In the Spotlight: Implementation
Nancy Cunningham, Vice President of Implementation Services, brings extensive industry expertise to her role as the leader of BGRS’s Implementation Team. When a client contracts with BGRS to be their relocation management company, the implementation team is responsible for on-boarding them. The implementation team ensures their transition to BGRS is as seamless as possible and that they are set-up for a successful long-term partnership. Nancy provides some fresh insight into this key function.
What is different about implementation today compared to 10 years ago?
Nancy: What’s different today is the nature of the services being outsourced. For example, more clients are fully outsourcing their international programs and compensation services, instead of simply their U.S. domestic programs. This means more complex and longer implementation projects, as well as a bit more work for both the client and us.
Another difference is that companies want to be able to quantify the outcome of an implementation. In other words, more companies need to know resource commitments, timelines, and projected cost-savings upfront. Especially if the implementation involves taking over work from an in-house team. Having metrics in place at the beginning allows mobility leaders to show the year over year progress and success of the mobility program. This is something that is being demanded of mobility leaders more and more today.
What does a successful implementation look like and how does your team help deliver that?
Nancy: At a fundamental level, a successful implementation is one where the client is satisfied with both the end result, as well as the process. Companies want to see that we’ve launched on the “go live” date and that services commenced without issue. For instance, they want to see that payroll files were delivered correctly, new initiations were received and handled, and that all in-process files were transitioned successfully.
However, a really effective implementation is one where we can find ways to consult with mobility leaders to optimize their programs and processes. For example, if a company wants us to make payments for a particular policy allowance we, of course, can do that. But instead of assuming we should proceed as has always been done, we ask questions and explore alternatives. If that payment is truly a mobility allowance, it might be more effective to incorporate it as part of the balance sheet. We constantly look for ways to improve efficiencies, to make processes more effective and to deepen employee satisfaction.
Finally, our implementation team structure is designed to enable success. Our team is structured just like our BGRS Client Services teams – with clear lines of responsibility and a seasoned project manager for each implementation. We also have team members that work around the globe in the Americas, EMEA, and APAC. This is especially valuable for large complex implementations where our regional team members provide local support to companies. In addition to English, the team speaks 12 languages. So, for example, when we are setting up the new payroll process in China, one of our team members speaks Mandarin, and she can proficiently lead those calls with the company’s local team.
What are some common challenges to a successful implementation?
Nancy: Any large scale implementation can pose challenges. Fortunately, we become so tightly aligned with the client and have such deep experience that we help clients spot and prepare for implementation pitfalls up front. Sometimes challenges can arise within the client’s organization that fall outside the mobility group’s direct control. We proactively jump in and share best practices for mitigation including working with the client’s counsel to finalize the contract and aligning early with mobility leaders to define scope. We’re fortunate to be an agile organization that can quickly amend our agreements to meet both legal and compliance needs and potential scope changes.
Occasionally, we need to work closely with the client to increase buy in from other regions or functions within the organization. Ensuring everyone is supportive of the mobility program at its outset assures greater success overall. We actively design our communication plans so that companies communicate their senior leadership’s support effectively and early. In addition, we recommend a project charter be established as an initial step to ensure all regions and project participants are clear on the goals throughout the implementation. In short, we are proactive advocates for our clients, guiding them and helping pave the way to a successful implementation.
What is the ideal time frame for an implementation?
Nancy: This is a very common question! It really depends largely on what types of services are being contracted. For example, in a fully outsourced international services contract with compensation services, we complete several shadow payroll runs and tests data interfaces, so it can take some time. We use our experience to determine timelines and match against client needs. We can, and often have, accelerated timelines, but mobility leaders also need time to marshal a vast array of stakeholders and decision-makers on their end.
Primarily implementation timelines are about setting expectations and being realistic. Establishing regular contact with a host of organizational functions, such as payroll, accounting, finance, legal, tax and other teams, like regional HR leads, can take quite a bit of time. Mobility leaders also need to gather the data on the transition population, and may want to review policies and processes at a deep level as part of the process, all of which can add additional time to the overall project timeline.
What advice would you give to mobility leaders to help ensure their mobility implementation goes smoothly?
Nancy: One key piece of advice is to understand the importance of communication, both to stakeholders in the company and to the employees affected by the change in suppliers. Ideally the communication process should begin as the RFP is launched, so that implementation is a component of that process. However, that is not always the case. We help clients formulate communication plans and customize them to fit their needs, so that the changes are adequately communicated to all.
Also, it is critical for mobility leaders to have access to their own company subject matter experts and key decision makers. It is rare that a mobility leader will be able to make all the decisions that need to be made during the course of an implementation, so when additional decisions are needed, getting those decisions made as quickly and efficiently as possible is crucial to meeting key milestones and ensuring success.
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