Shannon Wallace, HR & Payroll Manager at Landmark Group of Companies (and Avanti Superhero) recently wrote this article on the secrets to successfully implementing a new HRIS solution. We asked Shannon if she would share it with you and she has kindly agreed to allow us to re-publish it. Enjoy!
A “Human Resources Information System” or “Human Resources Management System” is an inter-relational database that allows organizations to automate transactions and workflows. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll use the acronym “HRIS”.
HRIS allows you to store information, ensures that the right people access the information they need, and allows people to collaborate. This is all done within rules and parameters that you establish.
It’s a way of storing information, ensuring that the right people see the right things, and that information within it can work together, based on rules you establish.
Managing the Employee Relationship with HRIS
The employment relationship can be viewed as a series of transactions. A good HRIS system will allow you to streamline these transactions and create efficiencies.
It’s tempting to start evaluating HRIS packages at the start, but it’s really putting the “cart before the horse”. You’ll want to analyze your organization first. Find out what the flow of information looks like and document what the ideal process should look like. Shopping too soon, without a clear understanding of what you need, can leave you to be distracted and potentially cause gaps in functionality resulting in expensive customizations in the future.
Planning for HRIS Implementation Success - It Starts With You
Form your team
To be successful with your implementation, you need to have the right people. Build a team of key users and stakeholders, and assign one project manager to take the project from start to finish.
Automating a bad way of doings thing will just compound issues and make you fail quickly.
Map your processes
The first order of business for your implementation team is to map your processes. Here you’ll want to map out the series of transactions that need to take place and in what order. Take this opportunity to evaluate if you are doing things the best way you can – automating a bad way of doing things will just compound issues and make you fail quickly. If something looks broken, take the opportunity to fix it now using your existing process.
Once you have identified your processes, focus next on your stakeholders. Stakeholders are people on your team, such as employees, managers, or third-parties like the CRA. Write down titles and names of the people who work with employees' information from start to finish: identify what they do and why. Pay close attention to the information that goes in and the information that needs to go out at each phase.
Each of your stakeholders requires “deliverables” for each stage of the process. Outline what they need from you.
Future state vs. current state
Finally, now that you have a sense of the current state of things, outline what the future looks like. What are your must-haves? What are your nice-to-haves? These two lists will help you make a better decision when it comes to reviewing HRIS packages.
What Components Are a Must Have?
Take some time to review and manage your expectations. Take a look at your list of requirements. It may be possible to find a software package to support your processes, but can your team take the time to properly set it all up and maintain it? Often the number one reason companies change their HRIS is because they mismanaged the system they currently have in place. Usually the challenges lie in the fact that not enough time has been spent mapping workflows.
Choosing a Provider
Smaller payroll & HR systems, often “bolted” onto other software or available online. Many systems exist to manage one piece of the employment relationship (payroll, attendance, recruiting) and can be cherry-picked based on needs. Full “mini” HRIS systems can be found for smaller companies.
What you see is what you get. Usually lower ongoing costs and personalized service can work well for smaller companies or when looking to meet a specific need, and it’s usually easy to switch over.
Any specialized function your business needs will not be available or will be at a huge cost. You might need a few different specialty systems to work together to meet your needs, requiring multiple points of data entry and increased room for error. They’ll work hard for your sale but support will be a toss-up.
Packaged HRIS Systems
A few companies offer software suites for different sizes of employers, designed to try to meet all of an organization’s Human Resources needs. They’ve been doing this for a while and the products they build will be great to look at. Your users will generally approve.
A slick, professional-looking package which should meet many of your needs. You’ll have an implementation team and can expect some reasonable project management support. There’s a large customer support team, and software is regularly updated and reviewed. They manage remittances and other administrative details.
There’s only so much customization that can be done: you may need to change processes to match your software. Changes to your setup in the future may come with a price tag, and there may be some things you just can’t do. Payroll timelines will depend on the provider, and users are often frustrated with lack of control or access to information. Look closely at the billing structure.
In-House Hybrid Systems
A packaged product where a user pays for the software and licenses, but manages their own programming, remittances and deposits.
If you have strong users, you can cost effectively make changes. Ad hoc reporting quite good, and HR-specific function of the system is usually as high functioning as the users plan, setup and maintain. A good balance between function and cost for a growing company with strong users.
In HRIS systems, items can rarely be deleted. A user-controlled system will often result in a very glutted database. “Cleaning” requires a rebuild. This type of system requires invested users and managed processes. Company support can be quite weak and any implementation, customization, or training is extremely costly. Costs approach those of a hosted product with much less support. Users are on their own with regards to compliance and often run into problems.
High-End Customized Suites
A combination packaged product with customization. Often used for extremely large companies, organizations will usually have staff dedicated to the implementation and/or maintenance of the product.
These high-end products are for large organizations with the ability and necessity to invest in systems and processes to manage data for more dynamic groups of Human Resources. These systems are usually considered great to work with and functional when they’ve been set up and maintained properly.
This type of system is an investment and commitment. Implementations can span years and require dedicated project management teams. Processes must be well mapped and documented and management buy-in is integral to success.
Final Vendor Selections
When you meet with potential vendors, ask for demonstrations. Always refer to your process map, your list of must-haves, and your deliverables. Build a simple table and note which products meet each deliverable. In the case you don’t find something that does everything you need, you can find the closest product by referencing this table.
Ask for references and poll your peers on LinkedIn for their own experiences.
Before making a final selection, be sure to clearly understand the vendor's implementation fees, what they charge for system changes, and, finally, how they handle off-cycle payrolls. Often hidden costs can lurk here and add up.
The implementation process usually includes the following:
1. In-depth needs analysis
The vendor will review your processes, deliverables, users, securities, org structure, payroll, reports, GL structure.
2. Project plan
The vendor will assign an implementation specialist to develop a project plan that includes tasks, task owners, deliverables, live dates for modules, hand off to customer care, etc…
3. Beta (primary) build
This first setup is based on the needs analysis. This is your system so it is critical that you take your time and test this first build. Review and verify that the setup is what you require.
It’s important that you communicate the upcoming change to all affected users. For more complex systems, begin training well before live dates; training “power users” during implementation helps create a “train the trainer” culture.
5. Database conversion
Often static employee information is transferred over, both databases are maintained, and all employee information entered into both (new and old) systems until the go-live date. Payroll conversion timelines are extremely tight. Usually there will be multiple “parallel” pay runs to ensure correct calculations.
Data conversion can be the most complicated (and expensive) part of an implementation. Payroll data moved mid-year must be verified for purposes of T4s and ROEs in minute detail. Changing systems at year end is advisable, but many companies vie for this timing. Consider transferring T4 information only and not ROEs.
Often business development folks make promises they can't keep. Ensure that you ask your questions again when assigned to the implementation team. The larger providers are moving towards sending product specialists on sales calls to minimize this, but it still happens.
Have a good project manager and let them manage it. Rushing is guaranteed to cause more trouble than it’s worth. Through each step of the process, refer to your list of must-haves and deliverables.
It will take time - your time. And plenty of it. Be thoughtful and cautious about what you build, and your results will be a direct reflection of the work you put in.
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About the Author
Shannon is the HRIS and Payroll Manager at Landmark Group of Companies. She has over fifteen years of high volume, successful project management within the field of compensation management and HRIS implementations, both as a consultant and an internal project lead. She has extensive experience in implementation of all levels of corporate compensation change management (pay cycle changes, implementation, benefit plan evaluations, policy development and roll out, and mergers.)More Resources by Shannon Wallace