Understanding and managing specific cloud-based HRIS requirements and constraints
For teams that have managed cloud-based HRIS projects, the following questions stand among the ones they wished they had allowed more time to answer in a satisfactory way: questions about HR practices maturity, system vs existing process gaps, differences between system implementation speed and process evolution pace, people and organization readiness and strategic alignment.
The simple truth is that implementing a cloud-based HRIS system amounts to bringing a new or at least updated HR & Talent management philosophy to the organization: the one that is implemented in the system, and whose flexibility is limited.
That is why, when launching such projects, teams should take a step back to conveniently understand this management philosophy and then proceed with the transformation that is required to adapt the organization and ready it for the new philosophy, practices and ways of working.
The HR & Talent management philosophy of an HR system is based on three fundamental structural elements:
Conversely, ensuring that the organization is ready to adopt and adapt to these new processes, roles and partner relationship requires driving, at least, the following transformations (and ideally, way before the technical implementation project begins):
Ensuring the HRIS does not hinder organizational transformation
Today, it is very likely that the key challenge for any HR organization is to be able to leverage the HRIS implementation to deliver on another larger corporate transformation, and this, even during its implementation phase. It is unlikely that the organization can "wait" on HR to have transformed itself to request additional expertise and value add.
This situation increases the need for a very strong preparatory work, so that the HR teams have a deep expertise and mastery of the cloud-based HRIS. Thus prepared, when implementation or operation phases begin, the HR team should then be able to adapt the system, manage it, tweak it, use it to deliver on the objective of the corporate transformation.
The more difficult phase is the implementation phase. As demands for agility and organizational evolution will bring repeated requests for evolution in the HRIS project, the project team will need to know what its fundamental pillars are (pillars rarely move) and which are its flexible elements, so that it can play with them to adapt them to these requests.
There are at least three elements that can help the HRIS team deal with requests while ensuring excellence in deployment and operation of the HRIS: differentiating between process and content; bringing the HR admin team to a strategic level; enabling a collaborative governance.
1 - First, and concerning HR practices, it is useful to conveniently separate HR process from content. The HRIS provides process (succession of workflows), role-assistance and content (for instance, competency libraries). A first element of flexibility is available if the team ensures that the content is built based on the vision and needs of the business (for instance, how does increased agility translates in terms of new talents, skills, competencies, training needs, professional paths, …). Accordingly, it can ensure ownership of its processes and allow flexibility on the content.
Surprisingly, this is not always so, as HR teams focus on the content they have developed (competency libraries, training materials, …) and consider process compliance as nice to have. Focusing on building a flawless process, while giving operations "ownership" of the content is the best approach to ensure the implementation phase adapts to business request while delivering excellence in HR operations.
2 - Second, and concerning the HRIS support team, it is useful to train this team not as a classic “system admin” team but as a more strategic transformation team that uses the HRIS system to its limits and can make trade-offs between keeping with the system requirements and participating to the corporate transformation.
This is often difficult as organizations have ingrained practices on IT support and are sometimes little eager to mix process with IT support. IT constraints are also often seen as more relevant (sometimes because they come with clear costs) than organizational ones.
3 - And last, it is important that the HRIS is not the sole responsibility of HR. A cloud-based HRIS should be owned collectively by operations, HR and IT (and sometimes Communications). There should be collective and joint responsibility which requires that both HR and IT not only understand each other constraints, but move to a higher level of collaboration. this should actually be an opportunity for HR to increase in technological skills and for IT to increase its expertise in talent management.
In making sure than this system is used to foster and accelerate transformation, it is important to have the buy-in of IT and Communication officers, whose objectives and interests will certainly differ from those of HR. Bringing a higher-level officer into the governance and clarifying the objective of Workday deployment from a strategic point of view should be the starting point of that governance body.
As a conclusion, while new HR technologies occupy the marketing space, cloud-based systems will continue to be critical to improve HR operational excellence, until a new generation of such systems is available. To succeed, HR teams need to greatly increase the preparation work, ensure they organize collaboration with the business during the implementation phase and share ownership and responsibility of the system.