I’m often asked what areas other companies have struggled with and what pitfalls they should avoid when implementing a Human Capital Management system. Answering these questions, I realize, with some annoyance, the bevy of clichés coming out of my mouth. While I’m not a big fan of buzzwords and catch phrases, there are many that come to mind for things that can make or break a project.
1. Begin with the end in mind. By the time your implementation project kicks off, your team should have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the project. What you are expecting to accomplish by deploying your selected system? Invest the time identifying what a successful implementation will look like for your organization.
2. Do your homework. Review any implementation guides and product details you can get your hands on. If you don’t have this, ask for it. Be proactive and learn as much as you can. By educating yourself, you will be better prepared for what to expect, understand system capabilities, and zero in on functionality that will have the most impact for your organization.
3. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Work with your implementation partner to ensure your project plan is realistic. If you are trying to reduce the duration without removing things from scope, it begs the question: do you want to do it fast or do you want to do it right? Ideally, you land somewhere in the middle. Most plans assume you have the right resources who can make solid decisions and hit every deliverable on time. Let’s be honest, that’s usually not the way it works in the real world. Build in some wiggle room for when difficult decisions, surprises, emergencies, or conflicts arise because they will.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Consider competing projects that may take place during the course of your implementation. This is especially important with shared resources. While it is tempting to deploy several things at once, recognize the burden this can place on your teams and adjust the timeline accordingly. Also keep in mind that unless you have the luxury of dedicated project resources, these folks still have other responsibilities. Clear some things from their plates if possible.
5. Find the right person for the job. The answer to how many and which people are needed on your implementation team is: It depends. An approach that works best is to establish sub-teams for the functional and technical work, with a lead or point person for each team and an overall project manager.
6. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Have regular discussions with your stakeholders, leadership, project team, and implementation partner. Confirm decisions and address concerns or risks along the way. It is a basic concept but you’d be surprised how often (and quickly) a project comes unhinged due to poor communication. Don’t risk getting half-way through only to find your stakeholders, legal, IT, or other decision owners are not on board with the direction you are going.
7. You have to know what you need to be sure that you get it. Know your requirements. By this I mean the key functionality the system must support for your deployment to be successful. Take the time up front to identify these requirements and ensure everyone agrees with them. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t know your requirements, they will creep up later and can completely derail your timeline.
8. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Don’t simply replicate your existing processes in the new system. Take this opportunity to eliminate bottlenecks and gain efficiencies. What are you doing today that works well? What doesn’t? Are there unnecessary steps in your current process? Now’s your chance to make things better. Make sure you do.
9. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Your consultant can provide insight on ways to streamline your processes and offer creative solutions to meet your needs. It also helps to understand what other companies are doing, but keep in mind that a “best practice” doesn’t always mean it’s best for your organization. Ultimately, you must make those decisions.
10. You can’t see the forest for the trees. Today’s human capital management systems have hundreds of nuances and options and are constantly evolving. With endless possibilities, it is doubtful you will touch on all of them during the course of your project. It is not unheard of for a client to later say, “You never told us we could do that!” To which your consultant may reply, “You never told us you needed to.” While you should certainly take advantage of a few that make the most sense for your organization, try not to get too distracted by all the bells and whistles.
11. Crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Avoid creating an over-complicated system with complex workflows simply because you can. Start with the basics and work your way up. If you design your system with your core requirements as the backbone, it will be easier to build upon in the future. The feedback your users provide once they are working in the system will guide you in prioritizing future enhancements.
12. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Far too often, user acceptance testing does not get the attention it deserves. This is your dress rehearsal for the big show. Utilize it to its fullest. Work with your implementation partner to develop a detailed test plan based on your configurations to ensure the system is tested fully before you move into production. The majority of issues clients encounter during deployment are things they did not test well (or at all!).
13. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Sure you can. You just need to provide the proper methods and motivation. Change management should be a big part of your project, but it is another often overlooked area that teams throw together as an after-thought. The most successful implementations include a strategy for managing change. In addition to training and education, be prepared to answer the age-old question, “what’s in it for me?”
14. The devil is in the details. Don’t forget about other areas that may be impacted by the move to your new human capital management system. Are there legacy systems that need to be shut down? What kind of support model will you need? Start a checklist of things that will need to happen when you deploy your new system. Figure out who you need to work with to accomplish them and how much lead time will be required.
15. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. It’s amazing how much more productive and focused your team will be when their efforts are recognized and rewarded. Celebrate completions of key tasks and milestones. Congratulate each other and have some fun every now and then. Bring in lunch for the team. Go to happy hour. Just do something…in the most delightful way.
So there you have it. Some pitfalls to avoid like the plague, ideas to knock your implementation out of the park, and more clichés than you can shake a stick at.
If you’re thinking about implementing a new system HRchitect is widely considered one of the best strategic implementation consulting firms. With over a thousand successful HCM implementation projects over the past two decades, HRchitect is widely considered one of the best strategic technology consulting firms and your best insurance policy for success with any HCM project. Our services span from helping organizations create HCM technology strategic plans, evaluation and selection services for new or replacement systems, change management, implementation services, project management and ongoing support.
About Julia Hatton, Sr Strategic Solutions Consultant
Julia joined HRchitect in 2012. With over 16 years of experience in Human Resources and Operations, she loves helping clients leverage HR technology to optimize processes and create positive user experiences.