HR Transformation: Pitfalls & Missteps

Human Resources’ shift to best-of-breed Cloud Computing and AI Technologies will only accelerate throughout the rest of this decade. Some companies choose mature Cloud-based HRIS and Payroll applications from their existing legacy ERP platforms, while most focus on best-of-breed HRIS platforms. This is mainly attributable to the following reasons:

  1. Increased efficiency via self-service and mobility
  2. Improved domestic and global compliance
  3. Fully integrated payroll and HRIS
  4. Increased worker productivity
  5. Insightful analytics and Artificial Intelligence
  6. Improved employee retention

Maturing Cloud software providers such as Workday, UKG, and Namely and legacy players such as ADP, Ceridian, SAP, and Oracle are now aggressively competing in this space. These new offerings provide companies improved talent management, streamlined workflows, simplified payroll, and comprehensive employee benefit management capabilities. They also allow organizations to manage the full lifecycle of employee information more effectively, including recruiting, onboarding, talent management, and terminations.

While the benefits of implementing cloud based HRIS solutions are substantial, many organizations are not successful in their implementation efforts. Over the past 20 years, HBSC’s consulting teams have implemented many of the most popular cloud based HRIS applications, and regardless of the vendor technology, we have identified a standard set of implementation pitfalls and missteps. Unfortunately, any one of the following deficiencies can derail an implementation or cause sub-optimal results.

1. Lack of Planning

Organizations are always anxious to go live. Critical steps are frequently skipped in the upfront planning and analysis phases due to a lack of stakeholder engagement. By ignoring these essential steps, organizations achieve an illusion of speed, but this is the leading cause of project failure. As with most core technology implementations, HRIS deployments impact large groups of stakeholders. These groups include Human Resources, Payroll, Accounting, Recruiting, Benefits, Employees, Managers, and Third-party vendors.

Organizations need to prioritize TeamsTools, and Tasks during the planning phase in that order. The need to establish an appropriately skilled and staffed team is the priority. After this has been completed, initiative leaders need to focus on a standard set of artifacts and project management best practices. At this point, the newly formed team is ready to apply subject matter expertise to incorporate specific financial goals into a project charter document and detail tasks and work-streams into a project plan. It is necessary to integrate sufficient subject matter expertise into the planning effort so that business requirements accurately reflect the process, compliance, and policy detail. During this planning phase, it is also necessary to consider the need to back-fill or front-fill existing staff to allow sufficient time and focus on the new HRIS design and configuration.

2. Lack of Requirements

Our teams have found that Clients often spend insufficient time and energy gathering and documenting existing business processes and system requirements. HRIS implementations are an excellent opportunity to redesign out-of-date or inefficient business processes. Frequently, assumptions are made that the new system will support specialized operations out-of-the-box. Similarly, project teams typically under-estimate the number and complexity of customizations and minimize the scope of third-party integrations and related parallel testing.

While gathering the full set of business requirements upfront can be allusive, compliance, legal and specialized LOB requirements are often overlooked. This frequently results in substantial governmental fines and penalties and ad hoc manual adjustments that are unpleasant surprises to the CFO’s budget.

3. Lack of Governance

Having an appropriate governance structure in place for intelligent and efficient decision-making is critical. This includes consistent Program Ownership as well as continuous stakeholder oversight. We find that having a single Business Owners (at most two) with a small, focused Steering Committee is the most effective governance structure. This structure is necessary but not sufficient for facilitating organizational change and often requires seasoned Change Management resources. (It is best to form a coalition of Change Agents to ensure adoption)

The lack of attention to Change Management, including process change, behavior change, and team buy-in, can be a severe derailer to the overall implementation. Many organizations that have tried to ignore people’s adoption issues are at the most significant risk. Companies frequently make simplifying assumptions without considering the organizational culture, downstream impacts, and potential workflow incompatibilities. Change Management is critical when implementing new Time and Labor systems as well as Performance Management programs.

The Business Owner(s) and Steering Committee members’ ability to set the proper tone for the implementation is critical. Having positive team dynamics (open communication and team member accountability) is very important to a successful implementation. This enables project teams to anticipate team resistance and forge forward even as they enter the proverbial Valley of Despair.

4. Deficiencies in Testing and Data Quality

Two of the critical aspects of any implementation are having sufficient data quality at data conversion while simultaneously conducting comprehensive functionality and integration testing. We recommend parallel testing and reconciliation at large organizations because business rule complexity and integration requirements often require multiple testing cycles. In these scenarios, the best practice is to plan for 2-3 different vendor test environments to minimize defects at system Go Live.

Having quality data at Go Live requires understanding the existing data dictionary and potentially undertaking a comprehensive data cleansing exercise before conversion. Having experienced resources that can provide customized reports on the new HRIS platform greatly assists in these data cleansing and functionality testing endeavors.

With all the potential pitfalls that exist during HRIS selection and implementation, it is necessary that organizations consider partnering with a strong implementation partner.   For more information on how HBSC Strategic Services can help ensure your HRIS implementation success, please email us at or visit our website at   


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