HR Today's Rebecca Nicholson presents the second in a two-part series on Human Resource Management Information Systems - HRMIS. Last month we looked at tips for selecting a new system. We follow up this month with a look at the tricky business of HRMIS installation.
So you have found the right system that will fit your HR information management needs for years to come. You have negotiated the level of service you require from the vendor and you are ready to begin putting things in place. Most of the hard work is surely over, isn't it? Not by a long shot!
If you do not keep a close eye on the way that the system is implemented you may still find yourself with a system that nobody likes, that doesn't do what you wanted it to, and that causes more trouble than it was worth.
Barry, an IT manager with a manufacturing company, has this to say about preparing for implementation:
'When the time comes to implement your organisation's chosen HRMIS, there are a lot of areas to cover and huge amounts of data that will need to be transferred to the new system. The biggest job of all, however, will be encouraging the line managers and other key personnel to "buy in." Training will be an important part of the roll-out of the new system, but it will also be necessary to convince them of the benefits to their divisions and the organisation as a whole.'
A critical first step in a successful implementation strategy is to identify the key stakeholders in the organisation (workforce, line managers, CEO, HR, accounts, union, etc.) You need to find out what their experiences and expectations are and you need to be aware of their attitudes, preconceptions and possible fears about HRMIS in general. As HRMIS are a relatively new aspect of organisational management, you should presume a limited level of existing knowledge amongst these key players. So, what does this all mean in the context of an implementation strategy? It means consult, consult and then consult some more.
Steve, an HRMIS consultant, has this advice:
'Any manager who has experience in the implementation of HRMIS will tell you that you can't underestimate the value of working with an implementation project team.
This team should draw from all of the impacted areas of the business including staff, line managers, senior management, accounts and IT. An Implementation Project Manager should head this team. Depending on the size of the organisation, they might be the HR manager, the payroll manager or another senior member of the HR department.
This group will be a great source of practical information and will also provide an insight into attitudes and expectations throughout the organisation. They'll also be a great resource when it comes to encouraging the rest of the organisation to embrace the new system.'
Some key implementation milestones you should plan for include final sign-off on the system specifications, installation date, data transfer phase and completion date, training events, 'go-live' or start date and review dates.
As with any information system, your HRMIS will only function effectively if the people using it are properly trained and the quality of the information put into it is tightly controlled. The other key to its effectiveness is the extent to which its intended users actually access and utilise the information it can deliver. So it goes without saying that training, induction and awareness campaigns are essential factors in a successful implementation strategy.
Implementing a HRMIS will need strong collaboration to satisfy the requirement of both the HR and the IT departments. Depending on the size of your organisation, you will either work with an internal IT department or perhaps an external IT consultant during the installation and implementation of your HRMIS.
So how do you work with IT when they seem to speak a foreign language? Chris, a HR manager from the finance industry, has this advice for non-technical HR people working with IT specialists:
'Number one is to let them be the technical expert. They understand what can and can't be done from a hardware and technology point of view, and the earlier you involve them in the implementation process, the better.
Ideally, they should be having input into the buying decision as well. That being said, you need to take the lead from a HR management and systems point of view. What this means practically is that you need to be able to provide your IT people with specifics at every step of the process.
You need to specify what raw information needs to be stored and how it is to be gathered and entered into the system. You also need to specify the purposes for which you want to use the data - for example, information management and strategic planning.'
The IT experts can only go so far. They can set up a HRMIS but it takes your guidance from a HR perspective to ensure that it gives you the best possible results. Chris explains further:
'What they need from you are precise details - not a set of broad objectives. For example, it probably won't be all that helpful to just tell your IT people that one of your objectives is to integrate HR planning within STAR's overall strategic business planning process. What they need from you is specifics, like the need for senior management to be able to access reports on payroll fluctuations across all departments in the company.'
So there you have it. Taking the plunge into a new HRMIS can be a daunting experience for any organisation. However thorough planning, research and preparation will help to greatly ease the pain.
If you can work out what your HRMIS needs are, do your market research, select the right system and work to ensure a smooth implementation, you will avoid most of the pitfalls, and your organisation will be on the road to success.