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I’ve been writing about the inexorable journey of Human Resources (HR) software to the cloud, and thought it would be interesting to spotlight how one company is aligning solutions to its growth strategy. I recently caught up with Marc Farrugia at the 11th annual SAPInsider Human Resource (HR) 2014 Conference, where he gave me the lowdown on why his Michigan-based company, Sun Communities, took HR processes into the cloud, and how this strategy has paid off in terms of business outcomes.

When Farrugia arrived at Sun Communities as Director of Human Resources two and half years ago, the department’s HR processes were 90 percent manual. With an aggressive growth strategy based on acquisitions, he knew that workforce scalability and efficiency were crucial.

“We needed to have processes, technology, and people that would enable us to adapt quickly, and support our expansion plans that included new geographies and a more diverse employee population.”

Faced with data consistency problems across three disconnected HR systems, Farrugia focused on consolidating systems and finding a more reliable solution. After positive experiences with the SuccessFactors learning solution, Farrugia said that they opted for a phased-in implementation approach to consolidate on that vendor’s platform. The year-long project began with Learning Management, and was followed by Performance, Goals, Calibration, and Compensation, Succession Planning and 360, SAP Jam, Employee Central, and Recruiting. Here’s how Farrugia described his company’s adoption strategy.

“A modular adoption approach has allowed us to implement the solutions in a way that’s going to be most effective for us at any given time. Initially, our most pressing need was to get performance reviews completed so that’s where we started. Having the single cloud-based platform means that we don’t have to worry about integration. Some companies select different tools that may be great for point-based functions like just payroll or compliance or gamified training. You have to find solutions that offer the best of all worlds, like SuccessFactors.”

Mike Ettling, Global Head of Cloud and On Premise HR at SAP, who spoke recently on an HR expert panel on the Bill Kutik Radio Show, says that Sun Communities is a great example of where many HR departments are today. “HR leaders want to know how to get to the cloud. That’s why SAP’s approach enables customers to start where it makes the most sense for them to solve their biggest pain points, and migrate other areas at the most appropriate timeframe for their business needs.”

Now with approximately 1700 employees managing over 190 locations in 26 states, Sun Communities is realizing one of the most important benefits of moving its HR processes to the cloud—usability. As RV resorts have become a larger percentage of its portfolio, the nature of work at Sun Communities has evolved to include more seasonal staff. This has changed employee responsibilities and the resources needed to support them. Ease of use is a crucial must-have for a geographically dispersed workforce that includes an increasing number of Spanish-speaking employees.

“User feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from employees and their managers who find the user interface intuitively easy to navigate. Being able to roll the system out with limited training was a big win for us and we exceeded our timelines for adoption,” said Farrugia.

According to Farrugia, moving to the cloud has also met his company’s needs for speed and accuracy.

“The cutting edge functionality that exists in Employee Central isn’t necessarily included in other vendor’s software solutions. For example, with Employee Central you can’t put the wrong person in the wrong classification because the system won’t allow it. This kind of data quality control has allowed us to increase efficiency while eliminating time spent on troubleshooting and fixing mistakes,” said Farrugia.

Sun Communities is a shining example of how companies are turning to cloud-based software for the flexibility and speed that employees appreciate. Senior executives are well-aware that studies consistently link high employee engagement to better shareholder value. It only makes sense to drive that engagement to much higher levels than the competition.

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