With the advancement in HR technology, it is not surprising that organisations are now slowly (but surely) investing in the new HR applications available in the market or upgrading their legacy systems into cloud computing. New set of challenges emerge for managers from: which software and vendors to shortlist and select, to implementation, who are to be part of the project team, to managing the change journey as well as ensuring a return of investment.
Being in the field as both an internal and external HR consultant, and the fortune of implementing several different technology into organisations, I had my fair share of the good and bad experience as well as learning from stories of other consultants in the industry. Different organisations go about it differently. Some more successfully than others. Some “horror” stories may also ring true as common problems, for example misalignment of strategies, selecting the wrong solution, a range of different systems in the organisation that don’t integrate well with each other, bad vendor experience (or if you’re from the other side, bad client experience), incompetent or wrong people selected as part of the project team, not managing the change process, lack of management support, lack of resources, etc., the list goes on for all things wrong.
As a consultant, there is only so much that are within our control. We may also be called upon at different stages of the project and our roles in the project could vary too. For the purpose of this article which is further inspired by a recent “horror” story I heard, I will only focus on a couple of key areas that we are likely to have some influence in: The Project Team and The Change Management Process.
- Clear roles and responsibilities of each member – Internal employees can sometimes be assigned into projects other than their usual job in their organisation (this normal execution of standard functional operations within an organization is usually called “business as usual (BAU) in projects). Whether you are the project lead or one of the team members or from the vendor team, it is crucial that you and each of your project team members understand your own respective role and responsibilities in the project. Set clear expectations about the nature and scope of their involvement. This will also prevent frustration, pushing away responsibilities and blame, especially when the going gets tough.
- Cross-functional team – Even when implementing a new or upgraded HR system, it will be great if members comes from different functional group. For instance, it will be great if HR, IT and Finance are represented as these functions are usually impacted in the implementation of HR Technology. IT needs to advise on any IT infrastructure and security issues. Finance can provide input on the key data and measures that management are concern about. In fact, if the HR in the organisation is new to analytics, Finance can advise HR to adopt and use human capital metrics and put numbers to people. If there are a few existing systems that data need to be extracted from or will be impacted, these system owners should also be involved.
- Competent in respective role – Each team member should be competent in their role. It is also essential that the Project Manager (PM) understands the project, its deliverables and most importantly is competent in project management too (it never fails to amaze me that there are PM who are clueless – the story that I was “inspired” by is of a big superannuation organisation that had just threaten to can a $1million contract as the vendor PM is hopeless. I will leave it as that because that, is another story all together).
- Purpose of the team and project – Just like managing any teams, it is important to get the team to work well together and to manage the team dynamics. Understanding the purpose and benefits of the team and project are important too.
As HR professionals, we may be more familiar with the people and communication approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state from planning the change to managing the change and to reinforcing the change. We also need to be familiar with the IT Change Management process of controlling and managing requests to effect changes to any aspect of IT services.
People & Communications
- Stakeholder Analysis – As part of planning and preparation, this will help assess the attitudes of the stakeholders regarding the potential changes with the introduction / upgrading of the HR system
- Change Impact Analysis – This helps to identify the potential consequences of the change, or estimate what needs to be modified to accomplish the change.
- Communications Plan – This is important to identify who needs what information when as well as the most effective communication method(s) for it. It will also be good to include who is responsible for the message and who is to deliver it. By understanding the purpose and benefits project, you will also be able to reinforce these messages to the right people.
- Sponsorship – Strong management support and sponsorship is required to provide the authority and credibility needed for a change to be successful.
- Training Plan – Deliver training programs that develop skills that is needed to support “the new way”. This can be set up for the different groups of users of the new HR system which can include the new / revised processes.
- Performance Support Aids and materials – Develop performance support materials that will help employees use the new HR system. This can be FAQs, job aids, etc.
- Resistance management – Resistance is a natural and common reaction. Expect and plan for resistance and identify the steps you can take to build buy-in and commitment like getting people involved, understanding the impact and the benefits. With your understanding of the project, you can also include your success measures and have a feedback system in place to monitor your success and resistance levels.
IT Change Management Process
- Enforce change process – Ensure there is a centralised change and approval process and that the process from raising to closing changes are followed.
- Log all change requests – All requests raised should be recorded, accessed and evaluated.
- Thoroughly test all changes – As changes to the system are planned and scheduled, it is also important that any changes to the system are tested. It is especially important to include User Acceptance Testing (UAT) as it is one sure way to reduce or eliminate change requests, and drastically reduce project costs. The goal of UAT is to assess if the system can support day-to-day business and user scenarios and ensure the system is sufficient and correct for business usage.
- Communication and dissemination – Ensure timely change communication and dissemination
As consultants, we may be called upon at different stages of the HR Technology project. There are plenty of opportunities at various stages in which you can influence and contribute. This article only focuses on two such areas as I find that the project team and the change management process are key gaps at projects and among our HR profession. Good luck!