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AusNet Services amps up its human resources operations with IBM and SAP
Transform the human resources experience
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AusNet is a company that lives by its values. And one of its core values is to take care of the well-being of its people—employees and customers, alike. It’s a tall order. As one of the largest energy transmission and distribution companies in Victoria, Australia, the company keeps the lights on for 1.5 million customers and engages more than 1,300 employees to help it do so.

That sense of community starts from within. “AusNet has a very inclusive culture,” says Bernie Repacholi, Head of People Systems and Enablement at AusNet. “Our employees form meaningful and lifelong relationships. People are deeply connected to our purpose of accelerating a sustainable future.”

“That translates into what we do for customers, as well, because we operate in the communities where we live,” she continues. “We play a critical role in connecting those communities to energy and providing sustainable, safe, reliable, clean energy.”

People were top of mind in 2021, when the company discovered unintentional underpayments to current and former employees as a result of the coverage and application of applicable enterprise workplace agreements and awards.

AusNet chose to be transparent in addressing the issue. “One of AusNet’s core values is that we do what’s right,” says Repacholi. “We really wanted to live up to that value.” The company voluntarily disclosed the issue to regulators and communicated with employees, who received a remediation back payment.

At the same time, AusNet began working with IBM®—with which it had an existing relationship—to evaluate its human resources platform. The platform was made up of three separate systems. While it was functioning, it was difficult and time-consuming for managers and their employees to figure out which system to log into for a given purpose.

As part of its legislative obligations to keep time and attendance records, the company required employees to fill in timesheets. The majority of employees were not used to having to do so, and the system was challenging for them to navigate.

AusNet needed to modernize its existing human resources processes by consolidating its multiple systems, reducing manual interventions and expediting human resources tasks for employees and managers.


reduction in HR administrative time estimated over next 5 years


business processes over 3 systems consolidated into 1

On this project, we all came together and worked as one team with a shared outcome. We knew IBM wasn’t going to walk out the door as soon as we launched. It really is a relationship that’s built on mutual trust. Bernie Repacholi Head of People Systems and Enablement AusNet Services
A one-team approach

In determining the best approach to revamping its human resources system, AusNet considered two primary options: uplifting the existing platform, which included outdated talent modules of SAP SuccessFactors, or replacing its antiquated system with SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central, a cloud-based human resources information system (HRIS). As the transformation adviser on the project, SAP SuccessFactors consulting services—part of IBM ConsultingBusiness Transformation Services—looked at the problem from a systemic perspective and recommended the latter solution.

With SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central as its foundation, AusNet chose multiple additional modules to help meet its business requirements and improve productivity. First and foremost, it selected a time and attendance module to ensure employees were paid correctly. In addition, it uplifted its existing talent modules.

Working as one team—another internal AusNet core value—IBM and AusNet joined forces with SAP subject matter experts to implement the solution in July 2022, using a single project manager to lead the effort. Building a software system and compliance framework around enterprise agreements was a major challenge. The process involved many hours of incorporating business rules, information from legal documents and compliance metrics.

While the AusNet IT team initiated the project and was heavily involved throughout, the human resources team led much of the design of the system. Using a combination of agile principles and human-centered design, the team was nonetheless constrained in soliciting input from employees by compliance requirement.

“We were quite intentional in engaging with employees and managers regarding how we would like them to participate,” says Repacholi. “We set up a business reference group that was tasked to make sure people in the business connected with the project knew what was going on. Some things were up for grabs and some weren’t. So we made sure that change plan was really clear in that.”

At the same time, the team remained true to AusNet’s practice of transparency, touching base with employees throughout. It also brought in a testing group when needed. “There were some things that we discovered along the way that required rethinking of the configuration work,” says Repacholi. “The pro was that IBM let us know, ‘Whatever we need to do to get to the end, we’ll keep adapting the system to meet AusNet’s bespoke requirements, ensuring it’s done right.’”

Ultimately, the team implemented the solution and consolidated 38 business processes from three systems into one.

A future built on trust

Today, AusNet is reaping the rewards of its new human resources system. Speed to market is critical in attracting and retaining talent. To that end, the new system has greatly accelerated AusNet’s hiring approval process. New position requests previously had to go through three levels of approval. The final approval came from the executive general manager, which could take up to two weeks. Now, a compliance team is the sole approver and issues approvals daily.

Employees can now easily fill in time sheets on their mobile devices and are enthusiastic about the additional benefits the system provides. “People are loving the visibility of how this works,” says Repacholi. “Leaders have timesheet dashboards where they can see patterns for how much time goes into projects. The system incorporates business rules for time tracking and automatically applies them if, for example, employees are entitled to allowances or overtime.”  

Management now knows exactly what employees are paid based on the hours they’ve worked. That capability also opens up conversations about health and wellbeing when employees are putting in extra hours. Management can see and respond quickly to those areas of the business where there are resourcing challenges.

With the compliance framework hardcoded into the system, AusNet is able to trust the accuracy of the underlying data and systems. Rather than management referring to spreadsheets when assigning employees to new positions, the system automatically assigns the correct pay points without manual intervention—information that is clearly visible to all employees.

Over the next five years, AusNet projects it will be able to reduce human resources administrative time by up to 50%. The company is currently delving into possible additional features and functionality within SAP SuccessFactors, such as revamping its onboarding process and further enhancing its employee experiences.

“On this project, we all came together and worked as one team with a shared outcome,” concludes Repacholi. “We knew IBM wasn’t going to walk out the door as soon as we launched. It really is a relationship that’s built on mutual trust. We trust IBM and IBM trusts that we will provide the needed information to build solutions that ultimately serve our needs.”

AusNet logo
About AusNet Services

Based in Melbourne, Australia, AusNet (link resides outside of ibm.com) is an energy transmission and distribution business that operates three regulated electricity and gas networks in Victoria, Australia. The company is privately owned by Australian Energy Holdings No 4 Pty Limited, a company controlled by Brookfield Asset Management.

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