Top 9 tips for implementing HR technology (and avoiding tears)

I spend most of my working day advising clients on all things HR technology. I hear when they have great successes and when they've come to us frustrated and needing advice. In my experience, I've seen clients taking the cheapest option and know it's going to end in tears and I've also seen plenty of brilliantly managed projects too. 

If you're looking to implement any HR technology, here are my top nine tips: 

1. Engage your IT function from the start

Yes, it's your HR budget and yes it's cloud and yes IT have a natural disposition to say no to anything at first…. However..... you'll have far greater chance of success in your project getting their buy-in from the beginning and ensuring it's aligned with the wider corporate IT strategy. Too often I see HR leaders try to sneak in HR systems past their IT teams. When things go wrong WHICH THEY WILL at some point or other, you'll sleep much easier at night knowing your CIO has got your back. They know how to ask people like us the tough questions around security, privacy and system architecture - all very important in the grand scheme of things which ultimately ensure no one in the HR team is going to wind up losing their job. Amen to that. 

2. Manage and (over) communicate change!

System implementation: Pick a system, build it, test it, switch it on. Right? WRONG. 

The huge piece missing here is change management. You can have the world's finest HR technology but if you don't take your end users along on the journey, no one's going to care or bother using it. Every time you implement a new system you're asking your employees to behave in a different way. And why should they!? Just because you told them so on a few forcefully worded corporate announcements shortly before go-live?

You need a professional change plan with tech adoption and employee experience in mind; a well-crafted communications timetable and to build engagement & excitement about what's coming. 

3. Be clear on the difference between remote vs on-site delivery

If you're comparing two implementation proposals and trying to understand the price difference, ask for a breakdown of time allocated for on-site consulting. Boom - there you go!

In principle, there's nothing wrong with remote delivery and it can be an effective approach to keep costs down within a broader project but know what you're getting from your implementation partner and who's actually responsible for delivery once you've signed. If in doubt, ask for a reference and/or use your own network to get an understanding from others of their experience(s). 

4. Don't underestimate the internal resources you'll need to have your side

Be honest with yourself and your implementation partner about the resources you have. Even with a rapid, pre-configured style implementation approach, you're still going to need the bandwidth and project skills to manage this internally. The resources you have available should shape the project timeline and when this is factored in properly, you're going to keep within budget and feel far more in control. 

However, this extends beyond the manpower allocated to the project. What's just as critical is that the right people are empowered and given the authority to make key decisions as the project picks up pace. 

5. Be open about how HR 'Could Be'

This is a particular favourite of mine. We're all familiar with the terms of 'As-Is' and 'To-Be' in process improvement terminology, but as a HR professional, I see businesses gain the most benefit when they're open to exploring the possibilities available to them with innovation in technology, rather than trying to replicate an existing manual process in a digital format. I call this 'Could Be'. 

Continuous performance management is a great example of this: Where in the past we were limited to cyclical performance reviews, partly because they were such a massive annual administrative process, technology has evolved to now enable continuous feedback and coaching loops instead. Of course you don't have to follow this path if this doesn't fit with your HR strategy or culture, but you don't have to be limited to rigid past processes either. 

You don't have to be fixed in the decisions you make now either. As technology constantly evolves, more possibilities will open up to you too. 

6. "Implementations go wrong when you don't consider the impact on other down-stream systems"

Don't take my word for it - that's verbatim straight from our Technical Solution Architect who's got a backlog of very expensive remediation work lined up from other third party implementations that went wrong elsewhere. Refer to tip number one! 

7. Be open with your implementation partner about your budget

This is another favourite of mine. If you want a flying unicorn, sure we'll build that for you! But once this is costed out, only then do some clients reveal that this is way over the fixed budget they have and can feel frustrated. 

If your budget is fixed and/or small, be upfront about that and your implementation partner can work with you to explore the options available to your project. Any reputable partner will apply science behind the work they quote for and should easily be able to explain how they came to the difference in costs between various proposals. Ultimately, we charge for our consultants’ time - so the more specialist consulting required, the more it's going to cost. 

8. Stay within the scope and stick to it

This one came from our specialist Payroll Solution Architect who's got more successful implementations to her name than anyone else I know. One of the most critical pieces in the project is your requirements gathering and getting all your stakeholders on board. Invest the time you need to before you commence your implementation and agree the scope to ensure the project stays on track. 

9. Understand and leverage the benefit of adopting Software as a Service

Gone are the days of “blueprints” where we all sat around defining what we would like to implement and lengthy implementations. Software as a Service provides enormous benefits by providing focused and often predefined business processes. This allows you the opportunity to quickly realise the benefits of the solution and for the project to focus on the end user adoption.

I hope this is helpful. This article is not intended to scare but inspire. When great technology is implemented properly, it's a beautiful thing. Feel free to forward though feedback or any questions relating to this. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

All the best, Sarah

This piece was written by Presence of IT's Sarah Wojciechowski and published on LinkedIn.