July 20, 2021 Implementation Support

Insider Tips for HCM Implementation Success from Jennifer Wise

Achieving successful HCM system implementation goes far beyond simply flipping a switch. That’s why pre- and post-implementation support is so crucial, and it is also why so many companies invest in skilled support from Wise Consulting to ensure optimal implementation and achievement of HCM goals.


Jennifer Wise, the freshly retired fearless founder of Wise Consulting, was recently featured on DailyPay’s “The Source” podcast on a unique episode called “The Implementers.” Along with host Michael Baer, Jennifer discusses the implementation gaps that inspired a need for a company like Wise Consulting 25 years ago. She also reveals the biggest red flags that lead to poor implementations, and how expert consultants can vastly improve the process and outcomes. Below is an overview of Jennifer’s most thought-provoking insider tips for any company interested in successfully implementing a new HCM system.


It’s Not Always the System’s Fault


Like Jennifer says: “Sometimes it’s not the system. It’s the implementation that’s the problem.” There are so many tasks and processes required during an implementation, and even the best software can’t perform to its full capability if those tasks and processes are poorly completed. Oftentimes, clients purchase a reputable software system and are surprised when it does not perform the way they had hoped it would, or even as it did during the initial demo. In most cases, this is the result of faulty implementation.


Implementation Red Flags


“It’s very true that the implementation is more critical than the software itself,” Jennifer says, alluding to the fact that poor organization surrounding HCM system activation can lead to expensive repairs down the road. Through her many years of experience discerning the common denominators among bad implementations, Jennifer has noted a few red flags that typically foreshadow a failed job.


Letting Down Your Guard After Vendor Selection 

According to Jennifer, many organizations let their momentum slow once they choose their vendor, because they think, “We just went through an extensive selection process to get the right fit—what could go wrong?” She says that one of the biggest red flags going into an implementation is “…when the client does not take the time to analyze their requirements against the capabilities of the software itself.”


Ultimately, making sure the vendor’s product works for you goes far beyond the fit-gap analysis. During that process, companies are making sure a prospective vendor software has the capabilities they require and can handle their various eligibility rules and compensation systems. But just because the vendor is initially a good fit doesn’t mean you stop there. “It’s so much more once you’re entering data,” says Jennifer. HCM systems are meant to be flexible, but your own company’s structure and setup is what makes your implementation unique. Setting the system up to support your specific requirements and deliver on your desired outcomes is far more complicated than most people realize.


Combining Implementation Responsibilities with Your Existing Day Job

Disorganized implementations are a nightmare for companies, but understanding at the start just how many of the tasks will fall squarely on the client to complete and how much time that will require can be hard to anticipate for the inexperienced team. The vendors are there to guide and provide information, but responsibility for the many tasks and decisions that move an implementation along belongs to the client-side internal team whether they are prepared to shoulder the workload or not.


HR and payroll teams have to be prepared to complete demanding implementation tasks on top of continuing to perform ongoing day-to-day job duties. It seems impossible to find more time in the day already, let alone make room for a full HCM overhaul without any extra support. Executives and employees alike can lose sleep brooding over what they might have missed and what could go wrong as a result.


Forcing Old Configurations & Data Into a New System (The Lift & Shift Pitfall)

Major frustration and disappointment can arise when there’s a rushed effort to implement with the assumption that data from the old system can simply be moved to the new one. Achieving optimal results is never this simple. It takes pre-planning and a clear understanding of desired outcomes to ensure that data is configured properly, tasks are completed the way they need to be, processes are streamlined, thorough testing identifies errors, problems from the old system are solved, goals are met and long-term return on investment is achieved.


A new system was purchased in part to save time through automation of manual processes and increase efficiency and accuracy. Often, not enough thought is put into assessing quality of data, how that data will be transferred and how the system will be utilized according to predetermined goals. In too many cases, the team in charge of the implementation forces data into the new system the same way it was structured in the old system. This limits the capabilities of the new system, which means the client isn’t going to get the return on their investment that they envisioned.


According to Jennifer, the biggest complaint of clients who experience bad implementations is that “…the organization’s structure didn’t fit the objectives of what they wanted post-implementation for reporting and a particular workflow.” Ultimately, if you aren’t allocating time up front to reevaluate your organization’s structure, “you’ve already started down a path that will probably cause you problems,” says Jennifer.


Avoiding Red Flags & Bypassing Pitfalls


Ensuring that implementation goes smoothly means prioritizing planning and communication from the beginning. Wise consultants add a lot of value in this department because of their experience and thorough knowledge of what the product can do. “It starts with building rapport and having trust with the client,” Jennifer says. Consultants understand unique client needs and can translate those to the HCM vendor team in a way they will understand, playing the role of client advocate to make sure the new system will support the complexity of the client’s business.


Client-side communication is just as important; HR and Payroll teams need to work together on the project, and everyone must be kept in the loop, because HCM solutions are “extremely visible across the organization, so it impacts absolutely every single employee,” Jennifer says. Consultants help clients understand how different aspects of system set-up will affect other departments, processes and systems within their organization to ensure better workflow and user satisfaction.


Dedication is also key, says Jennifer. There must be high engagement from the client and very knowledgeable people on the project team. That’s why clients with busy or inexperienced staff call on Wise to augment their implementation team with valuable skills, experience and expertise. Consultants can provide expert project management, fill gaps and share key knowledge so that implementation tasks run smoothly while day-to-day duties aren’t forgotten.


Even before “Go-Live” is achieved with the new system, Wise consultants can step in as interim payroll or benefits managers while the implementation project is still underway, since staff involved in the project are ultimately going to be the ones living with the system. “They’re headed toward a great result with that teamwork,” Jennifer says.


Curious to Learn More About Our Implementation Consulting Services?


You don’t want to be losing sleep the night before “Go Live.” Jennifer knew this when she began filling the implementation experience and knowledge gaps with skilled consultants 25 years ago. “When you have a consulting team that you’re working with, they are people who are really part of your total project. You can count on them, ask them to do anything,” she says, knowing firsthand how valuable Wise consultants are to client project success.


Don’t skip steps, miss deadlines, or cause unnecessary challenges for yourself during implementation. Start the process off with a professional by your side who has not only faced a first-time HCM system implementation but has since steered many clients to implementation success as a consultant. To speak with a dedicated HCM expert at Wise Consulting about all things implementation, give us a ring today: 800-654-4550 or reach out to HCMHelp@WiseConsulting.com.


Information in the article was sourced from “The Implementers” episode of The Source podcast by DailyPay. To watch the episode in full, click here.


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