Written by Troy Robinson
Many companies like to use the start of the new year as a point to kick off new initiatives or to put organizational changes into effect. Deploying a new HR system is no exception. For organizations who are unveiling a new HR system at the beginning of the new year, this means that their systems need to go live during a very short window at the end of December.
Advantages of a year-end go live:
Most employers close for a few days over the holidays. It’s also a popular time for employees to take vacation, especially if your organization has a “use it or lose it” vacation policy. In specific industries like manufacturing, it’s common to see “shut downs” for periods of time at the end of the year. What does this mean for your year-end go live? With fewer employees in the office this time of year, fewer employees are using your HR systems, so naturally, fewer employees will be negatively impacted by system downtime during the transition. This means fewer employee questions and less time spent troubleshooting employee issues for your HR service center.
It’s possible that you may be able to have time sheets entered early and complete end of year processing earlier. This is more likely to happen in an organization that can ask employees to estimate their final periods of time (hours worked). For some organizations, this may not be possible, or could leave you with a lot of work to accommodate for discrepancies. Completing end of year processing earlier means you have more time to focus on other important initiatives, like change management and change communications related to your new system.
Since many companies use the end of the year as the financial reporting period, they need to have all the activity for the previous year in their old HR system. If your organization follows this protocol, then you’ll be able to deploy your new system and enter new data into the system from day one. In HR system implementations, having to upload historical data adds a lot of complexity and time to a project, so skipping this and starting with new data saves time, effort and money.
Often with new financial reporting periods, new pay rules go in to effect. If this applied to your organization and you’re already using the beginning of the year to explain new pay rules for employees, you can knock out two birds with one stone, and explain how to use the new HR system in the same announcements and trainings.
Challenges with a year-end go live:
One consideration with year-end go live is whether or not the timeline would be a stressor for your Information Technology and Payroll teams. You may need to ask them to work over the holiday period, when they might have been otherwise planning to take time off to spend with their family and friends. This shouldn’t be an automatic deal breaker for a year-end go live, rather, this should motivate you to keep the project on schedule or ahead of schedule to try and avoid this. You could also make sure the team is aware that working over the holidays may be a possibility, well before the holiday season, so it doesn’t come as a surprise later.
During the end of the year, the software vendor or 3rd party vendors may be working with a skeleton crew or may have blackout periods to allow their own employees time to be with their family over the holiday periods. This can result in slower response times for any support issues you may need help with. As long as you’re aware of this, and have a little extra patience, this shouldn’t be problematic.
You should also be aware that many of the vendor’s other customers want to go-live at the same end of year timeframe. The 3rd party vendor’s team is very likely juggling multiple projects going live all around the same time. This may result in slower support turnaround for any issues, but again, since you’re aware of this in advance, it won’t catch you by surprise.
A blended approach
If you are looking for a middle-ground option, you might want to give this strategy some consideration. We’ve worked with several clients using this approach and have had great results.
Plan for your system go-live early in December but refrain from sending out go-live communications and having your employees use the system until the true end of year go-live date. This would allow your project team enough time to confirm that the system is functioning as expected a pay period or two before you truly need all your end users to be actively using the system day in and day out. Your HR data providers would have plenty of time to validate the initial HR imports into the new system and could make last minute adjustments, if necessary, to accommodate production data. Using this approach, your system will be live for January 1st, which is exactly what you needed, but the earlier timeline allowed enough time for the best team members to continue working on your project and take some well-deserved time off to relax during the holiday season.
There’s no right or wrong decision for choosing your project go-live date. Regardless of your timeline, make sure to complete a thorough user acceptance testing phase, to reduce your risk for issues at go live. Talk to your internal team, your software vendor and your implementation partner, like HRchitect, in advance about timeline and expectations. As long as everyone is on the same page, project risk will be greatly minimized, and you’ll end up with a better end result all around.
From all of us here at HRchitect, Happy Holidays and best of luck to all of you working on year-end system go lives!
About Troy Robinson, Senior Consultant
Troy Robinson is an HCM Integration Engineer with more than 20 years of experience as a software consultant. In his role at HRchitect, he leverages his unique experience as both a consultant and end user of HCM systems to lead clients through successful workforce management systems implementations.