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How to Avoid a Troubled HR Implementation

By Chris Harvey

Your HR Tech solution decision can start to go wrong well before you ever go-live. The sad truth is that a bad technology implementation can be difficult or even impossible to recover from.

Have you ever had this happen to you? You sign the deal to buy a new HR solution, and you start discussing what the implementation will entail. Internal resources needed, timelines, data migration, etc. As you dive deeper, you begin to feel that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach because it's clear that something's not right. Both your organization's expectations are misaligned.

With herculean effort, you manage to work it out, muddle through, and eventually go live. But it was probably a lot harder than it needed to be.

How to Dramatically Increase Your Chances of a Successful Implementation

Setting Expectations with Your Vendor

Almost 50% of HR technology projects fail to meet company objectives, with poor implementation being a major cause. Surprisingly, the foundation for a well-executed implementation begins during the sales process. In the HR Technology Buyer's Guide, we recommend being fanatical about understanding the HR vendor's implementation process and ensuring it aligns with your internal capabilities.

The HR vendor sales reps may touch on the implementation process during the sales pitch, but it likely will be a short and overly simplified view of a smooth go-live process. However, this isn't enough information to determine if it aligns with your needs.

The Implementation Process Meeting

Before buying from any vendor, insist on an "Implementation Process Meeting." In this meeting, invite your key internal resources and an Implementation Director or VP from the vendor to present in-depth on the implementation methodology and process.

You're requesting a Director/VP-level vendor representative for several important reasons:

Implementation Expertise: The Director/VP can provide a detailed process plan, outlining timelines, resource requirements, milestones, etc. This is your opportunity to understand the process deeply, ask questions about the methodology, and how it benefits the customer.

Alignment: This meeting serves as a reality check for your team. It helps you assess whether your organization's capabilities align with the demands of the implementation. Knowing this upfront allows you to explore which vendors best match your internal capabilities.

Accountability: As the Director/VP presents the vendor

implementation process, you can hold them accountable for what they've outlined. Make sure to capture their contact information for future reference.

Check out the HR Technology Buyer’s Guide

Check out the HR Technology Buyer’s Guide to explore strategies and tactics to help you navigate the vendor selection process.

Request a Named Project Manager

Not all Project Managers (PMs) are created equal. Given the critical role of the implementation in your HR tech project's success, request the vendor provide you with the name of the project manager, if you choose them.

Additionally, ask for the PM’s project resume. How many projects have they led? Are there any customers who can serve as references? Do you have agreement that you can reject their PM if they aren't acceptable to you? You want to know the PM's history, experience, and identify potential references.

Independent Research

We only know of one independent source of technology implementation analysis and reviews, Raven Intelligence. They are an outstanding source of implementation insights for both the vendors and their implementation partners. Definitely worth checking out if you are considering HR vendors such as Cornerstone, Oracle, SAP SuccessFactors, UKG, Unit4, or Workday.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Best Resources

While this process may seem excessive, it sets your implementation apart from 99% of other customer implementations. Why? While every vendor intends for their customer implementations to be successful, it isn't possible for every customer to get their best PMs. Many vendors are strapped for resources and they allocate their top resources to either their highest profile customers or those that are the "squeaky wheel". If you follow this process you have demonstrated your commitment and expectation for a high quality implementation. You have become the squeaky wheel which leads to being assigned a more effective project manager and increasing the likelihood of a trouble-free implementation.

No director or VP wants to receive calls about implementation issues after assuring you of a smooth implementation.

Conclusion: Empowering HR Tech Success

Every successful HR technology project hinge on a well-executed implementation. This approach, grounded in setting clear expectations, aligning capabilities, and holding vendors accountable, serves as a compass for HR leaders. By following these proactive steps, you're not just adopting technology; you're safeguarding your organization from implementation pitfalls.

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