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DIALOG Sodexo – Workforce Management


Sodexo provides all sorts of services around food and facilities management. Labor is the number one cost for Sodexo. Each of their businesses, and they have businesses in 7,000 locations, is run somewhat separately. Most staff are hourly, many are unionized and each State has different rules. Tracking and managing hours worked is critical to compliance (for labor and workplace regulations) and payroll.

The original driver for the system was a published study that showed an ROI from installing a time clock device at each location. But this raised the question of how to collect and collate this information so you can see how well locations were doing and how to manage this information across the company. They went from pencil and paper (literally) to a web-based, company-wide solution.

They started with a proof of concept, in part because of the range of impacts the system would have on the organization. Moving to this system was going to require common work practices across the company. They needed payroll rules and this created another problem because different payroll services were being used in different locations and every state has its own rules and those rules were not necessarily implemented consistently!

An initial beta rollout showed the ROI was real but the vendor software did not manage the rules very well. They also discovered that exceptions, like for minors’ work hours, requried some manual override. Sodexo decided to pick a rule engine and build their own system. By now there was a time crunch on top of which they replaced the outsourced payroll with a packaged application requiring a massive payroll conversion. They were getting into trouble and questioning the approach. Then they brought ILOG in and got an honest assessment of what they were doing wrong and how to get back on track.

They were able in the end to show the ROI and get the application into all 7,000 locations and do pay all 95,000 hourly workers. Labor rules are implemented consistently and time is tracked accurately. The whole automation effort has eliminated payroll processing errors. Lastly it creates an audit trail – important when the Department of Labor allows for 7 year back records to be used!


  • Document your requirements carefully
  • Think about long term strategy
    Other countries, flexibility, changing rules quickly
  • Determine both your business and technology strategy
  • Take the ILOG training for both business analysts and developers
  • Talk to ILOG

Interestingly enough I know of a Blaze Advisor customer that has built an almost identical system. Clearly hourly billing and workforce management are an effective use of business rules management systems.