It comes as no surprise that good preparation is ultimately key to the success of your SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) project. Over the course of the hundreds of HRIS SaaS projects that I have had the opportunity to steer as a Project Director, I have been able to observe what works well, what works less well, and what will ultimately jeopardize your project. These findings have allowed our company to adapt its deployment methods and the advice that we give to our customers. Even as a vendor, our goal is the same as yours: to ensure that the project runs as smoothly as possible. However, it has been my experience that our customers’ HR teams do not always think to involve their provider until it is too late; particularly with regards to process design. So here are five phrases from a provider that should raise a red flag. Consider them carefully, they might just save your project!

When you stray too far off the beaten path you are likely to get lost

Are you familiar with your HRIS solution’s philosophy? Human resources SaaS solutions are generally designed around best practices within a given market. Where an American solution might favor a pay-for-performance model, applying a strict compensation curve; a European solution might support a more holistic, competency-based model. Neither one is necessarily right, but one might be more right for you.

Straying too far from your vendor’s standard SaaS design may require heavy workarounds ultimately jeopardizing the overall sustainability of your HR software and eventually user buy-in. Thus, before launching your project, it is important to consider your SaaS solution’s philosophy and the inherent best practices that make for its foundation.

Unclear objectives make for painful implementations

SaaS projects typically follow a steady pace due to their relatively quick set-up times. Service fees are often sold at a fixed price in the hopes that you will reach a conclusion after only two or three rounds of prototyping. To make this happen, your software vendor needs to have a clear understanding of your HR business needs right from the get-go. This is why it is important to have clearly defined objectives and related processes. Otherwise, your vendor may be obliged to put the set-up on hold, causing planning delays and frustration.

I am reminded of a recruiting solution project that was delayed for an entire year, simply because the global process objectives where under review and had to be validated by numerous internal stakeholders.

If your business objectives and related processes are not finalized, you have two options: 1 – either you can finish defining them before launching your integration project (internally or with the help of an external consultant) or, 2 – you can rely on the predefined processes inherent in your SaaS software. The second option is more befitting for small businesses with emerging human resource practices. Keep in mind that your vendor has implemented the same process dozens of times and can provide examples of processes that have already been successfully deployed with their customers.

If your head is buried in the sand, a new tool will not make a difference

Are you hoping to avoid internal discord by hiding behind a tool? Putting an HR Team in front of the same tool does not necessary mean that they will all finally agree on the process. More than once, I have participated in projects where the HR department hoped that there new HRIS solution would miraculously get everyone to see eye to eye, or even worse, that it would allow for everyone to live in perfect disagreement. These projects are doomed to fail even before they have begun. There is no project without politics. If you have not spoken to your counterparts in your different business units, do it sooner rather than later. Still cannot get everyone on board? Take the time to do a stakeholder analysis to map influence versus motivation. As a vendor, I am not supposed to say this, but the change management plan to properly address your internal politics is more important than any tool.

Implementing an HRIS solution will force you to put your business processes down in writing. This will therefore highlight any lack of harmonization across your business units. Although most solutions can integrate a considerable amount of disparity, you may lose out on global visibility if you are comparing apples and oranges. It is crucial to identify the level of centralization that you want to achieve before you start. Reporting and global visibility requirements are two key elements that will help to define the appropriate level of centralization. Once again, it is better to start thinking about it before you start!

When your end-users suffer, so does HR

If you want to secure the wow effect, you need to design your processes with the end-user in mind. Most managers want to spend less time in a tool and more time doing their job. Even if your software is at the leading edge of technology and has the most user-friendly interface, your managers will never be happy about assessing a hundred competencies for each of their employees.

The success of your HR process and associated tool greatly depends on your managers’ involvement. Get their opinion before you deploy. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it count! I usually recommend involving at least one or two managers in an HRIS implementation project. They will serve as a sounding board during the project and become an ambassador throughout the deployment.

Remember, this is not the first time that your vendor has implemented their tool. They are familiar with the practices that foster user adoption based on their previous experiences. They will probably also know what to avoid, giving examples of heavy demands on managers that eventually inhibited the change management process. However, your vendor may not feel like they are in a position to influence your process. Do not be afraid to ask! Their knowledge on the subject could really make the difference.

Avoid biting off more than you can chew

Does your HR department have a good reputation within the company? Launching a new HRIS project is quite often the opportunity to revolutionize your HR department and its image. Motivated by this goal, you may be tempted to integrate all of your new software’s fancy features, expanding the functional scope as you go along. However, this is precisely when your project gets out of control! Faced with a delayed launch, you may end up letting down your end-users, doing more harm than good to HRs’ reputation.

To ensure that your project is successful, it is best to keep it simple. Less is more. There is no need to include everything right away and it is not because you can that you should. Once you have secured user buy-in with simple, easy-to-use features, you can start thinking about adding more. Building a quality relationship with your software provider will help you to deploy new features in keeping with the maturity of your end-users.

The best projects are those that are the fruit of a close collaboration between the vendor and your change management team. User adoption should be addressed before and throughout your project. You will want to write a storyline for your end-users, building as you go along. For example, identifying training needs during a performance review can later support the definition of individual training plans during the talent review process. Features should therefore be rolled out progressively as users get more comfortable with the tool.

Okay, you get it! Preparation is key for a successful HRIS SaaS project. In addition, being open to advice from your software vendor may be just as important. Successful projects begin with clearly defined objectives, processes, team structures, and communication plans. If you are unsure about whether or not you have done your homework, the vast majority of vendors are equipped with readiness assessment tools to help ascertain what might be missing. Just ask! Dare to step outside the traditional vendor-user dynamic because your vendor is just as eager as you are to ensure success!


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