Even the fluffiest white clouds passing by couldn’t put a smile on Father Christmas’ face because, for weeks, preparations for the upcoming Christmas peak season have been going downhill because of the answer to this straightforward question: The number of skilled and unskilled staff required per production plant. No matter how hard the angels in the HR department tried, they came to a completely different conclusion with every calculation.

Only a few centuries ago, things were still pretty straightforward, Father Christmas ponders. We were a small family-run business, with friends helping out every once in a while, and things were much easier to keep on top of. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the world population grew, industrialization crept up and now, to top it all off, globalization. Christmas is celebrated the world over and the former family-run business is now a chain with industrial bakeries in the four corners of the world. The trend towards local production, vegan diets and food intolerances then led to the respective production plants becoming even more complex. Everything was evolving at breakneck speed that there was hardly any time to network the individual IT systems for HR management and administration. For years, maybe even decades, the head of the HR department, Archangel Paul, has been saying that this data chaos would come back to haunt us. Father Christmas didn’t really pay heed to these warnings until now. However, now he himself sees that a heterogeneous data landscape is unsuitable when it comes to making solid, data-driven decisions.

It’s of no use, yet Father Christmas needs to come up with a solution that also helps the HR department. Because the angels are already suffering from burnout and are frantically buzzing back and forth. Even if it sounds apocalyptic, Father Christmas thinks it might be a good idea to convene a global crisis meeting to come up with a solution together. After all, production for certain treats, such as Christmas stollen and gingerbread, gets underway right after the summer vacations. By then, they need to know how many skilled and unskilled workers were employed at each production plant in the previous year. This is because the number of safety specialists, safety officers, evacuation officers and first aiders also depends on this. Because at each and every industrial bakery the hazard and safety regulations must be complied with, and that’s before taking into account staff recruitment.

Just a few days later, the time has come and the archangels gather for the crisis meeting with Father Christmas. They are in a tizz because, this year, recruitment has not yet got underway and time is slowly slipping away. The buzz of voices only gradually dies down and it takes a few minutes before Father Christmas can be heard clearly. After a brief introduction on the current, admittedly unfortunate situation, he dives straight into the fact that, today, two groups will work on different approaches: an ad hoc solution and another approach that will solve the current problem in the medium term, once and for all. The first group will be led by Archangel Paul and the second by his representative Archangel Emilia. The problem and the task will be explained in greater detail once the archangels are on the respective conference clouds.

Throughout the day, and late into the night, Father Christmas goes back and forth between the two conference clouds, tensely observing the progress the working groups are making. Shortly before dawn, the working groups, exhausted yet mostly satisfied, call an end to their meeting. After a short break, the archangels Paul and Emilia meet up with Father Christmas to discuss the results. Paul briefly outlines the current situation. Bakeries are extremely HR-intensive and the current problem they are facing is down to the heterogeneous data landscape. Each production plant has its own IT system for HR management and administration and, in some cases, not even that; nothing more than a spreadsheet. Since turnover is particularly high among temporary and unskilled staff, records in files are rather unreliable. Even more so, the data quality at each production plant varies widely and is sometimes of really poor quality. Nonetheless, there is a proposal to put an end to the chaos surrounding HR master data at each production plant. By the end of next week, the archangels will work with their respective HR departments to ascertain how many professional and temporary angels were employed last year and hand that information over to Paul and Emilia. What’s more, future minimum requirements have been set out on what data must be collected for professional and temporary staff alike. This includes, for example, personal contact data, insurance number, position, qualification, production plant and contract start date and end date.

Archangel Emilia has also come to a clear conclusion. The data landscape is heterogeneous, there is hardly any documentation on the few existing interfaces between the IT systems for HR administration and management. The main focus is on global, cross-site data harmonization. A centralized HR master data management system is to be implemented that serves as a centralized database, data hub and working system. Ideally, a workflow and reporting tool should be integrated with a view to facilitating global collaboration and reporting.

Father Christmas leans back thoughtfully and goes over both suggestions once again, step by step, in his mind. He then takes a deep breath and looks at archangels Emilia and Paul, and says: “That’s exactly what we’ll do. Please set up the project groups right away and then draw up the specifications with all the requirements to find a suitable provider.”

Relieved, although a little exhausted, the archangels Paul and Emilia fly to the HR department cloud and send out the appointments and all the information. After all, the sooner they get down to work, the sooner they’ll have a solution to the problems brought about by the heterogeneous IT landscape when it comes to employee master data.