Understanding what HR technology will (and won’t) solve
Next Thursday at HR Tech, I’ll be part of a panel, “Getting the Most Value from the Vendor Demo: The Experts Tell You How.” In preparing for the discussion, I realized that often, I see customers assume that if they replace their technology they will see results. Unfortunately, it’s rarely that simple—there is so much more work that needs to happen to ensure any technology system delivers real value to the business.
Why technology implementations fail
There are many reasons why tech investments don’t deliver the results buyers anticipate—and often, they start with a lack of planning and preparation. Here are some of the oversights I see frequently:
- Customers often miss the chance to fix flawed data. If you put flawed data into enterprise software you will get flawed results—no matter how good the technology is.
- Companies have been looking at integrated systems for years. However, if they fail to integrate their internal business processes, not just the data and technology, it puts the greater success of the application at risk.
- Few use a change in the technology environment as an impetus to evaluate how the company is doing things or rate the effectiveness of the current systems. Internal politics and resistance to change often translate into a missed opportunity for significant process improvement.
Ways to increase the odds of success
My colleagues and I have identified some commonalities across our most successful customers. The Learning and Talent Maturity Framework calls out many of these in greater detail, with guidelines organizations can follow to increase their effectiveness at delivering learning and talent programs that help the business achieve its larger strategic goals.
In order for a technology implementation to succeed, you need to define success—both for the organization as a whole and for the different stakeholders involved in the project. Ideally, this should take place before vendor evaluations begin. While the conversation needs to address immediate needs, it’s important for the team to maintain focus on the big picture as well. Ultimately the view has to be holistic—but at the same time, be wary of trying to boil the ocean.
For example, teams often assume that because they want all things from the same vendor (ideally) that they should evaluate all modules at once. That’s not always the best approach, and can delay progress:
- If you aren’t going to implement multiple modules at once, prioritize your evaluation on the most critical modules, keeping the others in mind but making the immediate need the focus for your evaluation team. Otherwise they will absolutely get confused on what success looks like in phase one.
- Use each phase of the project to refresh and re-assess what’s working (and what isn’t). Be brave enough to change what isn’t, even if it means some short-term organizational pain.
Questions to guide the process
1. What is the ROI I want to achieve in full?
2. How am I going to get to that ROI?
a. What are the phases?
b. What departments should be involved?
c. What are our own internal process/data gaps?
d. What are our software/technology gaps?
3. How am I going to work with my vendor to assess what to change (and when) to make this implementation successful? Am I willing to make changes in our systems and processes? Do I have the power to make change? If not, who does that can help me?
4. How can I make this new and different for my employees? How often do we need to evolve the software after implementation? Too often we see clients leave the software intact, almost untouched, for years after go live. Keep it new! Keep it interesting. Whether you add content, promote new initiatives through dashboards or find some other way to evolve, make sure you commit to regular updates.
No software vendor can help you successfully automate by patching flawed data and processes together. The implementation has to include a mutual agreement on the project objectives, involving check points on each side of the table and ongoing evaluations after go live to make sure that each group is hitting its targets. It’s also important to ensure that the organization isn’t reverting to old bad habits—which is easy to do, but can sabotage your project.
In order to fully assess effectiveness, you need a vendor with comprehensive functionality in all key modules included in your project (learning, talent, compensation, WFM, onboarding, recruiting) that can provide analytics across all of those elements so you have a holistic view while still giving each business owner insight into the health of their business unit. This process doesn’t end at implementation: it needs to be revisited at least quarterly.
If your organization has already identified the must-haves and success criteria for an HR technology upgrade, make sure you learn how to get the most out of a vendor demo—get details on the HR Tech session and add it to your event agenda.