Botching the implementation of your cloud-based benefits software is tantamount to making a bad hire.
Just as you would not intentionally hire an employee that you do not need or whom you expect to fail, nor should you buy a software-as-a-service HR solution if you are going to use it improperly—if at all.
Though a bad hire can be costly in terms of lost productivity and recruitment expenses, a poorly implemented online workforce management solution could be even more disastrous given the significant conversion costs that mount when projects run over budget and behind schedule.
The return on your investment in your human capital management software could dissipate further if you fail to attain your targeted savings and/or efficiencies because implementation and integration challenges impede adoption and utilization. In a survey of more than 650 senior executives in 16 countries in late 2012, 33 percent reported implementation costs exceeded expectations and 31 percent stated that integrating existing IT architecture with new cloud services created challenges, according to a report by KPMG International.
Implementing a cloud-based benefits platform does not need to be difficult or costly. Here are eight steps for successfully implementing software-as-a-service for human resource management.
- Learn before you buy. Understanding what you’re buying before you purchase and implement it is key. You could purchase a cloud-based benefits software solution for a particular functionality only to learn midway through implementation that it does not do what you had hoped. Switching to another solution then may be cost-prohibitive though, given the time and money you already have invested. Avoid sunk costs by thoroughly researching the software before buying and implementing.
- Involve the right people in the purchase. Companies tend to involve the wrong people at the wrong times. Often, for example, a chief financial officer or controller will buy software without consulting with a human resource professional who actually knows how the organization’s benefits program works. But the better your buyer knows how your benefits programs work, the better they can find the SaaS solution that suits your organization’s needs. Put someone who is intimately familiar with your benefits programs in charge for they will be best equipped to choose and leverage the technology that will help you achieve your organization’s goals.
- Find a champion. The project will likely fail if your CFO does unilaterally choose and purchase the software then charge someone with overseeing implementation. An internal project manager may not be able to muster the broad support that they need to successfully implement your new benefits management software if they are not enthusiastic about it themselves. However, if you have motivated them by seeking their opinion from the outset and demonstrating your trust in their judgment then they will take ownership of the project because they will view it as a byproduct of their own efforts and success. The more your project manager buys into the software, the more capable they will be of convincing users of its benefits. They will also be more likely to ask the tough questions, set the proper expectations and demonstrate the responsibility needed to attain your organization’s goals for the project.
- Prioritize deadlines. Your internal project manager must take deadlines seriously, not view them as arbitrary. If you fail to set and adhere to realistic deadlines, you set your organization up to fail. Do not delay. Devote the time you need to meet deadlines and get everyone involved to sign off, so that they too understand the effort required to meet the agreed upon date.
- Take testing seriously. Testing ensures that your cloud-based benefits software solution performs properly. Overlooking flaws now causes errors later. For example, if you do not properly set the rules that determine an employee’s eligibility for benefits based on variables like length of service or age then your calculations for related costs will be wrong—meaning that employees who should be eligible for a benefit are deemed ineligible or vice versa. Do you really want to pay extra for insurance premiums or other expenses that you would not otherwise be liable for if the calculations were correct? Solicit feedback from the members of your implementation team and have them approve functionality before you go-live with your system. Ruining employees’ experience at go-live with errors that could have been prevented in testing will sour them on the software, thereby decreasing your eventual ROI by impairing its adoption.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand what the software does, or how it is supposed to work, ask the vendor’s representatives or the SaaS consultants, who are commonly called “system integrators” or “implementation partners,” that you may have hired. If, for example, you want to know how they are calculating an employee’s deduction for the purpose of an age-banded voluntary life plan then ask. They may not be using the right rules and would rather address your concerns now than risk errors at go-live.
- Maintain accuracy. Even if your rules are right and you configure your software correctly, incorrect data provided to the vendor will still produce bad results. Check formatting as well. The software may reject data if it is not properly formatted. You do not want to waste time or generate errors. Making the time during implementation to ensure that your data is accurate will reduce costly errors down the road.
- Sway your users. Similarly, you may not get the desired outcome because you did not sell the software to its intended audience—your employees. For example, if you want to eliminate paper by having employees enroll in programs online but have not convinced them of the ease of switching or educated them on how to do so then you will still have the time and costs associated with paper enrollments. Thus, you essentially will have bought something that is not being used.
If you are not willing to participate in implementing your cloud-based benefits solution, then you might as well keep your existing software or continue to use paper, if that is now your primary means of administering your benefits. You will most certainly fail if you consistently skip weekly status calls and blow off deadlines. Whether it’s having the wrong people, inadequate resources or poor planning, any one shortcoming in your participation will jeopardize the whole implementation. Treat your implementation like a hiring decision. You are more likely to achieve the optimal outcome when you proceed cautiously.
About the Authors
Jennifer is an Implementation Configuration Analyst with Providence Technology Solutions. She has 15 years of experience in the Payroll, Human Resource and Benefit industries, with the large majority of those years focusing on SaaS implementations and support.
Robin is the EDI/Payroll Configuration analyst at Providence Technology Solutions. She has extensive business experience managing and developing client relationships on multi-million dollar software implementation projects. She has more than 11 years of experience working with corporations on new developments and enhancements of their business software systems. During her work experience she has gained enormous knowledge in gathering requirements and integrating them into sophisticated IT platforms.
About Providence Technology Solutions
An affiliate of The HCI Group, a global leader in healthcare IT that provides cost-effective solutions for healthcare IT implementations and ongoing support, Providence Technology Solutions evolved to develop strategic partnerships outside of healthcare.
Providence Technology Solutions provides staff augmentation and contract resources for customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and human capital management (HCM) implementations and training.
A cross-industry presence allows clients in numerous industries to benefit from best practices applied through the consulting and implementation services offered by Providence Technology Solutions, which it has honed through extensive experience providing high-quality IT solutions. For more information on Providence Technology Solutions, go to www.providencetechnologysolutions.com, or call 904-512-6451. Providence Technology Solutions is based in Jacksonville, FL. Lee Shipman, of Charleston, SC is the Director of Business Development. Lee works out of the Charleston, SC office in Mount Pleasant, SC. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 904-512-6448.