Focuses on HR self-service to let employee engagement shine through

Glass, ceramics and optics specialist Corning saw HR costs creeping up. How could it better manage the skills, resources and capabilities of its 45,000 employees? By deploying SAP® SuccessFactors® with assistance from IBM® Services, Corning gained crystal-clear visibility of its global workforce, cut operational costs, and boosted HR performance.

Business Challenge

To continue to attract and retain top-performing employees, Corning set out to meet their demands for web and mobile access to HR systems, while targeting a reduction in operational costs.


Corning consolidated to a single, global cloud-based HR platform, selecting SAP SuccessFactors, deployed with assistance from IBM Services, enabled with self-service portals and mobile device access.

Results 45,000 employees
served with consumer-level user experience
Over 10,000 daily visits
from employees and managers to locate skills and capabilities for better collaboration
72 integrated systems,
including SAP Fieldglass and eight payroll solutions
Business challenge
Creating a clear vision

Specialist glass, ceramics and optics manufacturer Corning employs some 45,000 people worldwide. The company invests continuously in products and innovation, such as the latest touch-screen glass and in the advance life sciences arena. To maintain its strong market position, Corning understands that attracting, training and motivating a highly skilled workforce is essential to success.

While Corning was in the top quartile in its sector in terms of HR to employee headcount ratios and overall efficiency, its on-premise HR systems were showing their age. New technologies offered clear opportunities to reduce IT costs, as Tim Gregory, Director, HR Innovation and Workforce Technology, explains, “Back in 2010 our existing HR solutions required an expensive technical upgrade that delivered little benefit to our employees and managers out there in the field. We acknowledged that our legacy software was no longer keeping pace with our business requirements, so we decided to switch to a new route and think about what we wanted to do in the future.

“Millennials form a growing percentage of Corning’s workforce, and they have grown up with advanced, consumer-quality technology. We wanted to close the gap between the consumer and the enterprise experience, which would help us attract the brightest, most talented people. We were looking for better insight into the global workforce, higher employee engagement levels, and the ability to respond more rapidly and flexibly to change. How could we raise our HR performance, reduce costs, and engage our people along the journey?”

Layered with great data governance and robust processes guided by IBM Services, SAP SuccessFactors is really bringing benefits to Corning. Tim Gregory Director, HR Innovation and Workforce Technology Corning
Polished project performance

The Corning team realized that switching to cloud-based software could solve its technical challenges and, potentially, reduce costs.

Reviewing the market, Corning selected SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting, Recruitment Marketing and Onboarding, and Talent Management suite, an all-cloud solution that ticks so many boxes for innovative companies. Tim Gregory elaborates, “One of the many things where we saw value in SAP SuccessFactors was the standardized, global management of regulatory processes. SAP invests significant amounts to ensure that localized processes are compliant.

“We also loved the fact that SAP SuccessFactors offers new releases every quarter. It’s a big adjustment for companies which have become accustomed to release cycles that take years. SAP SuccessFactors presented great opportunities for us to improve not only our HR capability but also our IT capabilities. We can now offer a hugely improved employee experience, for example through mobile functionality, that can really help drive employee engagement and attract digital natives to our company.”

Christy Pambianchi, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, comments, “We aren’t ever going to be experts in HR technology, and so we knew we needed to find a partner out there. SAP SuccessFactors was the right one for us, and if we partnered up with them, we would be able to constantly benefit from their advances in HR technology, and likewise we could then hopefully show them in real time what’s happening in practice.”

The company took advantage of SAP SuccessFactors to introduce HR self-service portals, pre-populated with each person’s data. As more of the global workforce engage with HR through digital channels, Corning can collect valuable data for analysis to help mold future decisions.

“Self-service HR access had been on our wish-list for a long time,” remarks Tim Gregory. “The opportunity to enable self-service portal capability, also through mobile apps, with SAP SuccessFactors, really helps to improve the overall employee experience. Using SAP SuccessFactors we are delivering a consumer-quality experience for our managers and employees, and that makes all the difference.”

Finding the right partner

Corning set about identifying the right implementation partner, looking for a combination of SAP SuccessFactors experience and sufficient resources to handle global deployment.

Tim Gregory remarks, “Ultimately we felt that this is really a three-party program, and we wanted this to be very fluid and a win for all three parties, and concluded that IBM Services was the right team to work with us, selected on the quality of the interviews by the people in the room, and the chemistry that we could see demonstrated with Corning. Commercially, IBM provided attractive pricing for both system design and implementation, with flexible contract terms and conditions.”

