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4 keys to a successful HRIS implementation

November 21, 2023

Authored by RSM Canada LLP

Sherry Godin MBA, CHRP shared this article

ARTICLE | November 21, 2023

A robust human resources and payroll system—also called a human resources information system (HRIS) or a human capital management (HCM) system—can quickly elevate the effectiveness and success of those essential business functions.

However, even the highest-rated system can create headaches or bottlenecks if poorly implemented or not fully adopted throughout the organization.

Implementing a new system is a major undertaking, but you can achieve success while avoiding potential pitfalls with the right plan in place. Here are four key elements of a successful implementation plan:

1.    Review your requirements.

A deep-dive assessment is the starting point for a successful implementation. What specifically do you want and need to get out of the system—not just today, but also in the future? Building a solution with the flexibility to handle future growth or organizational changes means your investment will pay off for many years.

2.    Evaluate team needs and engage the right stakeholders.

You will need to involve individuals across multiple departments, including human resources, finance and IT. Including managers or employees from a few “end user” departments on your implementation team also helps ensure the system is well tested and each department’s unique perspective is considered. Each person must feel their time is valued and their participation is well planned and streamlined. They may also be key players when it comes to change management, so choose people who can motivate others to be receptive to the new technology.

Establish clear guidelines regarding the duties of each member of the team. When the project begins, the software vendor team will outline the internal team’s tasks and responsibilities. Active participation of your implementation team during all phases of the project results in much deeper knowledge transfer and, ultimately, a system that better delivers on your planned objectives.

Some items on the project timeline may need to be done by multiple people, so a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities is imperative. Every member of the internal team should know what their responsibilities are as well as which tasks the software vendor will complete. A clear and detailed plan helps to ensure every task—both internal and through the vendor—is completed within the expected time frame. Many organizations find that augmenting their team with an experienced, dedicated advisor who knows the system well and can effectively manage the project is a great investment.

3. Determine priorities and deadlines.

Implementations are a lot of work. Some of it is high level and strategic while much of it can consist of time-consuming and time-sensitive tasks—but every aspect is critical. The people involved will wear many hats, including that of their regular job, during the process.

To avoid team member burnout, executive and senior management must realize individuals assigned to the project may need additional support. Bringing in a consultant certified in implementing the chosen system and experienced in managing implementation projects will help keep team members on task and on deadline, and guide them in navigating the more complex aspects of the project.

4. Take a moderate approach.

Make sure you aren’t implementing too much at one time. When you see a great new product, the temptation is to try to set up all the functionality right away. In addition, pressure from leadership teams can feel intense. It pays to take a step back and look at what you can realistically accomplish within the set deadline and with the assigned team. Once core capabilities are implemented and optimized, you can continue to test and implement additional features or modules to ensure your company is getting a full return on investment.

While it is tempting to believe that an HCM system implementation can be a simple “lift-and-shift” project, it is critical to consider the full complexity of the process and the importance of setting the system up to truly deliver the value you want and expect from it. Many organizations have taken the lift-and-shift approach only to be disappointed by the performance of the system after the go-live date. This is most often due to poor planning, uninformed decision making, and failure to take into account the considerations and needs unique to each business.

An HCM system is a long-term asset that can boost employee recruitment, satisfaction, and retention and provide important insights for setting organizational goals and improving productivity. Deciding from the outset to bring in a consultant who understands the system and will work with you to implement it effectively and optimize its performance is a smart investment.

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