What we have learnt over 25 years
Opinions differ where digitalisation projects are concerned. Some regard them as an inevitable step towards increasing efficiency and safeguarding the future, whilst others have concerns regarding complexity, costs and possible resistance within the organisation. After 10,000 successful projects, we would like to take stock in our anniversary year and talk about the most common obstacles and our most important learnings. In his role as project manager and success factors consultant, Andreas Loser has been managing digitalisation projects for more than 10 years. In this blog he talks about the six most important points that, in his opinion, should be considered before an impending project.
HR Campus's consultants have digitalised numerous HR departments and HR processes – more than 10,000 successful projects speak for themselves. Of course, these also included projects that didn't run smoothly and during which a few hurdles, some of them significant, had to be overcome. Even if the reasons for the difficulties encountered are many, they can be grouped as follows:
Many software suppliers or implementation partners offer best practice processes and configurations that let customers implement a new HR system quickly and cheaply. It goes without saying that these best practices always have to be compared against the customer's current processes in a fit-gap analysis and should be adapted to the system as applicable. I recommend that you don't consider this as going through the motions. It will only be effective if there is a desire for standardisation. Ultimately, best practices do not emerge in a vacuum, but are the result of, or an empirical value derived from, countless HR digitalisation projects. With every deviation from the standard, it is necessary to ask oneself: is the desired deviation really necessary?
The introduction of a new HR system is always an opportunity to review the existing system, even if the project philosophy is not to redefine everything. Unfortunately, the opportunity to address inefficient processes and eliminate inherited problems is often missed. The path of least resistance is chosen and the new system simply reflects the old. If the opportunity is seized and inherited problems addressed, it is possible to achieve major gains with the project.
Be aware – many systems consume personnel databases and you administer the main source! Allow sufficient time and resources to connect the new HR system to its peripheral systems. Depending on the system, this can quickly become a complex and, consequently, an expensive business. Unfortunately, this part of the project is repeatedly underestimated. Evaluate an interface carefully and estimate the cost and effort in good time.
The introduction of a new HR system is a time-consuming and resource-heavy project. Unfortunately, it is often the case that employees in the specialist departments rarely get time off from their day-to-day business in favour of the project. Sometimes even multiple projects have to be managed in parallel because the whole functional model has to be revised in order to introduce the new system, for example. Handling multiple projects runs the risk of people on the project burning out. It is not uncommon for the people with the know-how to resign during or shortly after the project, which is detrimental to embedding the new system and new processes in the business.
Many people don't like change. The implementation of a new HR system, often in combination with changed processes, can cause uncertainty. It is not uncommon either for the same tasks to take longer than before immediately after go-live, as a certain familiarisation period is required. Understandably, it is therefore not easy to immediately recognise a new system's added value. It then becomes difficult for the innovations to be accepted if this mood persists and it leads to a continuous dissatisfaction with the new system. Systematic and circumspect change management is therefore a critical factor in the success of embedding the innovations in the business long-term.
At some point your new system will go live, and at some time the hypercare phase (intensive aftercare by the implementation partner) will end. Define the future operating model in good time. Who will be a key user of the new system? Who should employees contact, and how, with questions and problems? Who decides on innovations and releases? What will the current implementation partner's role be? These are all important questions that you must address early, and they are frequently forgotten or treated too inadequately.
View a digitalisation project as an opportunity to eliminate old problems and to standardise as much as possible. Don't, however, underestimate the project's complexity, and do think about giving your colleagues the necessary freedom to be able to cope with the project. Support them and the company through the associated change process. There will then be nothing to stand in the way of a successful digitalisation project.
For over 10 years, Andreas Loser has been digitising HR processes with SAP SuccessFactors for a wide range of customers. He has been able to do this in various roles with different customers, from SMEs to large international companies.
Published: 30. November 2023