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Case Study


Hostess Brands Provides Company-Wide Visibility with New Organizational Charts

by Dave Hannon | insiderPROFILES

July 1, 2011

Hostess Brands, the maker of famous food brands such as Wonder Bread and Twinkies, used to maintain its corporate organizational (org) charts manually in spreadsheets — and it’s no surprise that this created limitations, such as lack of visibility into employee data. Follow Hostess on its search for and discovery of an ERP-friendly org charting tool — Ingentis org.manager — and learn about the key benefits it’s now reaping.

In 2009, the largest wholesale baker and distributor of fresh bakery products in the United States emerged from bankruptcy and reinvented itself with not just a new name — Hostess Brands — but a new owner, IT platform, and organizational structure.

On the IT side, Hostess Brands used its recently deployed SAP ERP system to streamline day-to-day operations as well as coordinate ongoing reorganization efforts, including reshuffling of personnel and reporting structures across the company.

Given the amount of change the company was experiencing, it was no surprise that a newly hired executive vice president at Hostess Brands asked to see an organizational (org) chart of the restructured group he’d be overseeing. But an org chart could not be provided quickly to the new EVP or presented easily at town-hall-style employee meetings when reviewing organizational changes.

The reason? Hostess Brands, like many companies, still maintained its corporate org charts in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which limited the depth of the company’s org charts and the frequency with which they were updated. Updating the org charts meant manually pulling data from the HR systems and updating the spreadsheet with new employee data. Not surprisingly, this process didn’t happen very often. In fact, only a fraction of the company’s 20,000 employees was reflected on the spreadsheet-based org charts.

“We could provide a new executive with a list of direct reports, but that was about it,” says Sommer Morales, Compensation Manager at Hostess Brands. “Microsoft Excel is a great tool for a lot of tasks — but using it for organizational charts is extremely tedious and manual. We couldn’t keep up with the changes, and we couldn’t go very deep in the organization. We basically kept the org charts updated for the executive and corporate functions, but there was no visibility into the lower levels.”

In addition to the lack of visibility and the manual processes associated with using spreadsheets to update org charts, there were other limitations. For example, simply viewing or navigating such large spreadsheets was a challenge on its own. And distributing the most updated org charts — emailing a large spreadsheet to thousands of workers every time it was updated — just didn’t make sense for Hostess Brands. It was clear that the company needed a new solution for maintaining and viewing its org charts.

The Search for an ERP-Friendly Org Charting Tool

With the implementation of SAP ERP — specifically the functionality within SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) — came a new opportunity for managing employee data and organizational structures. The business decided to take all of the employee data required to build accurate and complete org charts and migrate it from the various legacy systems to SAP ERP HCM, making the data accessible in a central repository. The next step was to find a solution that could convert the employee data in SAP ERP HCM into more user-friendly, visual org charts that employees across the company could easily access and navigate.

“Being able to access the org charts and present them to executives helps us all understand what the business looks like now and what it will look like in the future.”
Sommer Morales,
Compensation Manager,
Hostess Brands

Hostess Brands’ SAP ERP implementation partner, which conducted the original SAP ERP HCM implementation and upgrade, performed a detailed vendor analysis of the market for org charting tools. The partner’s knowledge of the Hostess Brands SAP implementation was invaluable during this evaluation phase.

The first priority was to find a solution that could integrate with SAP ERP HCM. Beyond that, other selection criteria included functionality, complexity, flexibility, and cost. Hostess Brands had mostly standard reporting relationships, mixed with some custom relationships, so its org chart solution needed to have the right level of functionality without being overly complicated. In fact, since employees would need access to the org charts, a key decision factor would be whether the tool had a user-friendly, web-based interface.

Implementation time was also a high priority in reviewing solutions. The company was aiming to accelerate its pace of change, and on top of that, the business also knew that a long, drawn-out implementation for this type of solution could derail user adoption and enthusiasm. And, of course, for a company recently rebounding from unfavorable financial conditions, a principal consideration was cost — including up-front product and implementation cost as well as maintenance and long-term cost of ownership. 

Hitting the Ground Running — with Ingentis org.manager

After thoroughly reviewing the market, Hostess Brands’ implementation partner recommended that Hostess pilot the org.manager solution from SAP-certified partner Ingentis. The implementation team exerted minimal effort to install a trial version of the product, which was up and running in less than a day, according to Morales.

“We downloaded SAP transports from the Ingentis website and imported the Ingentis SAP function module to our SAP development system,” she says. “That module extracts the data from the organizational management module of SAP ERP HCM and converts it to a file that can be used in Ingentis org.manager.”

On the second day, Hostess Brands was creating its first org charts based on SAP production data. The Ingentis support staff helped fine-tune the charts’ graphical appearance to suit business needs and provided training to allow the company to make future configuration changes independently.

“The only customization work we did was on the cosmetic look and feel of the org charts. We literally had no restrictions regarding the design. We could create the org charts just as we wanted them,” says Morales. “And because of the easy-to-implement SAP function module and the easy-to-use application, we didn’t have to do any real work to get the org structure out of our SAP system and get the solution running.”

One solution feature that the Hostess Brands appreciated was the ability to easily add any HR infotype data from the SAP system — as well as the company’s customized relationship types — into the org charts via Ingentis’ customizable SAP function module. Hostess Brands could also supplement SAP data with non-SAP data pulled from the legacy systems still in use at certain plants across the enterprise and combine those with SAP data in one org chart.

Today, every one of the company’s 20,000 workers is represented in its org charts. Once a week, updated reports of employee data from SAP ERP HCM are converted to HTML, which is hosted by an intranet site in the company’s Microsoft SharePoint environment and published on the company’s intranet. Users can click through the dynamic HTML-based org charts and clearly understand the reporting structures in the company and their specific organization.

Morales says that the user community has quickly embraced the new solution, in part because it required virtually no training. “We have instructions for employees on how to best navigate the org charts, but it’s very easy to use,” she says. “The interface is very intuitive to anyone who has navigated a website.” 

The Right Solution at the Right Time

While updated and accurate org charts are a good idea for any large company, the Ingentis org.manager rollout in 2009 came during a crucial reorganization period for Hostess Brands. The simulation capabilities within the solution helped executives “visualize” possible organizational realignments before actually implementing them — offering a clear picture of the inter-organizational effects.

“Using this tool, you will learn quickly if the organizational structure is set up in your SAP system properly,” says Morales. “For example, if a name or title on the org chart is not filled in, it shows up as ‘open’ on the chart. If an organizational unit has a manager but does not have a chief assigned in the system, it’s evident on the charts. Features like that have helped us clean up the organizational data in our SAP system.”

The Direction from Here

Hostess Brands has additional plans for Ingentis org.manager going forward. In the short term, Hostess is planning to use the solution to identify employees who have an inactive status. “Being able to view employees who are inactive on the org charts will help us identify where temporary workers should be approved, as well as give us a better picture of any areas where we might need to focus HR support,” Morales says.

Hostess Brands is also looking into the viability of adding photos to the org charts to help employees and managers put names and faces together, and to use Ingentis org.manager for HR reporting purposes such as span of control charts, headcount reports, succession planning, and more.

In the longer term, the company will continue to take advantage of the solution’s ability to assign dotted-line reporting relationships to employees on the org charts. “Being able to access the org charts and present them to executives or show them in a town hall meeting helps us all understand what the business looks like now and what it will look like in the future,” says Morales.

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