As part of our series looking at automation in Global Mobility, and the ways in which companies are increasingly using it, this blog focuses on batch processing. We look at how this particular type of automation can be utilised by Global Mobility teams to reduce the time and effort they spend on relatively mundane tasks, freeing them up to focus on more strategic areas.
What is batch processing?
Batch processing, in general terms, involves running multiple instances of the same process simultaneously or consecutively, with no user input beyond the initial set-up of the parameters. This makes it suitable for instances when large volumes of the same process need to be run at the same time.
This is distinct from the type of automation involved in the document generation and storage discussed in a previous article which relies on new inputs for each process and those processes (or series of processes) generally being initiated one at a time.
As with automation in all of its forms, batch processing provides the ability to perform tasks more quickly and efficiently. However, one of the specific differences between batch processing and other areas of automation is the advantage it provides when those tasks are particularly repetitive in nature or if a large number need to be run at the same time.
With regards to Global Mobility there are a few areas which involve such repetitive and potentially time-restricted tasks and can therefore benefit from automated batch processing.
Examples of batch processing in Global Mobility
As with other forms of automation, a software system and database of assignee details is a prerequisite for being able to make the most of the efficiency savings which batch processing is capable of, and all of the below examples are based on processes which are currently used by our clients using ECAEnterprise.
The area in which batch processing is perhaps most powerful is where companies wish to make population-wide changes to elements of their assignees’ compensation and benefits packages. This combines the advantages of the accuracy and time savings generated by running salary calculations within a software solution, with the additional gains made by running all of those calculations at once using batch processing.
Perhaps most commonly, this might be done as part of the salary review process. Batch processing in this instance allows for the salary review process for all assignees to be run in a matter of minutes, updating the base salaries as well as all allowances. Provided that the appropriate reports are set up, before-and-after comparisons can also be run as part of the review process.
Another example of where a population-wide change might be required is as a result of a policy review. If, for example, a company reviews its policy and decides to make changes to the mobility allowance or the type of cost of living index used, a batch process then allows new salary calculations to be run for all assignees at once based on that new policy. The benefit which this process provides is not only in the time savings involved in updating salary calculations for the assignees, but crucially how that can be utilised strategically; the running of the calculations for comparison purposes no longer needs to just be a result of the policy review but rather becomes an integral part of the policy review.
Because of the ease and speed of the batch calculation process the impact of any potential changes to policy can be assessed on the entire assignee population, and this data is available for immediate analysis and can be used to feedback into the policy review. With batch processing, multiple scenarios can all be run at the same time providing an even greater range of results for comparison and analysis, where overall cost implications as well as each individual case can be assessed in one step.
As discussed in the previous article in this series, the creation of documents and reports is one area in which automation can greatly help companies reduce errors and improve processes. Having the data all in one place in a database which can then be used to auto-populate a report significantly reduces the time needed to create a report. With batch processing this can be done at the click of a button not just for one individual employee but for all employees, or for a defined subset of them, all at once. Although this is unlikely to be something which needs to be done on a daily basis but occasionally it may be necessary to generate a large number of these reports. For example, if the policy change in our above example results in changes to all employees’ packages, an update to all of their assignment letters may need to be created to reflect the changes in terms. The assignment letter template itself can simply be updated and then in one batch process all of the new letters generated for all assignees in one go, and with advanced systems those letters can even be distributed to the assignees directly.
Another way in which batch calculations can help in the field of Global Mobility is with managing fluctuating exchange rates. For those companies who currently do this by running reconciliation calculations, they need to run regular salary calculations to check if the amount being delivered to their assignees matches the amount expected. By using a batch process to calculate the monthly salary of employees using the monthly exchange rates, the reconciliation calculations can be run simultaneously for all assignees in a very short time. One of the reasons so few companies currently use this method is because of the amount of time involved; however, batch processing eliminates that problem.
As with other areas of automation each of the examples above will also feature a reduction in potentially costly errors (provided the inputs are accurate). However, we can see that the main benefits of batch processing, which result from the ability to run multiple processes concurrently, are in time saving and crucially how that time saving can be used. This is particularly the case where large numbers of calculations need to be run. As mentioned above, this enables companies to use the data they have more strategically, and also means Global Mobility employees are freed up to focus on more strategic work, as well as reducing lead times involved in areas such as salary or COLA reviews.
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