BekaertDeslee speeds up employee onboarding with SAP SuccessFactors and Azure Active Directory
Mattress fabric manufacturer BekaertDeslee relied on an extended manual process for onboarding employees; securing system access for new employees usually took five days. Recently, the company moved to a hybrid setup to manage both its legacy environment and new, future-proof cloud solutions. By tying in SAP SuccessFactors with Microsoft Azure Active Directory, they cut the onboarding process to just 12 hours, whereas before it would take 4 days longer.
With an almost 130-year history, BekaertDeslee is the biggest global producer of mattress fabrics and mattress covers. Its goal? To help the world sleep better – and not in the least by empowering its own employees.
Prioritizing security and identity
To protect its intellectual property and prevent product data from being leaked, the IT team prioritizes security and identity management. It turned to Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for more secure access, user-friendly features like self-service password reset, and integration with SAP SuccessFactors and other software as a service apps, including Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Intuo employee engagement.
“Identity is very important. If you want to limit access and avoid data leakage, you need to know who has access to what and who can transmit what kind of information,” says BekaertDeslee’s CIO Rik Holvoet. “We all have different systems, and every system has a kind of authentication mechanism, but we want to standardize as much as possible and go toward one identity for all. Sticking to one identity and managing access across all applications and services in a company, like we do with Azure Active Directory, is certain to make life easier.”
Like many companies, BekaertDeslee’s cloud journey began with moving e-mail services to the cloud. The company used Microsoft Mail before becoming an early adopter of Office 365 in 2011. BekaertDeslee began researching Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Azure as soon as it considered moving more of its operations to the cloud. “We were trying to keep life simple,” Rik explains. “If we’re already doing just fine one cloud and one cloud provider, why should we move to two different providers?”
BekaertDeslee initially had on-premises Windows Server Active Directory but decided in 2016 to expand its cloud investment into identity and access management. One of the biggest challenges that the company wanted to address was the manual way that user access was assigned and revoked when onboarding and offboarding employees. It also wanted to be able to effectively manage access changes throughout an employee’s entire lifecycle in the company. In the previous, manual process, HR would enter details into an Excel document to request the setup of a new user and send it as an attachment to IT. After receiving the request, IT would review the Excel document and create tickets in its service desk tool, following up with HR for any incomplete information. This time-consuming process slowed how quickly new employees could contribute.
“It was a cumbersome manual process, and chances were high that people would forget to do something,” Rik adds. “For example, the Excel sheet might be only partially or incorrectly filled in. IT tried to help by providing drop-down menus to limit errors, but even then, people would sometimes choose the wrong option.”
A future-proof cloud solution
More than 10 years ago, BekaertDeslee decided to focus its technology investments on the Microsoft ecosystem and the SAP ecosystem. In fact, the company was one of the first to run SAP in an Azure environment for disaster recovery purposes. Rik explains: “We know the flexibility, the scalability, and the agility of the SAP and Azure combination. If BekaertDeslee were a new company, it would be fully cloud, but it’s difficult to disentangle ourselves from legacy systems entirely. A hybrid setup is the easiest way to manage both the legacy environment and benefit from new, future-proof cloud solutions.”
As an SAP ERP customer for 10 years, BekaertDeslee selected SAP SuccessFactors in 2020 for its HR information system, where it is used to find, train, and manage employees. HR requested that any authentication solution implemented by IT work seamlessly with SAP SuccessFactors so that employees can be assigned a single identity and authenticate with SAP SuccessFactors. Given the company’s commitment to the Microsoft ecosystem and the ease of adding Azure AD, it wasn’t a difficult decision. “If we want to add services like SAP SuccessFactors or anything else, it’s almost a prerequisite for user authentication to happen via Azure Active Directory,” says Rik.
Aligning HR and IT
To support the implementation of SAP SuccessFactors with SAP Identity Authentication Service, Rik’s team enlisted delaware’s help. The Azure AD provisioning service was designed and deployed in full alignment with the SAP SuccessFactors project. Combining the implementation of both tools is an advantage, while the implementation of a new HRIS tool is a good time to review and optimize HR and IT processes. During the first couple months of the implementation, delaware organized workshops to discuss what was required to align HR processes with IT processes.
“We perform a lot of SAP SuccessFactors implementations in a year, and the question of tying it in with Azure Active Directory is always there,” says Arne Feys, cloud operations consultant at delaware. “Implementing the solution was quite easy because Azure AD delivers the complete framework to interface with SAP SuccessFactors and on-premises Active Directory. That made it very easy to focus on functional requirements during the testing phase. It wasn’t necessary at all to focus on connectivity or other technical issues.”
Onboarding four days faster
The combination of Azure AD and SAP SuccessFactors, currently live at Belgian headquarters and being rolled out to all locations worldwide, saves BekaertDeslee significant time on onboarding. It made sense for HR to be responsible for user access through workflows like onboarding and offboarding, according to Rik. It previously took five days to fully onboard new employees. “The process is now more accurate and takes less than 12 hours,” he says. Details like a person’s name, department, contact information, location, and telephone numbers are synchronized between SAP SuccessFactors and Azure AD.
“The processes supporting people joining and people leaving the company can be a nightmare. IT is usually not in the lead, but always has to deal with the hassles of locking and unlocking user accounts,” Rik continues. “In this case, we put SAP SuccessFactors in the lead so that Azure Active Directory was just following the status of SAP SuccessFactors in terms of a user being active or inactive and synchronizing the person’s data. We couldn’t miss out on this.”
Benefiting from Azure AD features
Besides SAP SuccessFactors, the company brought together Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Office 365, and a SaaS learning system app with Azure AD as well as a custom cloud solution for customers. However, automating onboarding through SAP SuccessFactors was the highlight of the Azure AD implementation. “There’s a feeling of relief that automating onboarding with Azure Active Directory was quite easy and that we unburdened HR and IT people. In some ways, that’s a wow moment. Are HR and IT now friendlier? Yes.
“When automating these kinds of processes, we create time for people to do more valuable tasks,” says Rik. “That has an impact. The tasks that you eliminate are the ones that people usually do not want to execute and do not pay too much attention to, which can lead to errors. Avoiding those is the main ROI.”
BekaertDeslee relies on several Azure AD features to help secure access to its network. Azure AD multifactor authentication proves useful when an employee is outside the network and is not connecting from a BekaertDeslee-authenticated device. If someone is connecting from a trusted device, such as a desktop computer or a laptop provided by the company, multifactor authentication isn’t required. Self-service password reset saves employees time because they no longer have to wait for an IT team member to assist them and can get working faster.
Rik: “If the users can reset the password themselves, they do not have to wait for an IT agent to resolve the problem. It’s mainly speed that we gain with self-service password reset. In some ways, gaining speed and reducing efficiency loss is a cost savings, but it’s hard to calculate the exact value.”
Investing in the long term
BekaertDeslee’s investment in Microsoft technology, including Azure AD, has made a big difference for employees. Rik believes it can pay off for other organizations, too.
“If a company were considering Azure Active Directory and they already have a Microsoft background, I would say, just do it,” he says. “There’s no reason to evaluate other identity and access management options. Keep it simple."