After Ashurst almost doubled in size following a major merger, the Ashurst HR function aimed to transform its operations to support the ongoing strategic growth objectives.
Ashurst and IBM Services are building centralized, integrated approaches to human capital management in the Oracle HCM Cloud—creating valuable synergies between HR and the business.
>3,000 employeesunited on a truly global human capital management platform
Single source of truthfor reporting enables HR to identify and drive operational efficiencies
Builds HR capabilityto deliver processes that support long-term strategic objectives
Business Challenge Story
Wider reach, new challenges
As both competition and pressure on fees in the legal industry intensify, attracting and retaining top talent—while maintaining healthy operational efficiency—has never been more vital for success. Achieving these goals demands closer collaboration between the business and HR than ever, and firms that can build this relationship meaningfully will be best placed to thrive in the evolving marketplace.
Ashurst, a major international law firm, recognized an opportunity to meet these challenges head-on.
Claire Townshend, Head of HR, EMEA and US at Ashurst, explains: “Today, it’s essential for law firms to do more with less. Corporate and financial services clients increasingly expect firms to offer highly competitive fee structures, and the ability to work in all of the jurisdictions they do business in.
“Ashurst has always had an extensive global reach. At the end of 2013, we grew further by merging with Ashurst Australia—formerly Blake Dawson—which almost doubled our headcount practically overnight. Growth opened up new business opportunities, but it also presented challenges.”
“In particular, it become more difficult to answer important questions such as: ‘How many people with these skillsets are employed across the business?’, ‘How long do people with these roles tend to stay in the business, and why?’, and ‘Are compensation policies consistent and compelling across all parts of the organization?’”
Bruna Pellicci, Global IT Director at Ashurst, continues: “Ashurst employs people at 28 offices in 16 countries. Previously, each part of the business had its own systems and processes for managing absences, tracking performance and rewarding success. Our teams would then report this data back to our headquarters in London, where it was rekeyed into our finance and HR systems.
“As well as increasing the manual effort and cost required to manage talent across our global business, the previous approach reduced our ability to ensure globally consistent definitions of human capital management metrics. As a result, generating comprehensive reports was a considerable challenge, especially as we grew from a business with 2,000 employees to one with more than 3,300 people.”
Building integrated processes
To solve the challenge, Ashurst decided to build standardized global processes for managing talent, developing skills and rewarding performance. As a first step, the firm decided to evaluate the market for a new human capital management platform.
Claire Townshend continues: “There has been a general trend to select best-of-breed software solutions for each specific area of the human capital management process, such as learning and recruitment.
“The challenge with using multiple different systems to support processes such as employee on-boarding, performance, and compensation management, is that changing data in one system may affect one or more dependences in other, separate, systems. This requires bespoke integrations, which can become prohibitively costly and complex to maintain and develop in the long-term.
“For our new HR platform, we wanted a leading vendor that could provide a single, end-to-end solution. In addition, we wanted to empower the business to build reports and an ability to add new modules easily, enabling our IT team to focus on other development projects.”
After evaluating offerings from four leading solution vendors, Ashurst selected the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud solution as the basis for a new, integrated way of working.
“We are one of the first legal firms to select a cloud solution to manage HR, and we see that many more will pursue the cloud route in the coming years,” says Claire Townshend. “Using the cloud helps us to avoid the maintenance and management costs associated with managing and securing an on-premises solution. What’s more, we are confident that the cloud model will reduce our exposure to compliance risks, as Oracle is continually developing the solution with a keen eye on ever-changing data protection and information security legislation around the world.”
To help migrate its operations to a single, global Oracle solution, Ashurst engaged an expert team from IBM Services.
“Any project of this scale carries a certain degree of risk, and we wanted a partner with proven experience to help guide us through the implementation process as smoothly as possible,” recalls Bruna Pellicci. “From the very first stage of the engagement, the IBM team’s track record with previous Oracle implementations gave us confidence that we were in safe hands.”
She continues: “Not only could the IBM team offer us a direct line to Oracle’s solution development team, IBM went above and beyond to support us with the right resources wherever we needed them. Whether it was flying out at short notice to our offices in Australia, or visiting our head office in London to resolve a technical challenge on the day that we raised it, the IBM team has never demonstrated anything short of full commitment to the success of our Oracle cloud migration project. The IBM Services team is such an integral part of our ongoing migration program, it’s almost seamless.”
After achieving operational use in 14 countries, Ashurst, working together with the IBM Services team, has recently extended the platform to its Australia business. The firm is launching HR self-service, a phase of the project targeted for completion by September 2015.
In parallel, Ashurst and IBM Services are collaborating on work streams for additional components of the Oracle HCM Cloud solution, including Oracle Talent Management and Oracle Workforce Rewards. These components will be activated in phases, and began with the Performance module in June 2015.
Beginning the transformation
Today, Ashurst is realizing its vision of building end-to-end human capital management processes, and is beginning to unlock substantial benefits for the business.
“Before our HR transformation began, if a Europe-based office manager wanted to modify a record for a member of staff, they would have to call up our office in London and ask one of our people to take the action,” says Bruna Pellicci. “Today, any of our teams globally can log into our secure human capital management cloud and access the information they need. Offering anywhere, anytime access to our HR data is essential as our global reach extends across additional time zones.”
As part of its human capital management roadmap, Ashurst aims to roll out employee self-service across its global business—creating valuable new operational efficiencies.
“Our ultimate goal is to empower every member of the firm, wherever they are, to own their personal data,” says Claire Townshend. “We strongly believe that enabling employees to enter their data into a single, shared system will help ensure that our records are up to date, and deliver the clean, consistent data we need to generate highly granular, accurate reports that can be trusted by the business.
Bruna Pellicci adds: “As the suite evolves, we hope to see Oracle Learning working alongside Fusion Performance to deliver a more rounded view of our people and their development, and all in one system.”
Claire Townshend continues: “In the past, our approach to performance management was based on a static, check-box driven workflow. Our work with IBM Services is set to transform this process by shifting the focus away from filling in forms and towards productive, face-to-face conversations about career development, training and constructive feedback.”
“By enabling our teams to capture the structured and unstructured feedback from these discussions in the Oracle solution, it will be easier than ever for us to identify and develop our top talent, wherever they work in our global business.”
With its HR transformation well underway, Ashurst is already looking to the future.
“Moving from a traditional HR database to a leading-edge cloud solution is a complex process, and we see the work we are doing now as an investment that will enable us to be highly agile in the future,” comments Bruna Pellicci. “When our Oracle cloud solutions are live, opening a new office or making a new acquisition will be vastly more straightforward from the HR perspective.”
Claire Townshend concludes: “The aim of our work with IBM Services and Oracle is simple: to provide a cutting edge, cost-effective and low maintenance system that allows HR to focus on its strategic, value-added activities.”
Employing more than 3,300 people across 16 countries, Ashurst is a leading international law firm advising corporates, financial institutions and governments. The company’s core businesses are in corporate, finance, dispute resolution, and the development and financing of assets in the energy, resources and infrastructure sectors. In November 2013, Ashurst and Ashurst Australia (formerly Blake Dawson) merged to form one global team.
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