Ensuring Implementation Expectations Equal Reality

May 24, 2017

By: Samantha Colby

You’ve read up on our top tips for ensuring that the features of the HCM system you are implementing meet your company’s future state (Hint: if you haven’t – it involves a thorough evaluation process plus scripted vendor demos).

Now you’re on to the next phase – implementation.

While you have a shiny new system with all the bells and whistles at your fingertips ready for configuration, ultimately the system, your experience, and your organization’s ROI/cost savings will only be as good as the quality of your implementation.

When it comes to ensuring you have a good, dare I say great, implementation experience, the key is selecting the right implementation partner – one that will take a strategic approach with your project, going beyond just checking the boxes and flipping the switches to get your system up and running, and will meet all your expectations for the implementation.

So, just how do you determine if your implementation partner can live up to all the lofty expectations their sales team has been telling you about?

The answer – a detailed services proposal that explicitly outlines the services that will be provided during the implementation process is a good starting point.

If you’re an HRchitect client, you can stop reading here. You know from experience that your project has been completed properly, and your expectations were met with high quality service, and following all of the guidelines listed below.

If you’re not an HRchitect client, and you’re selecting an implementation partner, look for these key components from your prospective implementation partners, and make sure you’re partner includes:

1. Project scoping has been conducted.

For an implementation partner to understand the level of effort and resources required for your project, this project scoping information gathering is essential. In fact, scoping often occurs in two phases and the pricing is refined based on specific project details.

The vendor can bring in Subject Matter Experts, as needed, depending on what technology you’re implementing. As the customer, this helps give a clear picture of the estimated project budget. Beware of an implementation partner who gives final pricing (note – this is different than an estimate) and a contract without scoping. You don’t want to be on the hook for thousands of dollars over the initial estimate because of another’s failure to plan for an adequate number of project hours.  Many implementation firms use this tactic and then use Change Orders to make up the difference, ultimately costing you much more than previously anticipated.

2. Proposal outlining all deliverables and specifications on specific services to be delivered.

This tells you exactly what services you’re getting from your partner. In fact, at the end of your project, you could use this section as a review checklist to ensure the vendor delivered on everything promised. There should also be some mention of standard assumptions your implementation partner is utilizing that affects the scope of your project. If what you need configured is something different than what is listed, let your implementation partner know as this may affect hours, timeline, or team members/resources working on this project.

3. Definition of Project Close.

Say you have hired a contractor to renovate a room in your house. It is important to understand when the contractor has “completed” the project based on the terms of your contract. Is the contractor finished when they have simply installed your new dishwasher, or is the project completed once you’ve run the new dishwasher for the first time and have verified that it functions and there are no major issues?

The same is true for your HCM projects. Make sure you understand when your implementation partner has fulfilled their obligations and the project is officially considered closed. List deliverables by each milestone step exactly.  This is also helpful from a billing standpoint, as you know whether to expect more hours to be billed or whether you’re able to sign off on the final milestones.


  1. Outline of the partner’s project team and their roles.


This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have exact names of consultants who will work on the project, but you should have an idea of the number of people, roles which will be involved, why each role is important, and what roles you’ll have the most interaction with depending on level of effort.


If you’re choosing a small firm or independent consultant for your project, inquire as to the backup resources available. Life happens and your independent consultant may forget to mention that four week vacation he or she has planned in the middle of your project. A strong implementation partner will have multiple consultants able to fill gaps in your project if one of your resources will be unavailable or has an emergency, or if a specific skill or expertise is needed. This is key to mitigating your project risk.

5. Understanding of the training and ongoing support included.


Training that is included should be defined in your proposal or statement of work, if it’s a good one.

Make sure you know what training is included before go live, and after go live, as well as how the training will be delivered. Types of training offered may be System Administrator Training, End User Training for specific user groups, or training for your entire HR team. You can also ask for specific training delivery methods that work best for your company learning style and culture. Maybe onsite training would be effective for your group, or maybe you’d prefer a training conducted via webinar so you can record it and refer back to it in the future.

With ongoing support, the partner shouldn’t disappear the moment your system goes live, never to lend their expertise again. Some will include support after go live for a number of days. Others will offer ongoing support packages for purchase, so you can outsource system administration work, roll out additional modules, have reports configured quickly, and more.

Find an implementation partner that can support you in your implementation and beyond. It’s much easier than searching for, vetting, and going through contracting with a new partner.

Remember, the right implementation partner should be working toward your same goal – a system that has been implemented to meet all the requirements outlined in your project scope, done on time, and on budget. Ensure the outcomes of your next HCM technology project match your expectations, and let HRchitect help. With over a thousand HCM technology related projects over the past two decades for clients across the globe of all sizes and industries, our expertise is unsurpassed. When it comes to HCM system implementation excellence, we talk the talk AND walk the walk.

Samantha Colby

About Samantha Colby

Samantha Colby is the Marketing Manager at HRchitect, the leader in HCM systems strategic consulting. Samantha has several years of experience in the payroll and benefits administration space. Samantha has B2B and consumer marketing experience in several industries including consulting, higher education, and sports and entertainment. When not preparing for upcoming trade shows or executing marketing campaigns, Samantha can be found following Boston-based sports teams or reading a  book from the local library.