From Client to Consultant: Lessons Learned During Implementation | Part 1

October 31, 2017

Written by: Troy Robinson

Prior to joining HRchitect as a WorkForce Software Time and Attendance Integration Engineer, I spent several years as the HR Technology Manager for a very large power company. It was in this role where I first was introduced to HRchitect, as I became one of their clients and was the client side team leader during an implementation. After moving to the consulting world myself, several years later, it’s interesting to reflect on the lessons learned during that implementation project. They are valuable for any client side team member to be aware of, to maximize learning potential and the success of your implementation project.

Project Background:

In my previous role at the power company, we decided to switch time keeping systems, and after a careful evaluation process, we selected the right system for our needs. The system we selected was flexible and highly configurable, and had powerful activity-based costing elements, which were very important to us. We also needed to record time for both payroll purposes and project based time without requiring our employees to enter their time into multiple systems.  The time and attendance system that we selected would allow a single point for time entry that would feed both payroll and a cross-application time sheet.

The time and attendance system implementation would be deployed simultaneously with the implementation of a new core HR system to minimize disruptions with a phased implementation approach, eventually deploying at each of our power plant site locations. I was directly involved with more than six different locations / site implementations of the new system. The project was challenging as each site had their own rules and regulations and a strong resistance to cross site harmonization.  For our company’s first roll out,  we had more than three sites and thousands of users involved.  Included in this roll out, were three different Work Week definitions, multiple unions, multiple payroll vendors, and every site had their own holiday schedule. It was complex to say the least, and as you can imagine, we had many challenges. In working with HRchitect to overcome these challenges, our team learned some valuable lessons.

Here are two of the three most valuable lessons that I learned during my time as the HR Technology Manager involved in a system implementation:

Lesson Learned: Understand the requirements documents

Make sure you read and totally understand the business requirements documents and interface requirements documents gathered before you sign off on those.  If you have questions, or something doesn’t make sense, raise a question.  More than likely, if the information doesn’t make sense to you, it’s not going to make sense to the development team when they get ahold of the specifications and are trying to configure the system. I cannot stress this enough.  Read the documents in detail since everything that will be configured in the new system is laid out in these documents.  If the documents do not match your requirements, or are missing something minor when you begin your user acceptance testing, it’s likely that you may run i to issues. If the changes requested don’t match your initial requirements documentation, your development team may need to undo and re-do a lot of the configuration work, and that will likely result in project change orders with an impact on project timeline and added cost.

Lesson Learned: User Acceptance Testing is critical, and so are GOOD TEST SCRIPTS

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is critical.  The best way to be successful with UAT is to make sure your testing scripts are very ROBUST and correlate back to the requirements document reference numbers.  Do not think you can “wing it”.  An approach such as, “Our payroll admin knows the rules, they can test, they know what to look for.” Isn’t going to work. You need a plan that includes thorough testing scripts that are completed early in the process. Have your implementation partner like HRchitect review these ahead of time, as it will save you time and money in the long run.

In my time on the client side of a project as the HR Technology Manager, we tried the “just wing it” approach.  We didn’t have very thorough UAT scripts.  We relied on the payroll administrators to create these scripts. Our Payroll administrators knew the payroll system, however Payroll administrators are not technical system testers.  If you don’t make creating these scripts a priority, and you slap them together last minute so you have something to start UAT, or you simply get tired of your project manager asking for them during every status meeting, your UAT is guaranteed to fail.  Your time lines will get extended.  Your go live dates will get pushed out.  Your project costs will escalate.  I’ve been there.  I have made that mistake. Take my advice. Spend the time.  Make the effort.  Build very robust testing scripts based on the requirements documents.  The next UAT session we conducted, we learned from our mistake and spent the time and effort on good, solid UAT scripts and we had significantly less UAT issues to report and fewer change orders after UAT started.

Building good, complete, robust test scripts and doing them early in the process does two things:

  • It confirms that your requirements are accurate. As you build these scripts and explaining the expected results while matching those results to the requirements document, you are also validating that your system expectations are the same as what is laid out in the requirements document.  If there is a discrepancy, it is best to identify the issue now and create the change orders to get them corrected before time lines become impacted.
  • You have a plan. You know that the ENTIRE system is being tested.  You can track the UAT progress.  You can confirm that prior to user training, your system is functioning as you expect.  There are no surprises and fewer critical support tickets once you go live.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post where I’ll share the third most valuable lesson I learned while working on the client side of an implementation. If you’re thinking about implementing a new system, I strongly advise you to work with an implementation partner, and HRchitect is widely considered one of the best strategic consulting firms. With over a thousand successful HCM implementation projects over the past two decades, HRchitect is your best insurance policy to ensure success. Our services span from helping organizations create HCM technology strategic plans, evaluation and selection services for new or replacement systems, change management, and implementation services.

About Troy Robinson, Senior Consultant

Troy Robinson is an HCM Integration Engineer with more than 20 years of experience as a software consultant. In his role at HRchitect, he leverages his unique experience as both a consultant and end user of HCM systems to lead clients through successful workforce management systems implementations.