Making the decision to incorporate a new human resource information system (HRIS) is a significant and exciting step for any company. The successful automation of business processes can improve operational efficiency and reduce risk, allowing employers to focus on managing their business. With proper implementation and support, such a system can make life easier for everyone. Unfortunately, many employers do not understand the complexity of the implementation process or the commitment that it requires. This is a pivotal moment that often determines the success of the system. While some employers may be equipped to execute a proper implementation, many are not. Here are the main causes of failed system implementation and some thoughts on how to overcome these challenges.
Lack of Time and Resources
Many employers are unprepared for the time and resources they will need to devote to system implementation. When done correctly, this process can take at least two months, if not more, and will require the attention of those managers or HR professionals within the company who have been tasked with facilitating the implementation process. This will take time away from their typical job duties causing a strain on the business and employee stress. Employers that are unprepared to put in the time or supply these additional resources, will be unable to achieve their desired results. When working with a vendor prior to implementation, get clarity on estimated time required for your team and assume more time will be required if your team has never gone through this process before.
Lack of Communication
There is much to be said for clear vendor/client communication. Not all systems are created equal, therefore not all implementations will be the same. The technology vendor should be able to provide key information that can help employers prepare for a successful implementation. This is especially helpful when the employer’s needs have been clearly communicated and interpreted. For example, the vendor knows which areas of the implementation process will require specific skills on the part of the client. An employer needs to openly communicate their experience and skill sets. Too often, however, there is a great lack of communication between the two parties, leaving the employer to fumble through implementation with no real sense of direction. When issues appear to arise, make sure you proactively voice your concern as sometimes there is a disconnect around who is doing what.
Poor Project Management
Implementing a new system is an involved project with quite a few moving parts. Even employers who feel prepared ahead of the implementation process can fall victim to poor project management. It is important for the employer to set realistic expectations and deadlines to be met, especially regarding business processes that are time sensitive, like payroll. Each phase of HRIS implementation requires a great deal of attention and must be successfully completed before moving on to the next. Underestimating the time needed for system testing or falling behind while converting data can lead to setbacks and difficulties going forward. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire implementation will be an ultimate failure, but a derailment that leaves employees without a paycheck isn’t exactly encouraging. Make sure milestones are established and managed properly, particularly as it relates to data migration, system testing, user training and going live.
The purchase of a new HRIS implies a willingness to accept the change that comes along with it, but this is not always the case. Many employers will make their purchase wanting to benefit from having the technology, but abandon it upon realizing what it will take to properly implement and optimize the system. Employers must be willing to fully embrace their new system and immerse themselves in the implementation process. Otherwise, they will fail to achieve their desired outcomes, leaving them frustrated with the technology or overpaying because they are only utilizing a portion of what they wanted. Unfortunately, an employer’s inability to keep an open mind will derail the implementation process before it even begins.
So, what are some keys to success?
- Seek Executive Sponsorship – A new HRIS will have a company-wide impact, not just the HR department. Senior Management support of the implementation as a corporate strategic initiative will provide the level of priority necessary to ensure resources spend the time necessary to see the project to successful completion.
- Appoint a Project Leader – Involvement of all stakeholders is very important, but someone must own the project or milestones will not be achieved and communication gaps will exist – leading to a less than successful completion.
- Revisit Your Project Plan Regularly – In many cases, a project plan is drawn up at the beginning of a project, and then seldom if ever referenced again. This is a mistake. The project plan, whether on paper or electronic, is your roadmap, keeping everyone on track and providing weekly feedback as to whether the project is progressing as planned. When milestones are missed, reconnect with the vendor to make project adjustments to ensure you will adhere to the roadmap going forward and achieve your objectives.
- Over-Communicate – Don’t assume anything. Confirm discussions and agreements regarding action items, milestones and who’s doing what and when in writing, preferably through whatever project management tool you are using. Leaving things to memory leads to “he said/she said”, dissatisfaction, and delay. When the perception of a bump in the road is there, don’t keep it to yourself, but make sure the project manager is proactively reaching out to the vendor to work through the potential issue.
- Focus on Improvement, Not Perfection – Nothing is perfect. There will be compromises and unexpected results along the way. It is folly to compare your results with a perfect vision. Rather, compare results to past benchmarks. Has there been improvement? Is there room for more improvement and how do we get there? Constant improvement is a reasonable goal, perfection is not.
The HRIS implementation process poses its fair share of challenges, but your desired outcomes can be achieved if you’re prepared to work through potential roadblocks. Partnering with an HRIS service firm, like ProHCM, can increase your chances of success, as they will assist you in mitigating these challenges and ensure that the outcomes produced align with the expectations you have for your new technology. While implementing a new HRIS can be daunting, it is well worth the investment when done correctly.