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Steps to take before implementing a cloud-based HCM system

You can make your move to a cloud-based human capital management system easier with the right vision, plan, technology and partner. Here's what you need to know.

Having a cloud-based human capital management (HCM) system is very appealing; moving to the cloud offers the opportunity for transformation, simplification and efficiencies that provide a wealth of value. But before you make the move, you need to evaluate your current human resources (HR) processes and applications and envision how they might need to look in the future.

Ask yourself: What is your vision for HR? How should your organization's HR technology landscape look in the future? When you have a clearly defined vision for how you want to run HR in your organization, it is much easier to plan how to achieve that vision. Although technology plays a major role in operational excellence, having a defined HR strategy sets the foundation for understanding how to implement that strategy and how technology can support it.

Determine what processes and applications are causing headaches

Before moving your HCM system to the cloud, understand what processes or applications are causing headaches. What keeps you and your HR team up at night? What processes are bogged down with cumbersome, manual, paper-based requests? What technology is proving to be inefficient or is unable to meet the needs of users? By understanding the problems HR administrators, managers and other employees involved in HR-led business processes face, you can begin to build a roadmap to overcome these challenges and move toward the HR vision you have for a top-notch organization.

Some organizations might have a problem with recruiting and retention, while others might have a problem identifying and managing potential leaders. Other problems could include the usability of the software, how complex or burdensome the performance management process is, or mobility. Some organizations want to move away from legacy HR technology and move to something modern and more usable and that has enhanced functionality.

Build a list of the problems and rank them by priority. That will help identify critical problems that have to be fixed first and problems that could be addressed later.

Build a roadmap based on your HR vision

Once you know your HR vision and understand your challenges, build a roadmap for achieving your vision. Typically, a roadmap can be for any period from two to five years or beyond. Building a roadmap by process area or technology area over a period of time helps determine the plan of action to resolve the challenges you face. For example, if your major challenges center on recruiting and onboarding employees, then these are obvious areas to focus on first. A roadmap should line up which processes you will tackle and in which order you will focus on each of them.

Deciding to get some quick "wins" early on in the initiative will influence how you start your roadmap. Solving two or three small but frustrating business problems at the beginning of the initiative is a great way to drive value to the organization early on. This also helps the change management process; employees who are involved in these processes begin to experience positive changes early into the initiative's lifecycle.

Once you've done your due diligence and have selected a vendor, it's time to do it again -- but this time for an HCM system implementation partner.

Technology's role in implementing a cloud-based HCM system will influence greatly how your roadmap develops. Is it best to get the foundation in first and go for a core HR system? If I decide to implement a recruiting solution, should I also implement an onboarding solution to enhance the overall recruiting experience for my recruiters and my managers? If I want to put in a new career development plan system for employees, should I also implement a learning management system that can integrate with the career development plan? How will all of this fit in with my goals management process and therefore influence my performance management process?

Integration can play an important role in building out the roadmap. Understanding how the pieces fit together helps in understanding where value can be added. Having a recruiting system that doesn't integrate with your onboarding or core HR software can be a major challenge. On the other end of the scale, the task of having to build a few complex integrations that will last only for a short period of time (e.g., six or nine months) might influence the order of migrating processes or applications to the cloud.

Execute on your roadmap

Once you have prepared a roadmap, execute on that roadmap. Probably at some point during the aforementioned processes you may have looked at some software. If you have not, or at this point haven't decided on a vendor, then now is the time to evaluate vendors based on your needs and your roadmap. Different vendors have different benefits. Loosely coupled applications might make the transition smoother, or if you prefer a "big bang" approach then some vendors may have more strength than others.

Once you've done your due diligence and have selected a vendor, it's time to do it again -- but this time for an HCM system implementation partner. Finding the right implementation partner is similar to finding the right HR technology: You need to find someone who can solve your problems, who you can work with, and who has experience working with other customers. An episode of Firing Line with Bill Kutik can help you understand some of the tips and tricks needed when you look for partners.

Change management is a large part of any enterprise software implementation, and making changes to HR processes and technology requires a solid change management plan to back it up. Developing your change management strategy before you commence on your initiative and then realigning it with your initiative on an ongoing basis will greatly improve acceptance of your new processes and systems.

Once all the pieces are in place it is time to deliver on that strategy. Implementing new processes and technology is never easy, but with the right vision, strategy, plan, technology and partner you can make it a more than worthwhile exercise for improving your business.

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This was last published in November 2015

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