Savola Group develops HR tool with Estarta

Savola Group is binding its workforce to its business objectives with the development and deployment of a HR management tool called Advanced Work-Life Alignment (AWLA).

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  October 27, 2002

|~||~||~|Saudi-based Savola Group is closely binding its workforce to its business objectives with the development and deployment of a HR management tool. The Advanced Work-Life Alignment (AWLA) tool, which is in its final testing stages, will enable employees to manage all aspects of their working life and maximise their productivity.

“We wanted a day-to-day application that ensures that the tasks of an individual are linked to the objectives of the organisation,” says Tariq Abo Faraj, vice president, e-business division and president of Royah Company, the IT services organisation of Savola Group. “[Employees] need a planning tool to measure their productivity and ensure that whatever they are doing is aligned with the business objectives,” he adds.

The AWLA project has its roots in the balanced scorecard management methodology, which breaks down the business into four quadrants — processes, customers, financials and people — and aims to excel in each specific area. According to Savola executives, the scorecard methodology, if executed correctly, holds the key to achieving massive growth targets. By 2005, Savola Group is aiming to achieve approximately US$1.3 billion in revenue. “Every process links to that, every business units is contributing to achieve that objective,” says Abo Faraj.

Whereas the group can access information in its Oracle applications to measure the group’s financial position, the people area of the scorecard has always been difficult to measure and manage. With AWLA, Savola is looking to end vague HR management and provide solid performance indicators for its staff.

“The idea is that whatever the individual is doing, it is going to effect the four quadrants,” says Abo Faraj. “[For example,] the person who is actually approving a purchase order is measured in the financial [quadrant] using the ERP system. But there is one area that didn’t have any measures at all — people. This area is very soft and this tool [AWLA] is supposed to make it less soft and a more manageable and tangible,” he adds.

AWLA provides employees with a web-based digital dashboard for their tasks, their subordinates, their superiors, projects, entitlements and other private information. Much of the information is entered and updated by the employees themselves and supplementary data is integrated from the HR module. The web-based application is replacing a desktop application, which had been developed in-house using Visual Basic and components of Microsoft Office.

However, since the start of this year, Savola has been working with Jordanian developer, Estarta Solutions, to produce AWLA based on Microsoft.Net. The joint project team, which consisted of staff from Savola’s HR department, Royah Company and Estarta, has produced a componentised web application that be can be customised to the group’s changing business needs.

“[AWLA] is based on the .Net platform and is highly customisable, so that [each employee] can adapt the solution,” says Ennis Rimawi, president & chairman, Estarta Solutions.
“The interface is connected to the company’s legacy information systems and databases. It extracts the information from the company’s internal systems and feeds it through to [the application,]” he adds.

At some point in the future, AWLA will be integrated with Savola’s forthcoming executive portal, which is currently under development. Although the group has still to decide on a technology platform — either Microsoft or Oracle — the portal will eventually provide a comprehensive view of the business through the tight integration of back end applications and databases.

“We’re looking to integrate this into the portal, so that it becomes an integral part of the working routine of employees,” says Abu Faraj. “Through the portal, we’re going to be creating a flexible environment that will help us manage the attention of the executives. We will send the alerts and messages straight to the person,” he adds.

However, it will take time to integrate AWLA into the working lifestyle of Savola’s employees. “There is so much functionality in the portal at the moment that we are not expecting the users to [take advantage] of all of it on day one. It is going to take time to explore,” comments Abu Faraj.

The early training sessions will also be used by Savola as a forum to gather feedback on AWLA. Information gathered will then be used to define further user requirements and enhance AWLA. “This period is going to take the company around six months. Then we will move into the next development phase,” says Abu Faraj.||**||

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