. Personal development plan
d. Requirement profiles and qualification profiles
e. Succession planning
6.      Valuation of positions and salary management

How to “advertise" it to others?

According to the JTI methodology, in parallel to the team responsible for defining requirements at the highest level and the implementation team, the change management team is appointed. Here, it is worth spending a few words on the Power User institution at JTI. It is natural that some users are navigating in the system more smoothly than others. JTI decided to use it and distinguish properly. From the very beginning, when it was considered how to approach SAP knowledge management in the organization, the choice was pretty simple. JTI did not wantto invest too much in a central team which would have to intervene every time in the countries where, for various reasons, they would not know how to use the system. So, the so-calledPower Users were selected from among HR professionals to share their knowledge within their organizations (country/region), and to solve more advanced issues. Additionally, they also support the change management.

Within the Benefit Realization, a group of coordinators is appointed who stay in close contact with the implementation team and carry out an assessment of impact of changes on the organization. They also talk to Power Users from every country.As a result, local change management plans are created. With the supportof the highest organization level, the countries understand the importance of processes and support the local implementation willingly. This allows allocatingsome funds to promotional materials, the time for training, etc.

A change management network serves also as a discussion forum which enables the transfer of knowledge from the project team to different locations and passing of all kinds of challenges from local markets to the central team. Talent Management is a perfect example of the process which can be globalized easily. The challengebegins with the implementation of improvements in the area of personnel administrationor time management. Here ,local differences and legal requirements of each country present a big challenge.

Lights and shadows of globalization

A global approach to the system implementation and maintenance describedby the example of the Talent Management implementation has, of course, advantages, but also some disadvantages.

This solution will certainly support the free movement of HR professionals. Employees from different countries are free to develop their international careers, as some elements of their work are the same or very similar throughout the world.

Reporting on a whole range of data becomes much more efficient. A centralized system means that all the data is in one place and in the same structure (e.g. employee groups). This greatly simplifies the data reporting whether in the backend system or in the data warehouse in a consistent manner for the entire corporation.

On the other hand, in the global system it is more difficult to satisfy business or even legal requirements of individual locations. Often, it is necessary to agree to a compromise or to maintain a local system only for HR purposes and to meet legal requirements. Is it a problem? It depends on the company’s approach to HR management and its goals in respect of IT solutions supporting this area. If the main purpose of the HR system is to be payroll accounting and reporting to the authorities, the implementation of the global HR system is less justified. If, however, the strategic focus is on acquiring the best employees, their development in the organization and a transparent, fair remuneration for their work, the “globalization" has much more advantages than disadvantages.


JTIis very serious about recruiting the best talents, and their development and retention in the organization. We realizethat this is both a source of current success and a guarantee of success in the future. Therefore,it is natural that everything that can improve these processes is worth considering. We considered SAP talent management tools in this context. After two years ofa prototype and talks at various levels, we decided to continue with the global approach. So, the processes and systems work in the same way in all countries.

Grzegorz Węsierski – SAP HR Project Center Manager at JTI. Linked with SAP HR since 2006, he started as a BCC consultant. Now, he is responsible for all improvements in the global SAP HR system in the international organization of JTI. His team develops and delivers SAP solutions for global processes operating in 70 countries and serving 25,000 employees.

JTI – Japan Tobacco International – is an international company belonging to Japan Tobacco Inc., a world’s leading tobacco group. The group employs more than 25,000 people in 90 offices, 30 factories and R&D centers all over the world. JTI sells its products in 120 countries. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. JTI has been operating in the Polish market since 2003. Its Head Office is located in Warsaw with many supporting departments. A modern factory with the production for domestic and global markets is located in Gostków Stary near Łódź. Its sales network, including JTI sales representatives, covers the whole country.