Mobility via Podcast


Episode 20: Workflow and its impact on global mobility

In this episode of Mobility via Podcast, Robert Smith and Jenny Pray, from our Global Mobility Services technology practice, sit down together for a “Tech Talk” and discuss the benefits of workflow automation for global mobility processes.

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

Senior Manager, Tax, Global Mobility Services, KPMG US

+1 408-367-2787

Jenny Pray

Jenny Pray

Senior Manager, Global Mobility Services, KPMG LLP (US)

+1 201 505-3832

Podcast transcript

Robert: Welcome to our next episode of Mobility via Podcast.  KPMG’s podcast series covering a range of mobility topics from remote work, to international and domestic business travel, and mobility technology – just to name a few.  My name is Robert Smith and I’m joined by Jenny Pray, an expert on global move management and workflow within KPMG’s Global Mobility Services Technology practice. She’s joining me for a “Tech Talk” on workflow and automation within global mobility.

Jenny, thanks for being with me today.

Jenny: Thanks for having me on today Robert

Robert: So, Jenny, let’s go ahead and dive right into our first question to set the stage.  What is workflow?

Jenny: Sure Robert, it’s a good question to level set and really offers immediate, unique benefits that, until the emergence of workflow, have been unavailable or hard to attain, specifically for global mobility. Workflow is essentially automating the execution of a business process. In the majority of setups, participants in the process have tasks assigned to them and information and documents can be automatically shared between participants who receive notifications along the way. These participants can be individuals within your organization, individuals outside your organization and/or external vendors or providers which helps ensure everyone knows where they fit within a process and where action is needed from them. It also goes without saying that like the participants, information can also be shared to/from other applications leading to more efficient data transfers and less duplicative data entry.

Because these processes can touch multiple individuals and systems, it’s also important to talk about workflow’s reporting and monitoring capabilities at the process wide and workflow step level which can include individual task tracking as well as overall monitoring of both individual and vendor service level agreements and expectations. In fact, a few questions that workflow can easily answer are:

  • Is the participant meeting agreed upon Service Level Agreements?
  • Have I assigned too much to one individual where some of these activities have to be reassigned to another individual?
  • Have tasks been completed as expected?

Lastly, because workflows can carry sensitive data, it’s important to understand security and access. In most cases, workflows function within a system on a secure platform.  While email notifications or reminders may be present, it’s important that sensitive data such as, in our case, health care data, tax identification numbers, etc. are kept confidential and within a secure location.

Robert: Jenny, in learning about what workflow is, you mentioned several times that there are different types of workflow and different providers. Are all workflows created equal?

Jenny: Not at all. In fact, we see many different types of workflow from complete automation via very automated workflows that are tailored to a company, to workflows that are really meant to only drive process reminders and may be considered out of the box solutions.

Robert: Why don’t you tell us a little more about the differences in these two approaches – out of the box vs. tailored?

Jenny: Sure! So, as I said it’s basically broken into two categories, out of the box and tailored, or configured. Out of the box workflows are designed to execute standard processes as defined by the workflow vendor. Essentially, what you see is what you get. And, for a lot of organizations, this is a great tool that helps quickly and cost effectively setup process monitoring. It’s especially great for organizations who can easily adapt their processes to fit the confines of the standard setup. Where this approach falls short is in its configurability to adapt to more complex, stable business processes that are already in place. Essentially, a tailored workflow does two things which I call “Evolution your way.” It allows for the workflow to follow a pre-defined process from the get-go and also allows the workflow to be changed overtime as the process is enhanced or tweaked.

My experience is that a tailored or configured workflow provides the most long-term benefit to the organization and is what I see the majority of my clients requesting when they adopt a workflow solution.

Robert: I’m glad you brought up your clients because our next question is related. Where do we see the greatest impact to global mobility for workflows?

Jenny: In my opinion, the future of global mobility is tied to workflow. In fact, I believe that as mobility continues to expand into new areas such as remote work and continues to broaden in vendor scope and integration, workflow is going to be the key to simplifying an ever-increasingly complex process and organization.

