British American Tobacco turns to SAP to manage global workforce

© British American Tobacco
© British American Tobacco

The SAP Business Planning and Consolidation system has cut costs and provided more accurate, real time insight into workforce planning

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British American Tobacco relies on 53,000 employees to sell more cigarettes worldwide than any other company. To manage this massive global workforce and forecast the employment costs, the company has rolled out the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation application across its business operations.

"Historically, that was all done through Excel spreadsheets," Damian De Conno, HR analytics lead, tells Computerworld UK.

"Every market would do something slightly different, so there was very limited consistency. We managed to get a level of consistency across finance and operations - in particular in marketing - and HR was one of the last areas that was not there.

"What we wanted to do was to bring that in to have a consistent language and consistent data sources. Then we can rely on the numbers that we're getting out."

British American Tobacco (BAT) has an established relationship with SAP, and chose to deploy SuccessFactors as its global HR solution. The team soon discovered that 250 spreadsheets were being manually updated and consolidated every quarter, as the existing headcount and employment cost forecasting spreadsheets were not integrated with any system.

However, SuccessFactors was not yet robust enough for BAT's needs. They needed a system that could rapidly respond to changing regulatory requirements and consumer behaviour by combining various data formats from sources around the world.

So they sought advice from Bluefin, Mindtree's global SAP practice, who recommended that BAT add a new HR environment within its existing SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) solution.

"We've traditionally found it difficult to get the data that we need in the right format, in a single source, with full history for the geographies that we are looking for," says De Conno.

"There's been a real impetus on moving everything now to the cloud, getting everything in a single system, and then being able to leverage the multiple sources of data from an analytics perspective, and not just looking at HR.

"That's one thing that's important to understand and why this project is important to us. We're not just focused on HR analytics anymore. We want to be able to combine with other sources of data, operations, marketing, sales, finance, because that's where the true insights and value will come."

Deploying SAP BPC

To implement the new system, BAT relied on a core team of five staff members from IT and HR, supported by Bluefin experts.

"We set out a number of key success criteria right at the very beginning," says De Conno. "They shaped how we ran the project, because it meant that when we got into the hassles about becoming a payroll system we could deflect it. That was key right from the very beginning."

De Conno and his colleagues took an agile collaboration approach to the project, which allowed them to develop an initial prototype within three weeks. This provided a visualisation of the system that ensured stakeholder buy-in and allowed the team to reduce risks and project costs by frontloading the redesign process.

“We took the agile principles of build fast, show, fail fast,” explains De Conno. “If people don't like it we build again. We kept going back and showing what we had so people could actually see it. Within about eight weeks of starting, we had pretty much a working system. Then we just kept building on it from there on in.”

It also helped BAT to reduce the project risks and costs by frontloading any required modifications.

Within six months, the company had rolled out SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) integrated with SAP SuccessFactors globally.

Benefits of BPC

More than 300 people in 70 countries now use the SAP BPC system. Employee data is loaded automatically from SuccessFactors into the BPC, which gives staff a basis for their HR planning. They can then adjust for any future employee movements and use a calculation engine to understand developments in their local market. 

The software reduced the consolidation of global HR planning from six weeks to near real time. It also provided more accurate insights into workforce planning, automated the HR forecasting process and replaced local tools with a single, global planning system.

"Every single market in every single region now follows exactly the same process, and they know exactly what to do," says De Conno. "We get the numbers in and they're accurate first time - everything completely integrated.

“We have no consolidation anymore. As soon as the numbers are entered into the system, it's automatically consolidated into local currency, all the way up the hierarchy from the bottom end market to global.

"If someone in global wants to see, even halfway through the cycle, how it's looking, bang, the information is there. We've reduced the time to do that from about six weeks to zero, which is I think, quite impressive."

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