Opera Software, the company that developed the Opera web browser which is used by 350 million people worldwide, has replaced its ageing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with a cloud-based human resources (HR) management service in a bid to attract and retain the most talented staff.
The Norwegian company competes with Apple and Google for talented employees with digital skills, but it realised its in-house IT systems left something to be desired compared with the apps youngsters use at home.

“We are very innovative in the market with our product. Opera is fast and has a great look and feel. We wanted to make sure our systems internally have the look and feel of our external systems,” said Live Leer, vice-president of global HR at Opera Software.
Opera Software began looking for alternatives to its in-house HR technology, which had been developed on an ERP system from US supplier Deltek, when it found itself struggling to keep pace with its growing workforce.
The company has expanded from 750 employees five years ago to more than 1,500 today, with 40 offices in 20 countries, and is continuing to expand.
“We recently acquired a company in Brazil, and this added another 20 or 30 people. In the US, we had only 12 people. Now we have 445,” said Leer, speaking in advance of a major HR IT conference.
Learning from Facebook
Opera’s ERP-based HR system was difficult to use, which meant employees did not want to spend time updating their personal details.
As a result, HR professionals had to spend a lot of time on administrative tasks and data entry, rather than focusing on higher-value work. Now the company plans to move to a self-service model where staff and managers can easily access and update their own details.

Employees are used to banking online and using Facebook. We wanted to make sure they could have the same experience with HR Live Leer, Opera Software

“Employees are used to banking online and using Facebook. We wanted to make sure they could have the same experience with HR,” said Leer.
Offering employees a good user experience has become one of the key driving forces for HR technology, according to David Wilson, CEO of HR technology analyst Fosway Group.
“Delivering a great user experience and engagement has become critical in next-generation HR systems,” he told Computer Weekly. “Opera’s criteria for selection reflect many of the key priorities we now see in corporate decisions in Europe, including user experience, agility of processes and speed of innovation, as well as the ability to support decentralised HR operations.”
Choosing Workday over Oracle and SAP
Opera evaluated HR technology from the top three suppliers – Oracle, SAP and Workday – between January and June 2014.
The company was already using Oracle technology to manage its finances, so the supplier’s HR software might have been a strong contender.
But Leer said Oracle’s talent management software, Taleo, had a different user interface to the rest of its human capital management (HCM) suite, which would have made the technology more difficult for employees to learn and use.

Opera chose Workday’s technology because it allowed staff in HR to change and configure the department’s services without the need for IT specialists, Leer told Computer Weekly. In addition, she said: “Workday had a different sales philosophy. They were not pushing us.”
Managers and HR staff were given access to Workday’s software in advance of the deployment so they could familiarise themselves with the technology before going fully live in January 2015. The company worked with Cloudator, a Finnish consulting company, to assist with the work.
Opera started with Workday’s core HCM technology, then added employee goals in July and performance management in August. It plans to add a benefits module for US employees and recruitment software across the entire organisation by the end of 2015.
Better security and greater accuracy of employee data
The technology has allowed Opera to decentralise its HR operations, so human resources staff in each country can update and analyse information about the workforce.
The technology also offers better security than the old ERP system, making it possible for Opera to give managers access to HR data without risking a breach of privacy.
“Now it is very easy to fine-tune for different needs, from finance, to HR, to managers, so we know they are not getting access to information they should not get access to,” said Leer.

Although Opera has only been using Workday for a short time, the investment has already paid for itself, she said. The company has taken on around 400 more staff over the past year, but has managed to reduce the number of people working in HR by two.
The system has also given managers access to accurate, up-to-date organisational charts, and will eventually provide the company with an up-to-date picture of the skills of its workforce.
The user experience is important to attract and retain talented employees, who might by lured away to competitors, said Leer.
Lessons in moving to the cloud
Leer’s advice to other HR departments considering moving to cloud services is to take a hands-on approach. “We made sure HR was deeply involved and owned the whole project. It’s not like you can sit back once the project is finished – there are regular software updates, and it is important to have the whole HR department digital,” she said. “It has given the team a boost.”

One area where Workday could improve is in its integration with the payroll systems used by Opera in its 37 offices worldwide, said Leer. “If Workday does more on payroll, we would consider doing more [with the company].”

Live Leer is speaking at HR Tech World in Paris, which takes place on 27 and 28 October 2015.

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