The genesis and fruition of Altron OneTouch

Altron's Dolores Mashishi shares the tale of a remarkable digital transformation.

CHRO South Africa recently hosted a Webinar in partnership with Workday, during which Dolores Mashishi, group executive for human capital at Altron, shared the story behind their Workday-powered Altron OneTouch platform, which went live in July 2020.

Dolores, who was joined by Workday country leader Zuko Mdwaba, explained the critical role that technology has played in Altron’s continuing transformation, which began three years ago when Mteto Nyati took the helm as the CEO. 

Dolores said that when they began the journey, it was agreed that the first three years were going to be about values and making sure that those values are brought to life in the organisation.

Now in the third year of the five-year transformation strategy, Altron has gone from a disparate organisation with nine entities and seven different HR policies, to a unified profit machine with people performance at the heart of its success.  

Dolores said the first year and phase of the turnaround was termed 'Positioning For Growth,' and saw the company going to back to the drawing board in terms of establishing the vision, purpose, values, and culture of the organisation. 

The second phase was called themed 'Gearing For Growth', during which the company sought to implement technology and automation in such a way that it enabled the organisation to maximise efficiency.  

“We are a technology solution provider and we decided that we cannot be communicating to the world we produce fantastic innovative solutions while, internally, our staff members are not experiencing technologies solutions that are world-class,” said Dolores. 

That’s where Workday came in. 

Values aligned
 
On how they opted to go with Workday, Doroloes said the executive team first looked at their strategy and decided that they wanted a cloud solution that was not only integrated but also so intuitive that it would be easy to use for people who weren't tech-savvy. Based on this, they consulted the Gartner Vendor Ratings, which listed Workday and SAP as the best options and, after engaging with both organisations they felt that Workday was best suited to meet their requirements. 

Zuko described how it was clear from the outset the two organisations had values in common. He referred to the first meeting with the entire executive team where Mteto was very clear on some of the things that they wanted, explaining the core values that Altron espoused, some of which were eerily congruent with Workday's values. 

“At Workday, we value employees, customers, integrity, innovation, profitability, and fun, some of which were the exact core values that Altron held in high regard,” said Zuko, adding that those shared values allowed for a seamless conversation, which led to further as engagement and, ultimately, an invitation to Workday Rising  – Workday’s annual gathering of customers, prospective customers, partners, and employees that collaborate and learn how Workday helps organisations achieve their growth objectives and prepare for the future. It was at Workday Rising that Dolores was convinced that Workday was the solution for them. 

"We always encourage future customers and prospective customers to not only listen to us but to also speak to our existing customers. I think the voice of the customer is more authentic than any other," said Zuko.

The third phase

Altron is now in the ‘Accelerating Growth’ phase of the strategy, in which they have implemented Altron OneTouch, which is powered by Workday. It is a standardised system across all functions throughout the entire organisation, which enabled Altron to achieve a 15 percent cost reduction in the cost of technology used in the organisation. By nature, digital transformations are an expensive undertaking, but Dolores said their experience was proof significant cost savings can be realised when the planning, and execution and of the digital transformation is done properly.

“Prior to Workday, we had a disjointed approach. We had entire books upon books of Excel SharePoint. We had an LMS called Signify...everything was a standalone product and it was very difficult to gather meaningful data from that,” she said.

Since introducing Workday, Altron now uses data analytics to drive and tweak the strategy because everything they do is based on data. Prior to Workday, HR was not an area in which Altron was able to harness a lot of analytics. But now with the data they have been able to collect, Dolores says they have been able to do “amazing things”, especially now that they have a data analytics practice in one of their operations.
 

Keep people at the centre

On what she had learned from their digital transformation process, Dolores said two things were critical: To bring people along with you on the journey, and to stay rooted in the business strategy.

“There has to be a three-to-five-year roadmap in which you outline the steps and intended consequences of those steps. The most important thing to do is create a roadmap in which every step is linked to the business strategy,” she said. 

Another thing that was important was learning to simplify the language used in communicating with employees about the process. Dolores said it became evident that the jargon being used to communicate the digital transformation was so complex that 60 percent of the employees were not understanding the messaging. 

That led the company to simply what the digital transformation really meant in practical terms for a typical employee and a typical client. 

“We went through a process of engaging ambassadors within the organisation to help us define what we wanted to get out of the process. This was how we eventually came to brand our digital transformation, which is is called Altron OneTouch,” said Dolores

Getting buy-in from management

Dolores said that getting buy-in from the management team was the biggest hurdle because engaging with management is about more than just the cost-benefit analysis. It's also about a mindset shift because you are dealing with the same people that previously worked on all the various platforms and solutions that were being used within the business. 

“They will have been using those tools for 17 years and will need to be convinced that the new way of doing things is better. It was critical that we worked through the transformation journey with the management team first because they were the ones that were going to have to sell Atron OneTouch to the workforce,” said Dolores. 

Dolores concluded it was vital to bring people along the journey because, even though they knew the solution would work, without the people, “all you have is an expensive technology. You have to make sure that the solution is an innovation that matters to the people.
 

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