Human resources information systems (HRIS) seem to have gone into over drive, with an explosion of new features and modules in the past few years.
These major IT system automations and purchases are not traditionally in the HR remit. However, HRIS projects put HR firmly in the spot light to deliver on the new system on time and within budget, with the added pressure that users – your employees – will embrace the new technology.
Here are the most common implementation mistakes and how you can avoid them:
1. Realise this is a big deal
There is a tendency to underestimate the complexity, time and cost of the HRIS project and its impact on the behaviour and processes of the whole organisation. HR and the wider business needs to acknowledge this will be a major overhaul. Allocate the right IT and HR resources and budget, and anticipate a big change for everyone.
2. Do more planning
About 68 percent of all IT projects fail due to poor planning, according to a 2009 Standish CHAOS report. You’ll need to plan out each phase of the implementation, taking stakeholder and user needs into consideration, and creating some detailed timelines. Take a proper project-based approach. Making sure that the key milestones and interdependencies are identified.
3. Begin with the end in mind
Before you even look at products or talk to vendors, stop and take some time out. What are you trying to achieve from the new system? What is your HR strategy? Articulate how the systems will help support this. Is your focus recruitment, or performance, or culture? What HR services do you want to provide? If you begin with vendor demos, your likely to purchase something that, down the line, doesn’t fully support what you really wanted to achieve.
4. Senior executive buy-in and sponsorship
This is crucial. Without senior stakeholder buy-in, don’t even consider commencing a new HRIS system or upgrade. A good starting point is always an excellent, well-researched and well-consulted business case for change.
5. Select your project manager wisely
Many companies make the mistake of relying solely on the vendor for project management. Hint: their priorities will not always be the same as yours. Appoint your own project manager, and go for a project leader who has experience in HRIS (not necessarily an internal person) and is good at change management.
6. Allow for resources and a dedicated team
Second people from your HR team to support the project manager – ideally those who know the business, culture and processes well, being subject matter experts (SME). This team should be allowed to focus strictly on the HRIS, not running the project ‘off the side of their desk’ while maintaining other full-time duties.
7. Sufficient Budget
These are major purchases and major projects. Make sure your specifications have been clearly mapped out up front. Don’t set and forget! These systems need constant upgrades or tweaks. Make sure you have sufficient budget to cover not only the cost of the purchase, but the implementation, the project team, ongoing maintenance and upgrades. Get help from the IT department to scope out the Statement of Work and fully vet any vendors and customisations.
8. Wider stakeholder buy-in
Get other stakeholders (ie departments) involved early. This is essential before the business case is approved or the vendor is even selected. This is not just an HR project, but the purchase of a new HRIS will have wider business impacts and benefits. Your employees will have to work with the system, so it is only fair that they have some say in what kind of system is chosen and what features are prioritised.
9. Get organised and map your process
Organise your paper work, and gather together all current HR processes and procedures. Map them out so they can be quickly automated, rather than having your vendor wait around for HR. Mapping your current ‘as is’ processes will help you map out what’s working and what’s not (and what can be dropped) to create the new ‘to be’ processes.
10. Change management, communication and training
For me, this is the biggest reason why most HRIS projects fail. Having a dedicated change manager on the project is essential. Communication plans, extensive user training, familiarisation, and time and patience are crucial. Sell the benefits. There is nothing worse than a new system that nobody uses. Education is often key to ‘likeability’.
11. Get independent advice and help
Vendors are very good at the sell! They might over promise what the system can do and how easy it can be customised. There’s nothing worse than purchasing a new system only to find out that the software doesn’t actually do what you want without major expenditure. Double check functionality and ask for demos or check with others who have used the software before.
12. Data accuracy: Rubbish in equals rubbish out
After the project has begun, many companies make the mistake of rushing the data transfer phase. Rushing data transfer, rules setup, testing, security or any other technical aspect of HRIS implementation is a recipe for disaster.
13. Team work
Implementation, change management and user buy-in is not the vendor’s responsibility – it’s yours. The whole HR team will need to be involved, on the same page and engaging the business at roll-out stage.