Why is it that so many HR systems fail to live up to expectations once they are implemented? Typically people tend to blame the systems supplier for not delivering on what was agreed, or the software itself for not working as anticipated. However, in the vast majority of cases, it is insufficient planning and poor implementation which leads to projects failing to achieve their desired objectives.
Our ten step guide to getting it right
1. Why is the new system needed?
Think about what specific problems or issues the project is to address or solve. Many projects fail because the ‘drivers’ for the project are not clear and fully understood by the business and those involved in the project. Ask yourself whether you are just going for the latest ‘must-have’ HR tool, or whether there a genuine business need?
2. Build your project team carefully
Building an appropriate team of people to be involved in the project is essential in order to help gain buy-in to the project within the organisation, and also to get input and expertise from a range of perspectives. Try to involve key influencers wherever possible. Consider assigning or hiring a dedicated resource to manage the project as the workload will always be greater than anticipated!
Think of the project plan as a dress rehearsal for the project – you will mentally walk through each step of the project. Making mistakes at this stage costs nothing; making them during implementation can be expensive.
3. Define scope and objectives
Write a written statement detailing the scope of the systems project – what it will and will not do – and the precise objectives to be achieved. This document will focus everyone on working towards the same goals, prevent any misunderstanding about what the project is to achieve and will prove invaluable if there is any disagreement later on during implementation.
4. Visualise the end result
Spend some time thinking about the end result. What will it look and feel like? What will people in the business be saying about it? Once you have built a mental image of what success looks like, it will be much easier to identify the appropriate software to get you there. It is useful to undertake this exercise in a group, involving key stakeholders, to build a shared view of the successful outcome.
5. Map out your processes
It is well worth taking the time to visually map out your existing processes that will be impacted by the new system. This will help you with your requirements analysis and will prove invaluable in getting your supplier to fully understand your processes. If you do not have process mapping expertise internally, consider hiring an external resource to facilitate this process for you.
6. Requirements and budget
One common reason why systems projects fail is that the budget is simply not sufficient for the required functionality. Avoid this mistake by preparing a detailed requirements analysis with the project team. Ensure that you include any potentially complex workflows, interfaces and reports that you will need as these are the most expensive elements of any systems project. Use your requirements analysis to get some initial estimates from a few suppliers to help you set a realistic budget. Then add a contingency sum of at least 25% to the estimated budget, as systems projects always end up costing more than anticipated.
7. Select your supplier and system
It goes without saying that you should see a range of suppliers before deciding on your system. It can be helpful to put together a simple scoring criteria to help you assess the suppliers against your various requirements. Don’t just focus on the technical attributes of the software, also consider the knowledge and experience of the supplier’s team, the company’s financial stability and the quality of their support, data protection and hosting arrangements. When it comes to checking references, it is worth the effort to actually visit the referee organisations and speak to some of the actual users of the system (not just the contact name provided to you by the supplier!). Obviously cost will be an important factor; ensure you fully understand all the costs involved, both up-front and ongoing, including ‘extras’ such as system customisation, maintenance, training and hosting.
8. Write a project plan
Do not, however tempting it may seem, start implementing the project without planning out in advance all the tasks involved in the project, who will do what and when. Think of this process as a dress rehearsal for the project – you will mentally walk through each step of the project, highlighting and resolving any problems that could arise. Making mistakes at this stage costs nothing; making them during implementation can be expensive.
So, at last, we’ve reached implementation stage! Here are some simple tips to remember during implementation:
- Consider a phased approach, particularly if your system has online self-service or multiple modules to be implemented
- Plan in, celebrate and communicate some ‘wins’ along the way. This builds confidence amongst the project team and instils a sense of belief in the new system within the business
- Communicate progress regularly both within the project team and to key stakeholders within the business · Keep a track of issues and risks as they arise and deal with them promptly. A neat looking issues and risks log is no use without actions to resolve them!
- Minimise ‘scope creep’ where additional desired functionality is added to the requirements list during implementation. This can compromise your project deadlines and blow your budget.
10. Ensure your objectives are achieved
Many projects stop once the basic system is up and running, but before the actual project objectives have been achieved. Go back to steps 1 and 3 and look at your original reasons implementing the system and the specific objectives that were to be met. Have they all been achieved? If not, then keep the momentum going, there is more work yet to be done…