The myriad forms, processes and bureaucratic hurdles involved in corporate relocation, global hiring, M&A and travel are mind-bendingly difficult to reconcile and keep current, increasingly so as opportunities and talent constantly shift internationally. It’s why global-relocation services is a $50 billion industry, according to Benjamin Bahrenburg, tax technology partner at PwC, the $37 billion professional services giant.
It’s also why PwC launched earlier this year its myMobility digital global services platform, which Bahrenburg, a self-described technology “geek,” spearheaded. “As companies need to deploy talent globally, that’s where myMobility gets involved,” he says. And that need is evolving rapidly. For instance, the rule of thumb when it came to ex-pat assignments used to be five years. “Now we’re seeing permanent ex-pats,” Bahrenburg says. Long-term, short-term, even virtual global assignments make well-defined policies and procedures related to benefits, compensation, employment status, taxes, travel, etc., for globally mobile employees an imperative.
PwC provides its business clients with services related to global commerce and workforce support, including immigration documentation, Social Security and tax compliance, and visa procurement and maintenance. MyMobility is a digital platform for clients to access that work—“the delivery model to provide those services,” Bahrenburg says.
On the management side, myMobility provides a customizable dashboard that lets executives monitor PwC’s compliance work in real time. By providing access to the data and processes related to their “cross-border issues,” Bahrenburg says, myMobility is intended to help organizations “not wind up in the newspapers for not paying taxes or having the proper visas.”
Another management function—perhaps myMobility’s most compelling—is analytics. Using myMobility’s analytics tools, HR managers can plumb their organizations’ employment data and identify the best candidates for international assignments, “those with the necessary documents and background,” for example, Bahrenburg says.
By combining company data with industry trend data and data gleaned from PwC’s approximately 5,000 clients, representing about 600,000 employees, the analytics tools can help contextualize that organization’s global location strategy. That might mean, for example, detailing and comparing costs related to specific relocations, such as a low-cost-to-high-cost move (Memphis to London), high-cost-to-low-cost (Singapore to Bangalore) or variations thereof, according to Bahrenburg.
The data analytics capability that’s available as a module within myMobility comes from Qlik. PwC decided on the Qlik technology after “a comprehensive study and pilot” of a few different business intelligence tools, including those from Microsoft and Tableau, according to Alex Rubin, PwC’s analytics technology director. Qlik was chosen for its “integration capability, price, ease of use, democratization of analytics across PwC user base, supportability, ability to be extended, and performance,” according to Rubin.
It’s worth noting that in PwC’s 2017 HR survey, “What’s Now and What’s Next In Human Resources Technology,” among the HR and tech support personnel queried from more than 300 companies, “HR analytics is the [technology] priority that’s most often named.”
MyMobility’s services can be accessed over the web, or by way of the myMobility app, which is available on iTunes and other marketplaces for various smartphones and for the Apple Watch. “Our clients’ employees are mobile, so we need to be as well,” Bahrenburg says.
The myMobility app offers globetrotting employees functions familiar to most business travelers, such as a calendar, a contact list and a travel document portfolio. But myMobility’s travel portfolio is more than a flight planner; it incorporates all the forms and data needed for that individual to travel to and work in his or her destination location—immigration documents related to the H-1B visa, for instance—updated and certified. Forms can be filled out online, and the app incorporates a scanner to update files with new documents. “We make a promise to the individual [employee] to only ask once” for the necessary data, Bahrenburg says.
Going forward, PwC plans to increase myMobility’s functionality using two “assisted technologies,” according to Bahrenburg. The first is robotic process automation (RPA), to increase the system’s efficiency in document processing. The second is natural language processing (NLP), in the form of chatbots, to help global clients use the system more effectively.
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