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Barnsley Council has rolled out the SAP Fiori My Leave Requests app to replace physical 'leave of absence' cards in a move to digitise its basic HR processes and beyond.

Speaking at the SAP UK and Ireland user group conference Connect 2016, Chantele Smith, ICT technical specialist at Barnsley Council told Computerworld UK that the 'leave' app was identified as a good pilot project to “replace some of the manual processes we had at Barnsley as part of a digital-first initiative”.

Before the mobile Fiori app, council staff were “given a piece of paper at the begging of every financial year and throughout the year they would record what days, hours, minutes of leave they wanted and the manager would sign it off”, Smith explained. This caused issues with data not being tracked, a lack of visibility across teams when it came to leave and also not being able to request leave when an employee or manager was not in the office.

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Smith and the rest of the IT team took the off-the-shelf Fiori app and made some customisations to simplify the user journey. They stripped out the option to request hours of leave for a simple ‘radio button’ for either a full or half day, for example.

Basic digital skills

The move from paper wasn’t as smooth as Smith and the rest of her team would have expected though. Most organisations don’t have to teach their employees how to use an iPad before they can teach them how to perform a business process, but where digital skills don’t come as standard, rolling out new business software can have unexpected hurdles.

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“We found that we had a number of employees who we perhaps overestimated what their digital skills were and we found that some services just weren’t using the app at all because they didn’t know how to use it," Smith said.

“We had some teams that decided they were going to create their own leave cards again and literally drew them out on paper because they didn’t have the skills needed to use these apps.” The IT team responded by setting up workshops and drop-in sessions to teach staff basic digital skills and get them up to speed with the Fiori apps.

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To show the level of digital skills the organisation was faced with Smith told a story of how “one lady turned up with a brand new tablet device in the box and she said ‘I got it for Christmas last year but I never opened it because I don’t know how it works’. So in the drop in session I sat down with her for a good hour to teach her how to turn it own, download apps and how to use Fiori and book leave.”

Smith said that “it is quite a humbling moment to sit with these people and realise that we thought we had users that are opposed to change and didn’t want to move away from old ways of working, but that wasn’t the case. It was fear because they didn’t want to break the technology and do anything wrong.”

By engaging with these workers, Smith and her team have been able to set a baseline for the next rollout of employee-facing apps.

Phase two rollout

Phase one was a rollout of two apps to 3,000 employees, the leave app and a simple overtime app back in April.

Phase two will be a rollout of three to four apps: a team calendar app so that employees and managers can see who is on leave or not in the office, a banked time app (essentially a lieu management system) and an approval app for managers.

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It hopes to roll these out in pilot over the next couple of weeks for testing, including the users it had to upskill because “in a way their feedback is more important”, Smith said. They hope to go live with these apps by April.

Barnsley Council now includes Fiori access as part of the onboarding process and runs a bring your own device policy so that employees can use any device they are comfortable with, alongside the Microsoft hardware it provides.