By Sue Lingard, Cezanne HR
Mention putting in place a new – or even a first – HR software system and the chances are you’ll be told it just won’t happen without support from implementation ‘experts’. So, typically, that’s the IT specialists and the project managers – not forgetting the watching brief from the finance team to make sure that budgets don’t spiral out of control.
However, with all that’s changed in the way HR software is developed and delivered in the last few years, is going down the ‘expert’ route the right way to getting a new system up and running successfully? Having worked on hundreds of implementations in the past few years, we believe that success is much more about picking the right skills and personalities and not necessarily on relying on the job titles of the past.
That’s partly because new, more agile and more configurable cloud solutions mean that the emphasis has changed from getting the IT infrastructure right (with Software-as-a-Service that’s down to the vendor) and carefully controlling extensive – and expensive – set up projects and customisations in favour of quick start up projects and customer-managed configurations.
There’s also been a change of focus with HR software now intended for use by the whole organisation. In fact, with HR software, the success of your investment will relate to how widely the system is adopted and valued by the whole organisation.
It’s not that IT or project specialists can’t add value to your HR software implementation. They can. But, what is more important is to focus on what you need to achieve and who can help you achieve it.
So, what should your HR software implementation dream team look like?
- The end goal thinker
You’ll have had a goal in mind when you selected your HR system and it’s important not to lose sight of it. Projects have a nasty habit of getting derailed if conflicting interests aren’t managed well; especially with systems that touch everyone in the organisation like HR software. Make sure your team includes someone who’s role it is to keep the bigger picture firmly in mind and has the political skills and influence to keep everyone moving in a shared direction. An individual who has had experience across the business and understands the needs of different departments can be a real asset. Of course, they also need to understand the wider HR issues and be familiar with existing processes so that they take a helicopter view of the way information flows around the business. Do you have someone in a strategic role who already fits the bill? Or maybe it’s a stretch project for someone with potential?
- The process person
The process person comes into their own when it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of getting your hands on the all-important HR data. The old adage, ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ holds true, so it’s vital to have someone who is obsessive about details, insistent on quality and won’t leave a spreadsheet cell unvalidated if they can help it. Seek out the most persistent, pedantic employee you can think of (you probably already know who they are) and sign them up straight away. They will be invaluable in making sure the data in your new HR system can be trusted from the very start. They’ll be working with sensitive data, so it’s likely that the job will need to be done by someone in your HR or finance team.
- The new thinker
Every team also needs someone who will think outside the box, challenge existing processes and won’t be afraid to suggest a new approach if they believe it will support the business’s objectives better. These people will ask lots of questions and uncover issues you probably hadn’t even thought of. They will help you define the HR processes you want to support with your new system and perhaps come up with new and innovative ideas for using the data your HR system will generate, or find short-cuts and quick fixes for problems that would otherwise get in the way. They are the innovators in your business and could be in any department – although you might want to start your search in new business, marketing or product development teams.
- The people person
One of the biggest issues with an HR software implementation is getting managers and employees engaged. People don’t like change – and even if the new system is going to make their life easier, some employees will resist getting involved and complain that “things were OK as they were”. This is where someone who is strong on inter-personal and relationship building skills come in. You can use them to champion the benefits of the new system, identify those who are likely to be early adopters and create a bit of a buzz around the whole project. Look for people who are influential (and that doesn’t necessarily mean senior), popular with their peers and well networked across the business.
- The results person
Last, but not least, you need someone who can keep the impetus and enthusiasm going, deal with any road-blocks that are getting in the way and make sure activities are timely and co-ordinated. They’ll be the ones that can call in support from other teams – for example, IT – to address specific issues, co-ordinate activities with the supplier and hold everyone to account. Traditionally, this was where the project manager stepped in. However, it could be anyone that’s shown a proven ability to make things happen. Think about who in the business has a good track record for bringing projects in on target and on time? It doesn’t matter which area of the business they are from, if they have strong organisational and inter-personal skills and are a stickler for keeping projects on track you need them on the team!
Naturally, you’ll also need to consider how the different personalities will work together. As the HR lead, you want to be focused on project success, not on smoothing ruffled feathers or preventing outright warfare between team members that don’t see eye to eye!
And, if internal politics demands finance or IT need to be involved, it’s not a problem. Just make sure that the part they play matches their skills – and not just their ‘expert’ title.