That Dirty Four Letter Word – DATA!

May 7, 2015

Written by:  Erik Frokjer

So you’ve purchased that new HRIS system. Then the questions is, “What can you do to help your internal and vendor implementation teams be efficient and successful”? Let’s take a look at data and the impacts a four letter word can have on your system(s). Such a small word and what a power punch this word can have as it is a set of values of characters and numbers that can be processed, reported and analyzed providing information/knowledge, both historically and current. Data quality is affected by the way it is entered, stored and managed.

To start, let us think about it…

Yes, your internal team and Subject Matter Experts (SME) are busy with their day to day jobs, but having members of your core team know the new system helps make better configuration decisions and provide better answers and solutions for your vendor implementation team.

Each vendor is slightly different, but you need at least one person on the client implementation side, preferably a SME — someone who is familiar with the legacy system, where and how the data is stored, updated and what are the expected end results. If one is not identified then there should be someone who is familiar with data and its impacts and can be trained on the following areas:

  • General Tables setup
  • HR Tables setup
  • Benefits Tables setup
  • Payroll Tables setup

Think about tables as the foundation of the system and therefore it is important that your data within each table is set up with consistent clean data as one can have an impact on the other – think about a domino effect.

Then there is your day-to-day:

  • HR Processes
  • Benefits Processes
  • Payroll Processes
  • Security
  • Workflow
  • Reporting

Also think about later phases of the project, such as Configuration Validation and Unit & Parallel testing and having a phased training approach, so the resources that need to perform those tasks are ready.

It all comes down to…

Data, Data, Data

The implementation team from your HRIS vendor (or your consulting firm) will have very specific questions and requirements about data, but here are some areas to think about when you get ready to start your project:

  • What is the source of each type of data?

You will have two types of data here, indicative (employee) data and system/edit table data. Use the functionality listed in the Request for Proposal and the Vendor contract to help drive your list of data needed for the new system. Often times, data comes from multiple sources, including manual sources (i.e. Excel spreadsheets), especially if you are coming off an older system that doesn’t have edit tables for the valid values (for fields like Job Code, Location Code or General Ledger string). List all the tables in a spreadsheet and be sure to include an SME for each table.

  • Have we extracted data from each of the above sources?

It is not uncommon that reports or extracts for specific pieces of data (like State and Local taxes for employees or Garnishment Payees) have never been written. Then it may be a good time to get a copy of the data dictionary for your system and make friends with the “Power User” of the reporting tool for your current system or the help desk at the vendor.

  • Who will extract the data?

Many systems have “quitter tape” type data dumps you can get from your outgoing vendor, but a power user of the reporting tool for your legacy system or a SQL expert may be needed to extract the data.

  • Let’s be honest here, how clean is the data?

Acquisitions & Spin-offs; implementations of other systems; State & Federal legal requirements and older systems (without edit tables) are often the reason for less than pristine data. You definitely do not want to load dirty data and have to clean it up in the new system. Also, usually having clean data in the legacy system makes data mapping and any translations easier.

  • Can any of the data be condensed or eliminated?

Job Codes and Earnings Codes are great examples of data that can be condensed. A word of caution here, be sure to look at reports and any downstream systems, like General Ledger, to make sure the codes aren’t needed to support them.

  • Who is the owner (Subject Matter Expert) for each piece of data?

Typically some of the data (for example, Time Off plans, Deductions and Benefits) will need configuration to support the data. Thinking about that ahead of time can get plan documents and the Subject Matter experts lined up. This is especially critical with distributed Human Resources functions, Regional policies and plans driven by information in Collective Bargaining Agreements.

  • Have any new internal/external reporting requirements or systems that would impact the data required in the new system been identified?

New General Ledger and Timekeeping systems and new policies and processes implemented to support internal audits can be drivers for additional data.

So getting back to that four letter word called “data” and its importance and impacts on your system. Knowing and/or continued training on your system and its data is very important as it will ensure the integrity of your data – so it can be correct/accurate, consistent, complete, and can be integrated.

In today’s world, data is a powerful technology tool especially in analytics and reporting and forecasting trends. And that is a whole other story…

Eric Frokjer

Eric has over 25 years of experience in the HRMS field.   Some of his experience is in implementing Human Resources, Benefits, Payroll and Time & Attendance systems. He has been working with HRchitect since 2012.