Monday, June 7, 2010

HR technology implementations -- fewer failures on the horizon

Last week a $30 million lawsuit was filed by Marin County, Calif., against Deloitte Consulting, alleging the consulting firm misrepresented its expertise in SAP's technology. Deloitte is planning to file a counter-suit over the County's failure to pay, and claimed the County failed to provide Deloitte with written reports detailing system deficiencies.

Decade after decade, we've read about consulting firms and enterprise software vendors blaming each other for failed implementations when these unfortunate situations are largely preventable – particularly when you’re dealing with consultancies and software solutions which have come through many hundreds of times before.

The root cause of these failures, or in some cases major delays or re-starts, is typically not defective software as delivered. Companies offering defective enterprise software simply don’t stay around very long.

Two fairly common causes of failed HR technology implementations which are gradually being neutralized in the HCM solutions arena relate to change management and the customization of on-premise, installed software.

For many years, change management was the segment of tasks in an implementation project plan that were often short-changed due to resource constraints, being managed by project directors or accountable managers with limited (change management) experience, or being outsourced to firms/practices often brought in during the later stages of the project … vs. focusing on change management throughout the entire implementation --- a far superior approach.

Change management is partially about changing attitudes and behaviors, and as HCM systems are increasingly being viewed as company-wide assets for everyone’s benefit -- instead of “the system HR insists that we use” – the need to change attitudes and behaviors is perhaps no longer as intense. Now these exercises have a better chance of succeeding as project teams can focus on change management aspects that are more tangible like process changes needed, targeted training, etc.

Another reason for failed HR technology implementations is also becoming less pervasive – namely, instances where on-premise, installed software gets customized to better meet a customer’s “unique” business requirements. As everyone knows by now, the degree to which enterprise software gets customized is directly correlated with the prospects of a failed or at least under-performing implementation. The good news is that instances of customized software are clearly trending downward with much better configuration toolsets being introduced by software providers --- and SaaS delivery models becoming much more prevalent.

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