Spending twelve working days as a manager entering a new staff member’s personal data in the system. An email address where people are supposed to send a request to for help that turns out to be incorrect. Finding out that the amount on your bank account is too low when your first salary of the year is being paid. Making inquiries into this during a Q&A session but not getting an answer. Being informed via mail that your contract at TU/e was terminated at the end of 2020, even though this isn’t the case. Extra leave days that you’re not entitled to on your leave card. Or finding out that the diplomas of three employees were added to your personal account, which is what happened to an editor who started working for Cursor on January 1.
The above examples sum up some of the problems that occurred these last few weeks during the introduction of TU/e InSite, the new HR system from software designer AFAS. The scale of the problems remains unclear, but Cursor certainly speaks from personal experience.
Take the incident with the diplomas for example, which could be labelled as a data breach. After the incident was reported, the diplomas were quickly removed. The explanation for this error: the editor in question had been given a role within the system she shouldn’t have had, which resulted in her having access to the diplomas. Annuska van den Eijden, Data Protection Officer at Data Management and Library (DML), says that all other settings within the AFAS system were immediately checked and that no further breaches were detected. Van den Eijnden: “After a thorough risk assessment, it became apparent that there was no need to report the incident to the Dutch Data Protection Authority, based on both the Dutch and the European regulations. The nature and the scale of the incident, as well as the risk to the three employees wasn’t significant enough.”
In an initial response, Nicole Ummelen says that the system does indeed suffer from implementation bugs. “That always happens with the implementation of a system this size,” according to Ummelen. In early December, she already told Cursor that a few “hiccups” could not be ruled out in the early stages.
“We started working with InSite over three weeks ago, and we’ve also successfully completed the first pay run by now,” Ummelen says in response to a question about salary payment. “It’s true that we received some questions from employees about the structure of their salaries, but these were not directly related to the introduction of this system. The parental leave tax credit wasn’t applied correctly in eighteen cases, and this is currently being investigated.”
She stresses that people also reported positive experiences with the system during the first weeks. “InSite makes all kinds of tasks easier for individual employees, after they’ve gotten accustomed to it – and people are currently still in the middle of that process. The challenge is to solve the bugs as swiftly and effectively as possible. Some problems will take more time solving than others, but we’re working hard on that. At the moment 693 problems were reported, of which 83.5 percent have been solved by now. That is still within the margins of what we expected and what we can manage. No unsolvable problems are part of this, but in some cases time is required to adjust certain things. Till the end of February we have extra experts of AFAS lined up to help us with this."
When set against the 7,500 files in the system - 4,200 people on-payroll and 3,300 not on-payroll - around 700 reported problems are not unusual, the experts say, according to Ummelen. "That doesn’t make it any easier for individual employees, we understand that perfectly well. We first want to give the people who are working hard on this large operation some room to get everything up and running in the coming weeks.”
We first want to give the people who are working hard on this large operation some room to get everything up and running in the coming weeks
Based on the first experiences and reactions Ummelen says she has full confidence in the user-friendliness of the system, "but extra attention is due to the workflows concerning the employees not-on-payroll (the so called NOP-pers), and we will give priority to that, and to the pre-boarding (the three new processes in InSite that can be used prior to the first workday of new employees, ed.)."
She also mentions the possibility of seeking support via the Q&A sessions, tutorials and the IMS helpdesk, which were set up specifically for this purpose.
In an email, Mariska Brzözek, director Human Resources Management, addresses some of the things that went wrong within the system during the past weeks. Brzözek: “A few employees received an email in the first week regarding the termination of their service at TU/e that was sent from the Orcale HR system (the former HR system, ed.) – not from TU/e InSite – by mistake. Naturally, we deeply regret this, and we’ve sent the colleagues who wrongly received this notice an email with our apologies.”
In addition, a wrong email address was initially used for reporting malfunctions or different issues with regard to InSite via Topdesk, namely TOPDESK IMS AFAS. Brzözek: “That address has by now been made invisible in Outlook. The right address should be: firstname.lastname@example.org. Incidentally, the request is that everyone submits their report via the Self Service Portal instead of via email.”
In our attempts to tackle our own problems, Cursor regularly dealt with well-meaning HR employees, who were however unable to offer assistance on the spot. They often informed us that the system was new to them too, and that it brought about different kinds of tasks. Brzözek says the following about this: “Many HRM colleagues who were involved in the project and its implementation consider this new system from AFAS ‘familiar territory,’ but that doesn’t apply to everyone yet. Together, we are currently taking steps as far as transfer and strengthening of knowledge are concerned. The signals we received from Cursor and others have helped us to improve the intake process carried out by HR Services and HR Advice. Next, the project team takes over, so that the process of assessing, settling and communicating with regard to reports will run more smoothly in the future.”
Aiming too high
The question that remains is what exactly was done in 2020, after it was decided in mid-December of 2019 to postpone the introduction of the system at the last minute. Ummelen: “In May 2019 we set ourself the ambitious goal to have the system ready for implementation within six months for the start in early 2020. It turned out that we had aimed too high, and we were forced to postpone the implementation by a year. During the past year, large parts of the system still had to be developed and tested, including important connections to other systems. We could only use six months of that year effectively; in part because of the outbreak of the corona pandemic, but also because of a revision of the project plan, and because AFAS had made adjustments to its organization. The issues we see now are a matter of details, and relate to a number of workflows that we are currently looking into.”
HRM director Mariska Brzözek concludes by saying that she and her colleagues fully realize that each incident is unpleasant to fellow users at TU/e. “However, everything is aimed at processing and settling HR matters in a proper manner. Naturally, employees and managers seeking extra help or assistance are always welcome to take part (via registration) in a Q&A session several times a week. There you can directly ask whatever explicit questions you might have.”