Continuous Improvement, Core HR, Project Execution
Finally! You’ve been working for months on rolling out your new HR system, and at last you’re finished with implementation. You couldn’t be more proud of the work you and your team have done. It’s time for some margaritas and an extra helping of chips and guac.
Except your work doesn’t end with implementation. You’ll need to keep responding to the various issues and feedback that will inevitably arise. No technology in the long history of HR has ever worked perfectly without monitoring and tweaking how it works.
You should spend time before the implementation planning for the realities of post-implementation. Technology is complicated. And ensuring your new platform’s continued success will require real time and manpower. Heck, it might even require more money. As you get ready for implementation, always ask yourself this question: “How do we operationalize this for the future?”
I spend a lot of my time traveling around the country to help businesses roll out new HR platforms — HRIS systems, payroll tools, talent management systems, benefits providers. I’ve had my fair share of headaches, but over time I’ve developed some strategies that I use to ensure that a new solution will work for the organization for the long term. This way I can really feel like I’ve earned that margarita. Here’s my advice if you’re working on a big implementation.
Plan Your Team
You probably have a great implementation team, including high-level tech people who are amazing at diagnosing and solving the complex issues of various systems.
But after the system is live, you’ll need a different kind of support team to help employees figure out how to use the new software. Plan who who will support your project once it’s live. Your end users will need a central team to go to with questions. Let’s say you roll out a new timekeeping system. Managers and employees may need extra help to remember where, when and how to submit and approve timecards. Start assembling that support team now, whether you hire new people or pull in staff from another assignment.
Plan a Process for Addressing Issues
Once you know who will manage support, prepare a process for questions and answers. When users have questions, how will they get in touch with the support team? Will you set up a war room? Will you provide a direct phone number? A ticketing system? In an ideal world, you’d have a multi-tiered process: a self-help knowledge base for basic questions plus a dedicated operations team to vet and find answers to harder questions.
Here’s why I recommend a multi-tiered process: Some of the questions will be really basic, and only a small percentage of the issues will require the implementation team to get involved. A service desk is a great investment that can save you money in the long run. Perhaps you can invest in a digital adoption platform (DAP). These platforms and services are relatively new products that help serve as online guides to assist within the application at the moment of the process or task that they are actually performing. Remember Clippy from Microsoft Word? Even though he hung around a little too often, he did always have the answer to your basic questions about word processing.
So whatever your Clippy is, find it and make sure you have a plan to answer ongoing questions quickly and effectively.
Set up a Governance Structure
Third, set up a governance structure. Undoubtedly there will be new issues, needs, and changes that were not anticipated (not to mention updates from the provider) but not all issues are created equal. Governance allows a fair prioritization of all of the requests, enhancements, upgrades that need to be worked and released. This is a fundamental need for an overall release management strategy.
Embrace the Unexpected
I hate to break it to you, but not every user is going to be happy with your new system, and that’s okay.
This isn’t going to be your fault. Despite focus groups, change advocates, and previews, you know that all the time you’ve spent thinking through the software and its features might not fit what certain users want. Perhaps a feature doesn’t work the way it’s designed to, or it makes a process more cumbersome than the prior solution. Maybe someone wants a specific type of report, or the dashboard isn’t providing information that a user needs.
It will get frustrating. Don’t let it.
Remember that this is a time for iteration. Your best-laid plans aren’t going to go exactly as you expected, and perfection at launch is not a reasonable expectation. Listen, learn, remediate, and repeat.
Your users won’t be the only source of change. New laws will continually challenge the the way you work, especially in regards to payroll and benefits. Regulatory and legislative rules will challenge you to stay agile, current, and flexible. Your providers will often provide the updates, but sometimes these updates will cause unexpected roadblocks for users, and those best-laid plans will go by the wayside once again.
As you prepare to address changes, make sure you’re strategic in what you choose to address. Some problems will be more urgent than others. Don’t view an update as a Band-Aid to your problems. Make sure every update is part of a larger strategy, and that each is building on top of the other.
And, by the way, do you see that comment section below? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned from rolling out and maintaining new systems … and yes, I’ll take your horror stories and warnings, too!