Rapid implementation of a global retailer’s HR system

The challenge

Our client is a global online fashion retailer with 1.7m customers, £350m+ revenues and over 1,300 staff. They wanted to consolidate disparate HR & Payroll systems into a scalable, future-proof and integrated cloud solution. Following a thorough procurement process, they selected Workday as their preferred platform solution.

The client’s 1,300 staff are spread across multiple functions and it quickly became clear that aligning historically disparate policies and ways of working to a common standard across all employees would be a significant challenge.

This challenge made the programme more complex and meant the client would need to appoint a consultancy to help. ESHER was engaged to manage the full life-cycle delivery, encompassing internal resources and six external suppliers.


Initially we undertook a rapid readiness assessment to identify risks that could impact launch. Once identified we ensured that mitigation plans were understood, approved and built into the programme plan.

The programme governance structure we employed was light touch but robust. The SteerCo, comprised of ExCo members and senior management execs, played a pivotal role in managing progress and risk throughout. The approach was underpinned by working groups, to ensure all stakeholders worked to a common agenda.

A Design Authority was established early to maintain the integrity of the solution. Overseen by us, the group played an essential role in addressing policy and configuration issues as they arose. It also meant that the client could deploy standard off-the-shelf processes across its businesses wherever feasible.

Data collection and validation was a key area of programme focus. We developed an assessment tool to prioritise different data sets and to provide transparency on quality. Given historic data issues this gave the client an informed view and the confidence to proceed to go-live.

Key to meeting programme milestones was the deployment of a fit-for-purpose testing strategy and plan. This process allowed for the successful completion of more than 800 tests across three different staged phases. Through establishing qualified acceptance criteria, informed decisions were made to progress testing through managed and controlled stage gates.

At the heart of the approach was a strategy to drive adoption of the new solution. We developed a segmented change plan which covered the engagement and training activities required to embed the new ways of working.

To provide a sustainable solution and safeguard business case outcomes, revisions to the target operating model were designed and implemented, with our team facilitating the process. This defined new organisational structures (underpinned by processes and standard operating procedures) to fully embed the new ways of working across the business.


28 weeks to launch

we were able to launch Workday in 28 weeks, on plan and within budget.

85% staff uptake

the vast majority of staff accessed the system within the first week of go live.

Improved payroll accuracy

significant improvements in payroll accuracy immediately post launch, achieving 99.5%.

Systems improvement

analytic scorecards in place to tackle long-term issues with attrition and absence.

20% efficiency uplift

the target operating model delivered significant efficiency improvements.

Best practise approach

our approach is held up as an example of best practise that is being applied to other programmes.