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Implementing HR Systems with Good Project Management

Project Management often gets a bad rap.  It’s not fun and sexy.  It’s an unexciting discipline that was perfected by engineers and techies.  But it’s the rigor and detail orientation that can save many an implementation.  You ignore project management at your own peril.  Without project management, you can cross your fingers and pray for good results, but project management is a better way to assure success. 

Project Management is a carefully planned and organized effort to accomplish a specific one-time effort.  A “project” can be defined as a “series of tasks and activities that have a stated goal and objectives, a schedule with defined start and end dates, and a budget that sets limits on the project’s dedicated use of resources (SHRM Learning System, Strategic Management, 2008).”  With the nature of HR work often being unstructured and people driven, there may not be many large, complex projects that HR people get an opportunity to participate in or lead.  An HR system implementation is one of those.

This blog is not the place to address the many features of project management, but here are a few tips to consider that anyone can follow when embarking on an HR system implementation:

1) Choose a vendor and personnel you can develop a long term partnership with.   They should fit your personal work style and company’s culture.

2) It is ideal if a software provider has a dedicated implementation manager who specializes in client new software implementations.  You should ask for one.

3) Limit the scope of your implementation to what you and your organization can successfully handle.  Be practical.  The broader the scope, the greater the complexity, the higher the risk of misstep or failure.

4) Create very detailed implementation plan outlining each step, who is responsible and due dates.  Add steps as identified throughout implementation.  Don’t be afraid to add details.  Better safe than sorry.

5) Schedule weekly implementation update meeting to review progress on the project plan.  30 minutes is appropriate.  If you take longer, you are maybe getting into too much detail and should handle it outside the update meeting.  If you only have 10 minutes of content, then end the meeting early (woohoo!).   Continue to meet until all steps are complete.

6) Expect some start-up issues and “kinks”.  Be prepared to act fast to correct issues.  A systems project does not end when you “go-live”.  You need to be very attentive to early issues that pop up.  You can’t anticipate and test everything so this is going to happen.  A good project result often relies on how well you triage these expected kinks.

7) Finally, manage the expectations of your employees, supervisors and managers.  The new system will not be perfect.  There will be some kinks to work out.   Not everything can be anticipated.  Clearly communicate where to immediately report issues when experienced.   Ask for their support and patience in the early weeks and months.