photo headshot of Dwane Lay, HR Examiner Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Dwane Lay, HR Examiner Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

In my role at Dovetail Software and my previous lives, I’ve run more than my share of implementation projects. I’ve been on large HRIS implementations that cost millions of dollars; I’ve worked small projects that only touched a handful of people; and, I’ve had lots that were somewhere in between.

Having lived through them (and mostly avoided the PTSD that comes free with purchase), I’ve found patterns of choices and behaviors that invariably predict the success of the project, for better or worse. So with those years and miles behind me, I’ve developed my Ten Commandments of Software Implementation. (There were fifteen to start, but I dropped one of the stone tablets. I’m sure I’m not the first.)

While all ten are equally important, some of them are more equal than others. To get you started on the road to adoption/redemption/perdition, I’m going to share with you the one I think it the most equal of them all. This is the number one item on the list, and will make or break your project regardless of size, scope or budget.

Content is king.

I worked on a project a few years ago that involved taking three HRIS platforms in a multi-billion dollar company and putting them all together, smoothing out the edges, adding self service tools, and standardizing processes globally for the HR team. It was a huge amount of work, and the team was made up of some brilliant people. From day one, though, we all knew that the biggest problem would be data cleanup. The project sponsors knew it too, but they made the decision to kick that can down the road a bit in favor of maximizing our phase one returns. So we soldiered on, building the platform on which the company would run.

A funny thing happened when we launched. Suddenly we couldn’t run accurate or reliable reports on any part of the organization higher than a regional manager. There had been enough organizational movement that all of the previous business units had been recalibrated, and the data sets from the three existing systems were now living in one place. Because the data sets were different, you couldn’t pull a report that meant anything if there were elements of two or more of the legacy organizations involved. By putting off the data cleanup, we created a logjam of information that would take another year to resolve. The system we put in was great. The data inside it was a mess.

I know of several smaller organizations that run their entire company with a homegrown Access or Domino database. Smart people who knew what they were after built systems with software that was already in place. They are meticulous about their data, and the systems give them exactly what they need. There hasn’t been a temptation to spend money on “formal” HRIS platform because they don’t need one. The features they would gain mean little compared to the value of having full control over what is in there already.

It’s not just about the data, either. Half of my career has been spent on the process side, trying to figure how data is created or captured, and for what purpose. Several of the conversations go like this…

“Do you have your processes documented in any way?”

“Well, we have a policy manual.”

“That’s a great start. Now how do you execute on those policies? What’s your process for handling a time off request, for example?”

“We don’t have a process for that.”

Unless employees are able to take vacation through a means other than random chance, there’s a process. Very often it isn’t written down, and it may not be consistent or rational, but it is there. And figuring out the critical path is the first step towards knowing what information should be stored in any system you are implementing. It will also help you identify what information you don’t need, which is almost as important.

Always remember, the system is merely a platform to tell you what you told it first. Clean, meaningful content is what makes a system work. Features to manipulate or leverage that content are great, but they are only as good as the data itself. Content leads to adoption, and adoption is the surest sign of a successful implementation.

Of course, there are other elements of a great implementation. But, without clean data as a priority, the implementation is liable to be seen as a failure.

Read previous post:
photo of table from SMD report on article by John Sumser published April 6, 2016
Impact of Engagement on Business Results

"Across a large subset of our clients who have administered employee surveys in the past 18 months, engagement was a...