Today, there are key points in the mobility process that lend themselves to workflow including:

·       Capturing key information on the move

·       Understanding the candidate for the assignment

·       Ensuring a timely response to move forward

·       Managing tasks to support your global talent

·       Processes around immigration

·       Repatriating your talent to move back home

The reason that these areas are being considered for workflow is that each of these has a defined timeline for execution, meaning that tasks are critical to move success. The workflow administration we spoke about earlier allows program management to better monitor each of these processes and helps them ensure that key steps are not missed. Within mobility, a missed step could be the difference between someone being stopped at a border or a large tax outlay by the company. It truly is a high-stakes area.

Robert: Thanks Jenny. I think that’s a great point about the criticality of tasks and workflow making it easier to manage. So, let’s switch gears about bit and talk about KPMG’s workflow, what we’re doing in that space, and how clients are leveraging it.

Jenny: So, our GMS Technology practice has taken an all-in approach to workflow offering both out of the box and configured or tailored solutions to meet our clients’ needs. We’ve done this by identifying key areas of mobility where workflow provides the greatest advantage and concentrating on building out standards within those areas. For clients looking for out of the box options, this provides and immediate solution and for clients looking for something that aligns with their processes, this provides a building block.

We currently offer the following standard options but do have the ability to build configured workflows from scratch as well:

  • Move initiation: This covers the entire process from candidate selection to the move and includes capturing of key data, estimating move costs to the employee and company, approvals at key points, signing of offer letters and initiation of mobility-related vendors and services.
  • Dependent management: Proactively kicks off a process to update dependent data during a move or transfer. Since dependents can greatly impact cost, this automates the gathering of data and can be used to re-run cost calculations and payroll instructions.
  • Immigration processes: This workflow helps automate the approval for international travel by providing employment verification and automating the visa application process and cost approval process.
  • Expenses: This allows an employee to submit an expense for review and approval and can be connected directly to Accounts Payable or payroll to have the amount paid.
  • Ask a Question: This workflow allows an employee to communicate directly with mobility when they have questions or require clarification. While it sounds simple, it not only covers an individual but provides key metrics to program management on trending questions and requests that can be used to make impactful program changes.
  • Repatriation: When it’s time to bring an employee home, this covers the entire process from vendor initiation to all needed approvals.  Essentially, it’s the mirror image of our move initiation workflow.

While these are offered as standard, out of the box, workflows, we have seen the majority of our clients configure these to their unique processes which can include adding, deleting, or re-ordering workflow steps as well as creating different approval processes at key points. What this does though is it allows us to start from a base that covers the majority of client asks meaning that KPMG can actually turn-on and configure a workflow for a client in the time it takes others to setup a standard offering.

Robert: What I took away there was that we certainly offer standard workflows that can either be had out of the box or quickly configured but we can also create additional workflows for clients that cover their specific and unique processes.

Jenny: Yep. While we’ve seen mobility really concentrating on the key areas mentioned above, we’re starting to see clients, who have adopted these, look at new workflows that will be built specifically for their processes.

Robert: So, this brings me to our last question for today.  What advice would you give someone who is new to workflow or is looking to implement workflow in the near future?

Jenny: I think that this is a great question as we do see people looking at workflow as an end-all-be-all solution. However, workflow is truly only as good as the process that underpins it.  First: map out your business processes and understand the resources involved at each step. This will make sure that you understand where workflow will make the most impact and understand if there is process design or re-design work that needs to happen prior to a workflow implementation. Second: If possible, be open to process modification and decide what your non-negotiable items are. I’ve personally seen clients use this as a tool to get workflows up and running faster and manage costs. Third: Consider self-service opportunities. One benefit of workflow is that we can now more easily integrate employees into processes and doing so may offer key points of communication with the mobility team or take some administration off of the plates of the mobility team. And, lastly, build your workflows “one block at a time.” Don’t try to immediately implement a workflow for everything – start small, educate yourself as you go, and, implementing them in an order that creates the most efficiencies for your program.

Robert: Ok – those are some great points.  I’m going to just summarize quickly because I liked them so much.  So, we had 1) Map out processes and involved parties, 2) Be open to process modification, 3) Look for employee self-service opportunities, and 4) don’t try and do everything at once – take it one step at a time.

Jenny: Exactly. My experience has shown me that these are truly the building blocks to success with workflow.

Robert: Jenny, as we end today, I wanted to thank you again for spending a few minutes with me on workflow within global mobility. This was immensely helpful in defining and putting workflow into context.

For our listeners, join us again next month for our next installment of Mobility via Podcast and, in the meantime, checkout previous podcast content  or connect with us directly via email at Thanks again for listening.