How Adding New Benefit Carriers and Plans Impact an HCM Implementation

March 28, 2017

Written by: Heather Soper

If you’re like the majority of employers, you may be considering changing Human Capital Management (HCM) systems this  year, in addition to making new carrier and plan decisions. It’s the perfect time, right? Start  fresh with new plans, new software, and a new sense of purpose and prepare for the next round of Open Enrollment which will be here before you know it.

The decision to change HCM systems involves a strategic approach to your implementation, particularly where benefit carriers and plans are concerned. Here are a few considerations that employers should take into account before opting to go this route.

Right people, right place

Half the battle of any implementation is making sure you have the right people on the project team. If you are implementing payroll, have someone that processes payroll for your organization on the implementation project team. If you are relying on your new software to update your general ledger, make sure that someone from your accounting department can be a regular project team participant. It sounds like a common-sense practice, however HR and Benefits Administrators are frequently attempting to bear the burden of implementation for other departments, but they don’t always have a clear understanding of what is needed. This leads to a lot of extra work for your HR team, and this can result in missed requirements putting your implementation project at risk.

Number of Changes

Are you changing plans and carriers? Are you relying on your HR team to research best options, develop a communication plan around expected changes, and field employee questions and concerns around plan selection and coverage? What about ACA reporting? Is your accounting team working on year-end reporting and filing? The responsibilities inherent to regular year-end activities, in addition to any coverage changes that may be in the works, adds weight to the already full-time jobs your HR team shoulders. When considering changing HCM systems, along with these other activities, you’ll want to make sure your team has a realistic expectation of the level of effort that will be involved, so they can plan accordingly.


When do carrier decisions have to be made? When are plan decisions due? Are these decisions going to be made before your new HCM implementation is in full swing? Probably not. Delays in plan designs and rates can affect your project timeline, especially if the new platform will be tracking elections and sending files to carriers. All of these decisions must be made before requirements can be fully finished and before build can start. Any delays with these decisions will cause delays in your project timeline, which will lead to crunch-time to get everything ready for your organization’s go live date.

Does anyone on the team have experience with the new platform you’re switching to?

This last one is a best-case scenario, but not a frequent occurrence. Having an advocate for the new software be a part of the project team helps everyone. If one of the project team members has experience with your new platform, especially with implementing the system, that person may be better able to help translate your business needs to your consultant, and understand what can be done, and what can’t be done.  No software platform is 100% perfect for every customer all the time. Additionally, an experienced person may be better able to prepare the internal team for the commitment that will be required. Many times, when a consultant says “it will be a lot of work,” clients don’t really know how to quantify that, and may think “oh, maybe an extra 20 hours a week, spread out across a team of 4-5 people. No sweat.”  Often, that is not the case, and workloads can become overwhelming very quickly – especially if everyone is trying to learn the new platform in addition to year end closeout.

All of these considerations are not meant to discourage you from updating your HCM software for your new plan year, but instead to encourage educated decision making. No implementation is ever completely smooth. ‘Gotchas’ will happen. However, if you are prepared, have a full understanding of all the requirements and risks, and a team that is willing to roll up their sleeves and get down to work, you can have a successful HCM transition and start fresh with your new HCM system!

At HRchitect, we are experts in planning all phases of your HCM technology implementation.  We can provide assistance in creating an HCM Strategy, evaluating the perfect fit technology, change management, and end-to-end implementation services.

Heather Soper

About Heather Soper

Heather Soper is an Implementation Consultant at HRchitect with deep expertise assisting clients with Benefits and Core HR / Payroll Systems. Learn more about Heather Soper on LinkedIn.