Know the answers to these eight questions before you kick off your HCM system implementation!

February 7, 2023

Written by Carling Sternbach

You’ve already worked through a system evaluation & selection process to ensure the new system you’ve selected is the right fit for your organization based on strategic business objectives. Now you’re gearing up to begin the system implementation project to make your long-awaited HCM system dreams a reality!

Although it’s tempting to kick back, relax and enjoy the extra downtime you might have in this period, you can set yourself up for success through some additional preparation. Now is the time to ensure you clearly understand the answers to these critical pre-implementation-related questions.

1. What is the cost for the implementation, and how is the fee schedule structured?

It’s easy to focus on the annual subscription cost for your new system since that’ll be a recurring expense, but don’t forget to budget for the system implementation cost! Often organizations overlook this one-time expense. Typically, implementation costs are negotiable, as are fee structures and payment schedules. We often see organizations quoting fixed fees per project, hourly time and materials, and monthly retainers.  Make sure you understand the financial reporting requirements of your organization throughout the project. 

2. How many software licenses should be allocated for the team members involved in the implementation and for the employees who will need system access (licenses) on an ongoing basis?

The software license is a legal agreement with the owner (vendor) of the HCM software and provides the mechanism for how you are allowed to distribute and use the software. Your vendor can recommend how to determine the number of licenses you will need, but ultimately this is something you’ll need to determine internally in your organization. Keep in mind the number of users’ licenses required during the implementation but also include licenses for the employees who will use the system on an ongoing basis.  Vendors will provide you with a cost per license or a bundle of licenses. Pay close attention to understand how the number of licenses are calculated, so you purchase the correct number of licenses. 

3. What is your vendor’s implementation methodology?

Even if you’ve been involved in system implementation projects before, you should understand your vendor’s unique implementation methodology. These vendors have data, metrics, and feedback from hundreds or even thousands of implementation projects that they leverage to inform best practices for implementation methodology. As such, implementation methodology varies from vendor to vendor and is frequently updated with the pace at which today’s vendors deliver new software releases. If you have a solid understanding of this methodology upfront, chances are you’ll have a smoother experience when you’re in the thick of your project.

As an implementation partner to many HCM vendors, HRchitect’s implementation consultants have been trained and certified on these implementation methodologies and bring a depth of experience to your project and will be your mentor and guide through every project phase. 

4. Approximately how long will your implementation project take?

You’ll define an exact timeline with milestone dates and a target go-live date with your Project Manager around your Project Kickoff date, but you should have a general understanding of this up front so you can bring up potential timeline challenges at kickoff. For example, it’s good to know up front if your vendor expects your full-suite system will take 12 months to implement but your contract with your existing payroll provider is up in 6 months. Your vendor might not have known about your legacy payroll contract expiring mid-project, but you do. By understanding the vendor’s typical timeline and fusing that with the knowledge you have of your organization’s operations and requirements, you have a better chance of anticipating issues and resolving those proactively.

5. Are there specific modules that must be implemented before other modules?

If you’re implementing a full-suite solution, you’re implementing many modules. Based on your organization’s strategic objectives and business operations, you may need some modules to be live before others. For example, if annual reviews and compensation adjustments are coming up, you may want the compensation and performance modules to be ready to go for that time, but you may need to have payroll set up as a prerequisite. On the flip side, maybe your organization is really struggling with hiring right now. You may be able to implement an applicant tracking module before you set up payroll. Knowledge is power and understanding the limitations and requirements around this can help you and your vendor address your organization’s priorities and pain points.

6. What human capital and time commitment resources do we, as the client, need to dedicate to effectuate a successful implementation?

It is imperative that you understand that your team plays a critical role in the successful implementation of their new HCM system. You will need to allocate sufficient resources to fulfill your implementation responsibilities, from setup to testing to organizational communication and system training. If the amount of heavy lifting your team is responsible for seems overwhelming, and you find yourself thinking, “how in the world will I manage this on top of my day-to-day responsibilities?” talk to your implementation partner.  Our goal at HRchitect is to help you understand the tasks you will be responsible for and how we will work together.  If you are strapped for resources, you can talk to us about supplementing your project team with client-side consulting.  This is a service we can provide to help with the heavy lifting of the client-side project team.

7. Who’s holding my hand? How do I choose an Implementation Partner? What resources will be dedicated to my implementation, and what is their experience?

This is a critical question.  Is the Vendor providing resources to help you with the Implementation? Or have you chosen to hire an experienced Implementation Partner, like HRchitect? In choosing your partner, be sure to ask for references or check out their reviews on Raven Intelligence. Raven Intelligence is an independent review site that helps customers make an informed choice about their consulting partner. 

Once you have chosen your partner you will want to have the comfort of knowing that you have an experienced team to lean on throughout the implementation process. You can ask to review team members’ resumes or bios or even interview these resources to make sure they’re a good fit for you.

8. Beginning with the end in mind, what does success look like?

Overall, defining what success will look like in a project is a conversation that your team will be involved in since this is your project, after all!  Now is the time to review the business reasons that you are proceeding with this project. Be sure that you keep these goals in mind.  Also, your vendor or implementation consulting partner can give you a general idea of what they consider a successful project. These definitions vary. Some firms may define success with specific KPIs, while others may have a more general definition of success, such as being live by the target go-live date.

For more information on preparing for your implementation check out some of our other related blogs:  “5 Tips to Prepare For Your Implementation Project” or “Team Engagement – The Secret to a Successful Implementation”.

To schedule a consultation to learn more about our services please contact us here.

Carling Sternbach brings several years of professional Human Resources and accounting experience, with a focus on payroll and accounts payable to the HRchitect team. Carling’s experience spans a wide variety of industries including consumer packaged goods, hospitality, and professional services. This functional and technical expertise, along with experience gained working as an UKG Pro system administrator at an UKG client, provides Carling with a unique perspective on how HR organizations work, allowing her to design and operate highly effective HCM systems.

Learn more about Carling Sternbach on LinkedIn