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Making the move from paper to online successfully

Using an online system for key tasks such as appraisals does undoubtedly offer visibility of performance across an organisation, improve management decision making and reduce the burden of administration on a HR department. However the transition to new software or a move to online HR must be managed carefully to avoid the disappointment of past IT projects. Fortunately there are strategies for making the move from paper to online HR, or from old legacy systems to new software that do increase your chances of success quite dramatically.

Based on past experience these are some of the strategies that Arc Software would recommend HR departments consider:

You need buy-in from key people to succeed

Whilst this is, of course, recommended for all IT projects it becomes even more important when deploying a HR tool because these projects impact the whole organisation. The typical IT project normally addresses the needs or solves a problem for one part of an organisation, whereas HR systems affect everybody at all levels. HR systems are often accessed by different departments, with different expectations and varying issues.

If you want to increase your chances of success then get senior people to sponsor the project so that they can direct other parts of the organisation to become involved. More importantly get them to demonstrate their support practically by using the software themselves and reinforce this by ensuring that your own HR team does too. Not only will you spot issues that might annoy other users and demonstrate that you are taking your own medicine, but when senior leaders use a tool then it naturally becomes the way that the organisation does business and uptake increases.

Remember if your processes do not work now, then moving them online is unlikely to cure them.

Spread the Benefits

IT projects are also more successful and popular when they provide outputs that help other departments succeed in meeting their objectives rather than just being a mandatory process with no mutual benefit. Popular routes to success are to eliminate time consuming paperwork or to make management information available to line managers so that they can become more productive and spend less time on internal processes. All too often HR systems are ‘strategic’ and they concentrate the benefits on senior management. The telltale sign of a HR project that is ailing is when usage of a tool needs to be driven by compulsion and cajoling rather than being inspired by results.

Avoid HR Being Transactional

HR can all too often become transactional. Conversation is dominated by throughput (of reviews, hiring etc), deadlines and chasing compliance, which means that content and objectives produced by HR are never really examined in depth. The cycle then starts again the following year.

Software can of course reduce administration and drudgery, but it can also become just another means of grinding through transactions where content is rarely examined or acted on. In fact software can really aide the avoidance of actually reading content because it gives the illusion of meaning when smart dashboards and changing statistics are displayed live, and online.

Avoid being lured into feature focus (or obsession) and think about what results and what outcomes you want. The software should just be one component in your plan for how to get there.

Understand what the future could be before you start

There is a well documented connection between project management expertise and success, and therefore many skilled purchasers of IT software or consultancy rightly emphasise the hiring of the right team with relevant expertise and proven track record. Well thought through tenders are issued and a great deal of care is placed on the analysis and selection of the eventual supplier. However despite this careful due diligence all too often there is still the curious outcome of a little disappointment in the final result as the software appears not to be quite as good as anticipated.

The three most common, but overlooked influences that can negatively affect your success level are:

1)Those deciding the requirements and directing the suppliers are experts in how things are now

2)IT suppliers respond to the requirements you give them, and often do so uncritically because you are the customer

3)The IT and software becomes the main focus of the project and the emphasis is on functionality and features. This is particularly common when the project is led by the internal IT department

HR departments moving from paper or elderly IT systems to modern online ones naturally draw on the expertise of those staff experienced in either using or managing the current processes. The flaw is that the new online system with all its possibilities and capabilities can become more and more disabled as the project progresses because these stakeholders gradually, and unconsciously convert it into an online replica of what they already know.

To get the most out of a new system make sure you have someone on board who knows what the future could be, who knows what outside organisations are achieving with the same technologies, and someone who can explain the new possibilities when design decisions are being made. Invest time learning about the new software or viewing other implementations before you start making design decisions so that you know what positive features and limitations it has.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you have to use all those features or go for a complete revolution and abandon how you do things now. The idea is to avoid sabotaging your future productivity because your decisions were based only on today’s processes or today’s knowledge.

Plan for the Days Following the Big Launch

If your project plan stops the day after the software is launched then you are missing a critical enabler of success. Users need not just training in using the new tools, but encouragement that the software is good and that it will solve problems for both them and the organisation. They need to know when to use the tool, why they should use it, and how to do tasks specific to them.

No-one likes to read instruction manuals or telephone help desks and memories of the formal training sessions fade fast so increase positive opinions by appointing staff champions to help their colleagues. Training and helping colleagues creates advocates far more successfully that announcement emails and corporate plans.

Allow time for the software to bed in and plan in a means of collecting and collating feedback from the field along with the resources to resolve issues. Users who see projects responding to issues that they raised are a lot happier.

Find out more about how to successfully implement a HR software project...
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