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Technology is the Backbone for Driving HR Transformation

Summary of Manu Nurang – VP Human Resources AMEX speech on Technology is the Backbone for Driving HR Transformation in a Globally Diversified Organisation, HrTechFest – Melbourne 27-29 November 2016.


“Technology can not be your starting point”. Not what you expect to hear at an HRTech Conference, but when put in context by Manu Narung, VP Human Resources American Express (AMEX), it makes perfect sense.


In 2011 AMEX embarked on a global transformation to deliver “an extraordinary experience”. Why? Basic tasks such as ‘transferring an employee was the most difficult task ever and providing management an employee report had a one week lag.’ More than 1 million+ man-hours were being spent on basic HR Transactions, which were not value accretive, and the operational risk exposure from disaggregated practices was immense.


At that point in time AMEX was a 166-year-old organisation, operating across 5 continents in 42 markets with 120 thousand employees. To embark on a transformation was a bold move. It was recognized that it could not be incremental, it required AMEX to take calculated risks, nor could technology be the starting point.

AMEX HR Tech Fest
Instead, technology had to be a strong foundation and a backbone in the transformation process. AMEX surveyed the market and found there wasn’t a perfect match to enable them to deliver their vision of providing their people and customers an extraordinary experience.


So they took a step back. With pens and paper in hand they mapped out what they were trying to achieve, which was to “have end-to-end ownership on our employee lifecycle practices” and a four step transformation process was mapped out.


  1. Ideate
  2. Design
  3. Implement
  4. Stabilise


In the ideation phase AMEX strategized how the organisation could have an end-to-end ownership of the employee lifecycle, which provided a seamless HR experience to employees and was globally consistent. Importantly during this phase, HR engaged with business leaders and the communication channels were opened.


With strategy approved the process of planning came into play during the design phase. A HR Operating Model, which leveraged technology to digitize processes and efficiently and effectively service the regions.


To implement the strategy Manu Nurang emphasised to the audience the power of communication. It didn’t start in this phase it started back in the design phase. AMEX engaged key stakeholders early on and recognised the importance of getting everyone together and kept communication channels open throughout the entire transformation process. Communication aside, the importance of having strong governance was recognised in implementing the new HR operating model.


With global implementation underway the phase of stabilisation came into play. A dynamic phase that was the first three phases of transformation process rolled into one. It was during this phase that AMEX re-engaged their process thinking by drawing on insights from actively listening, to go back to the drawing board and create improvements day by day. With 42 markets their HR Operating model was never going to be a one size fits all model. Instead they looked at the impact the process of technology was having on the business from the eyes of their employees, to ensure that it was delivering maximum value.


It’s 2016, 5 years after AMEX begun this transformation, so where are they now? 80% of employee lifecycle processes are globally consistent. 500 thousand transaction have taken places on the platform which Manu emphasised was not from “taking human from human resources” instead it was automating where possible the transaction processes.


The success of this bold transformation was credited to sponsorship, an investment in technology and by the business taking back end-to-end ownership of processes, plus  a huge emphasis on the power of communication. Manu Narung’s final takeaway “dare to fly, dare to dream big, dare to transform, by making significant bold changes”.

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