Sunday, October 8, 2017

3 Things that MUST be Emphasized on HR Technology Implementations

1. The “what's in it for me” perspective of each category of user

HR Systems have been getting procured and successfully implemented for decades, but sometimes, neither the organization nor the products being implemented are totally ready. This of course can result in roll-outs needing to be revisited or halted mid-stream, essentially pouring some degree of financial investment down the drain. Organizational readiness can relate to other strategic initiatives that are perceived as more important, causing project resourcing challenges or distractions. It can also relate to new or improved skills or competencies needed in areas such as HR analytics, software release management or HR process optimization. And speaking of process improvements, another aspect of readiness is whether some or all of the HR processes being automated are flawed, and consequently should first be optimized before new systems are deployed.

Organizational readiness is one aspect of a broader and ideally “best fit” change management program that should accompany all strategic initiatives, including HR Technology deployments. The correlations between degree of incorporating effective change management into these projects and their eventual success (measured by user adoption or more direct business benefits like cost savings, efficiency gains and better talent management outcomes) has been well chronicled. And more broadly, HR Technology industry research firms like Sierra Cedar have consistently found that “HR organizations that support a Culture of Change Management are four times more likely to be delivering noticeable strategic value to their organization versus organizations that practice minimal to no Change Management.”

Of equal importance, there is also the fundamental change management principle of emphasizing the “what’s in it for me?” perspective of all those who will use or be impacted by the new system. This is a major part of assessing readiness at individual levels, and more specifically, must be in the forefront when developing and communicating the “case for change” -- a common phrase used within the change management discipline. Additionally, the reality is that new technology of all kinds are frequently over-sold by solution vendors with respect to the end-user experience, key capabilities, how they work with other tools, etc. Unfortunately this can cause these initiatives to then get over-hyped by project sponsors, making the “what’s in it for me?” angle that much more important to stress; i.e., past experiences with other technology roll-outs might have led to some residual cynicism.

Simply put, a compelling communications framework should be developed that enables all stakeholders and impacted parties (employees, applicants, HR specialists and business partners, line managers, executives, relevant external partners, etc.) to readily map the new enterprise technology asset to benefits they will personally experience, some of which are universal benefits like “saving time”, but others are more stakeholder group or even person-specific, such as helping to progress one’s career, or just perform better in their role.

2. The importance of end-users being in control of, and accountable for, data quality

Worldwide spending on HR software and related services will approach $20 billion over the next few years (“20 by 2020” is supported by many analyst firms covering this domain). This has been propelled by a confluence of significant factors including organizations jumping on the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) bandwagon, likely to avoid costly and disruptive upgrade cycles (associated with on premise-installed enterprise software), have more predictable spends on HR Technology, and benefit from the experiences and learnings of other customers -- since all are using the same version and flavor of the product in the cloud model.

SaaS is clearly not the only driver of market expansion. HR / HCM platforms and tools have evolved dramatically in areas such as analytics (including predictive analytics), offering much more intuitive and engaging (“consumer-like”) user experiences, adopting mobile as the predominant access and usage device, leveraging social capabilities and data in recruiting, development and employee engagement … and more recently, adding early-stage capabilities around AI, chatbots, cognitive computing, etc.   

Notwithstanding these significant advances driving the market, the biggest “Achilles’ heel” that continues to limit the range of business benefits from these investments in many customer organizations is inadequate attention to data quality. Therefore, a data ownership, accountability and integrity assurance plan MUST be a central part of every HR Technology rollout; and ownership should ideally be in the hands of the person who has the biggest vested interest in the data being correct!

Internal service level agreements or “SLA’s” can also help quite a bit in ensuring data quality, and frankly, avoiding a lack of confidence in the system when bad data is really the culprit. As examples, line managers and employees should be formally expected to update certain data elements that they own when particular events occur like a department transfer or address change, respectively; and the SLA metrics should specify a quick window for updating or initiating the transaction.

3. Finally, focusing on business drivers, how they might be changing over time, and how the new HR system will stay aligned

Successful organizations are usually very fluid, or to cite an over-used cliché, the only constant is change. When planning an HR Technology rollout, both planned and potential changes must be considered and factored-into the enterprise solutions being brought in; i.e., how scalable and adaptable is the software to a broad range of events and/or business decisions that might occur. Whether the change driver is a decision to expand into new markets, pursue a growth through M&A strategy, a move to outsource non-core functions, or simply invest more heavily in talent management programs, the software vendor’s current offerings and planned product roadmap must be evaluated against these possible scenarios to ensure on-going “functionality and capability fit.” In the absence of doing this, the shelf life of the new technology will probably be short-changed.  

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