I have a pair of argyle socks that I've had for a really long time. They are basically black with an electric blue thread as part of the argyle pattern. I bought them as a concession to a somewhat overly corporate-Gordon Gecko-look. (Remember the movie Wall Street...Greed is Good!). The socks just seem to take the edge off the suit. I don't have the suit anymore (or the suspenders) but the socks live on in my sock drawer. Well...one of them does.
In case you didn't know, there are basically two schools of thought for sorting out a sock drawer. First is the method of picking through the drawer and removing only the socks that you want to get rid of. When you are done tossing those you will be left with only the purest stockings from which to choose the next time. The second, though less common method, is to toss all of the socks out onto the bed and only put back in those socks that truly meet our new standard of fashion and/or visible hole location. Some would argue that the same disposition of winners and losers could be achieved by either method but I don't. I believe once you have a clean slate you are much more considerate of what you put into the new space. By contrast, you can stumble over the same tattered footwear day after day and never bother to throw them out. Even after you mistakenly put them on in a dark room and realize they are not all black but the electric argyle variety for the 50th time. Well... one of them is.
I was discussing this problem I have with socks with a CFO colleague of mine. He mentioned that Financial Executives International (FEI) has an annual survey that tries to measure the cost of compliance each year with meeting socks standards. Yeah, I was confused too until I realized he was talking about SOX not SOCKS... as in Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 compliance. He then went on to point out that the cost trend continues downward "As companies continue to find efficiencies in complying with Section 404 and make compliance part of a routine practice...". Also continuing is the delta between companies with centralized operations and systems and those with decentralized operations. Decentralized folks spend almost 50% more on average in total compliance costs than their centralized counterparts of similar size. I asked which was more profitable but apparently the FEI guys didn't include that metric...go figure. They do measure things like SOX 404's effect on reporting accuracy, fraud detection, and investor confidence-all areas that show positive trends so even the people that have to write the checks for compliance say it is working.
So if it comes down to getting the same improvement for less money it seems the centralized approach has the greatest effect. Which is exactly my point about Socks! You get rid of a lot more garbage if you dump it all out and review each piece carefully before putting it back in. Over time this costs less to maintain even if the sorting process can seem a bit painful. (I got a really big consulting job once with those socks!).
This is precisely the reason more and more companies are centralizing their HR (PeopleSoft), Payroll (ADP) and TimeKeeping (Kronos) systems. This means sorting through a myriad of laws, systems, policies and practices at various sites and companies until you arrive at as much common ground as possible. Unusual variations are scrutinized as to business justification (Oh, union contract) and cost ($3million a year... renegotiate the contract!) until the leanest possible system is put in place.
Well, in reality, like Sarbanes-Oxley itself, that is really just the best starting point. It takes time to truly hone in on all the efficiencies possible. They don't all happen the first year. They do become easier, however, to implement when you have a new, supported, well documented system to work on. Obviously this doesn't just apply to Kronos Timekeeper and these efficiencies are almost impossible to implement on old, unsupported, poorly documented platforms.
So if you are in the middle of a painful centralizing/sorting process with your HR/PR/WFM system, hang in there, it should ultimately be a good thing. If it doesn't seem to be going that way and you are having trouble deciding what should stay and what should go give Improvisations a call. We are all about making the tough decisions. In case you were wondering, I'm going to throw the electric blue argyles away. Just as soon as I find the other one.