Common Questions about HR Tech

Steve Boese originally tackled this subject in his always informative Inside HR Tech column on Human Resource Executive Online, and I’d like to share my thoughts on some of the most common HR tech questions as well, using his thoughts as a blueprint.

Question No. 1: Is it better to have a single unified system for all of my HR processes, or should we look for the “best” solutions for each area and then integrate them later?

Steve’s take: This question, whether a single system is preferable to several so-called “best-of-breed” solutions that support different process areas has been asked for about a decade now, perhaps longer. And the “answer” is still—unsatisfyingly—the same: “It depends.” There are numerous and company-specific factors that influence whether the increased capability that many “best-of-breed” solutions say for process areas such as recruiting or learning are offset by the ease with which data is shared, if the user experience is common to all and the vendor-management process is simplified when using a single, unified system. Each company has to think about how their workforces create value, their business strategy and then how these influence what kinds of technologies can support them. So there is no single “right” answer, but only a “right” answer for each organization, and this can only be found by prioritizing systems needs in light of where, how and through whom the organization drives value and results.

Our take: Steve straddles the line appropriately on this question – there’s truly no “one size fits all” answer. The best advice is to know your staff, processes, and pain points well and make an appropriate decision from there. I think we can all agree that when systems are unified, it streamlines the entire HR process, so that might be the ideal scenario, but it isn’t a given for every single project or company – and shouldn’t be assumed from the get-go.

Question No. 2: What are the best ways to try and ensure our HR technology projects succeed in terms of time to implement, meeting deadlines, etc.?

Steve’s take: While every project in every organization is different, and presents its own unique challenges, there are a couple of common “gotchas” that, in our experience, can derail almost every type of project. Foremost among these is a phenomenon known as “scope creep.” This is where a technology project is defined to include a specific set of technologies, supporting defined process areas and to be used by a given set of users. Then once the project gets underway, these definitions are expanded to include new technologies, additional process areas or more users. These expansions in the project scope are, in our view, usually not met with commensurate expansions in time to implement, resource allocations and/or budget, which leads to missed deadlines and cost overruns.  Another common HR technology fail point is when the organization is unable or unwilling to dedicate internal resources to the project’s implementation for the time needed to ensure project deadlines and return on investment goals are met. While the availability of internal resources is always a hot-button issue, there are not many other risks to a project’s success more acute than the lack of the needed internal leaders and subject matter experts when and where they are needed to make important decisions about system configuration and deployment. So while the fight for dedicated and full-time commitment of needed internal resources can often be a difficult one for HR leaders to win, in our view, it is worth attempting, as most HR technology projects will not ultimately succeed without these experts engaged early and often.

Our take: I agree with what Steve says in his well-crafted answer here. Scope creep and internal flameouts, as well as not having the institutional knowledge to handle a massive undertaking that an HRIS project can be are all top contributors to causing management headaches. Hiring a consultant to run your HRIS project can ease all of those fears and issues, while establishing one person or firm as the “buck stops here” for the project. The consultant can typically stay on after evaluation and implementation to see that all applicable employees are properly trained on the new systems and that the entire process is running smoothly. The HRIS consultant will keep the project on track, saving your firm plenty of time and money in the long run. Better to get it right from the start than mess up and have someone come in to try and salvage the remains!

Question No. 3: Should we use consultants to help us with our HR technology projects if we are not experienced with implementations?

Steve’s take: The quick answer is “probably,” especially if your HR organization is new to software implementation, project planning, testing, developing user cases and scenarios, creating and executing a change management and communication plan, and managing the relationship with the software provider. While HR technology and other kinds of enterprise technology implementation projects share some fundamental and essential elements common to most types of workplace initiatives, (i.e., executive sponsorship, resource planning, budgetary control) there are plenty of technology aspects, which many HR professionals at our SHRM session were not necessarily familiar. In general and in our experience, allocating some budget towards engaging the technical expertise you need to help ensure project success is a good idea.

Our take: We feel a bit stronger than Steve about the use of consultants in HR projects, considering our line of work – so take his “probably” and upgrade it to a “definitely” for us. Having a consultant help you manage your HR tech project from start to finish frees up internal resources that may not have been qualified to run such a large-scale initiative. Bringing in an expert will ensure a smooth, well-run and results-focused project while handling any troubleshooting with a deft touch.

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Question No. 4: What is the “best” HR technology solution for (insert any HR-related process area here)?

Steve’s take: Another common question that is, especially in the context of a conference session, just about not answerable. Of course, there are industry-leading solutions in every HR process areas such as performance management or compensation planning or video interviewing, but, just because a given solution has been recognized with an award of has managed to gain dominant market share, that does not mean it is the “right” one for your organization, or for any organization, for that matter. The only way to ensure your organization arrives at the solution most likely to be the best fit based on your specific combination of requirements, existing technology infrastructure, culture, budget and strategic objectives is to conduct a careful and disciplined research, evaluation and purchase-decision process. In fact, this is such an important component of successful HR technology initiatives that at the upcoming HR Technology® Conference and Exposition, we will present a dedicated session on the HR technology evaluation and selection process…

Our take: This is a hard, vague question to answer and Steve does a good job laying out the options a firm has. You need to go through a thorough evaluation process and understand what your firm is looking for. This is another reason why hiring a consultant up front to help evaluate your needs and workflow would be a smart move. Consultants have typically worked with dozens of systems over the years and will know straight away what the correct implementation will be for your needs.

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