The Corning and IBM teams acted as a single operational unit, creating a genuine partnership between the IT and the HR personnel. The technical teams learned what it takes to move core enterprise functionality to a cloud-based service, while the HR teams similarly learned how to re-organize and embed new processes to optimize the business benefits

The IBM team completed more than 70 integrations, including eight legacy payroll systems and the existing SAP Fieldglass system. The solution encompasses 22 countries and 12 languages. The combined Corning, IBM and SAP implementation team reached around 250 people at its height, in a project that ran for two years.

IBM Services was instrumental in successfully migrating data from the legacy systems to the SAP SuccessFactors solutions, and played a key role integrating SAP SuccessFactors with to existing payroll systems. Tim Gregory points out, “The key objective of the project was to ensure that people were paid correctly. People tend not to have a sense of humor when their pay isn’t correct, which makes it a very high-stakes game. Teaming with IBM and the quality of the SAP SuccessFactors software delivered on our promises.”

Corning worked with IBM Services to clean, validate and import four years’ worth of historical data to the SAP SuccessFactors platform in a cloud migration project. This approach provided continuity with the past, and provided a foundation for analytics for analytics and machine learning that could be used as soon as the solution was in production.

Tim Gregory comments, “In the first 6 months we received and resolved more than 3,500 work orders and incidents. That we could manage such a large-scale, complex project is quite a testament to the teamwork and the phenomenal relationship between IBM, SAP and Corning HR and IT.

“When our data stewards, HR managers and coordinators went into the system the first day, it looked as though it had been running for four years. This successful data migration, led by IBM, was essential to ensure that the analytics and machine learning results were reliable—statistical accuracy improves with larger data sets—and this helped us exploit the capabilities within SAP SuccessFactors as rapidly as possible.”

We are looking at areas to co-innovate, such as IBM Watson, IBM Cloud, SAP Leonardo and machine learning, and we’re very excited about continuing our relationship with IBM and SAP. Tim Gregory Director, HR Innovation and Workforce Technology Corning
Long-term future vision

With SAP SuccessFactors in place, Corning is experiencing enormous enthusiasm both externally and internally, as Tim Gregory explains: “Since go-live, Corning advertised more than a thousand job vacancies to public recruitment sites, experienced nearly two million visitors, and attracted over eighty thousand job applicants.

“The company is growing, with nearly 50,000 employees, and we see about one-fifth of staff accessing SAP SuccessFactors on a daily basis. Apart from email, there are very few software applications in that league, that are impacting our employees day-to-day. People are searching for talent and skills, looking at org charts, finding colleagues and collaborating.

“Our employees are attracted by the consumer-quality, very clean interface, with full access from mobile devices. From the HR management perspective, it’s easy to gain a snapshot of our employee populations, and drill down for additional information. Layered with great data governance and robust processes guided by IBM Services, SAP SuccessFactors is really bringing benefits to Corning.”

Corning has moved to an integrated and intuitive, cloud-based, technology platform, with simplified processes and radically improved self-service tools for employees, managers and HR professionals—and easy and secure access to data that enables deeper insights for improved planning.

Christy Pambianchi adds, “We love how SAP SuccessFactors solutions integrate with SAP Fieldglass solutions. Now we have total workforce management and visibility that includes independent contractors. Supervisors can view entire teams and who’s doing what – all in one place. It’s an incredible platform; to have all of your contractors tracked in the org chart feature, is a huge positive feature.

“For us, and me personally, this wasn’t just a decision about a product, it was a decision about a long-term relationship with IBM and SAP, and a capability set and a value set. We don’t want a vendor/supplier, customer/supplier relationship, we want a true partnership. Now, when people are seeing what the result is, they’re blown away.”

Corning is now speaking with IBM Services about how it can develop maximum value from its new HR data sources. Tim Gregory concludes, “We are looking at areas to co-innovate, such as IBM Watson, IBM Cloud, SAP Leonardo and machine learning, and we’re very excited about continuing our relationship with IBM and SAP: there’s a phenomenal opportunity to do some really cool stuff. Now that we’ve made it to the cloud with SAP SuccessFactors, with outstanding assistance from IBM Services, we are exercising our new-found agility while continuing to hone, improve and optimize our processes.”


For more than 165 years, Corning (link resides outside IBM) has combined its expertise in glass science, ceramics science and optical physics with robust manufacturing and engineering capabilities. Products include damage-resistant cover glass for mobile devices, precision glass for advanced displays, optical fibers, and clean-air technologies for cars and trucks. Headquartered in the US, Corning employs around 45,000 people worldwide, and generates some USD 10 billion in annual revenues.

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