HR and IT Must Work Together When Buying New HR Technology

Buy-in from IT, employees and leaders critical for success

Aliah D. Wright By Aliah D. Wright March 29, 2017
HR and IT Must Work Together When Buying New HR Technology

​TORONTO—Change isn't always easy—especially when HR and IT are warring over which side should manage the change.

Many of those who manage HR information system upgrades say that not only must they get employees and leaders to adopt new or improved technologies, they must also get buy-in from IT.

It's an ongoing issue. So is convincing employees that new technologies will change the way they work—for the better.

"When you're moving to a decentralized system, you need to take the time to engage your users," whether they are in IT or the boardroom, said Michelle Stewart, manager of HR Systems for Bruce Power, a nuclear energy company based in Tiverton, Ontario, Canada, during a session at the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) conference here on the shores of Lake Ontario at the Westin Harbour Castle.

The conference began March 26.

Stewart was part of a panel made up of HR technology experts from Canada and the United States. It was led by Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics for Sierra-Cedar. She is in charge of Sierra-Cedar's Annual HR Systems Survey and Research division and is based in Raleigh, N.C. Also on the panel: Kimberley Snage, assistant HR director for operations at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and Dominique Jones, chief people officer for Halogen Software in Ontario.

"We've had a challenge with managers thinking they're doing HR work," Stewart said, referring to when the power company implemented software from Workday in July 2015 that required managers to perform new tasks they thought should have been done by HR. The trick, she said, is to "keep employees engaged and to help them understand we're giving them control—not giving them our work—so they don't wind up feeling frustrated. We really want to bolster them up."


[SHRM members-only toolkit: Staffing Technology Professionals]

Start with a Strategy

The key to any successful HR technology transformation begins with a strategy. Make a tactical road map that defines what projects you intend to pursue, the panelists said, and make certain those projects provide solutions to an organization's problems.

"The HR strategy has to be aligned with the overall IT strategy," Snage said. "If it doesn't align, you're going to run into problems."

Harris pointed out that while creating a strategy may sound like a good idea, finding time to develop one may seem inconceivable for those who have other duties.

"Finding the time to create a road map has to be a priority," Stewart said. "It does allow us the time to [be resourceful] and make sure we're not just reactive [to issues], but aligned with our people, our plans and goals," she said. "It helps us think ahead so we're not in a corner [when a problem arises]." And hard as it was to make a plan a priority, and to sell leaders on its value, it was eventually "well-received," she said.
Without a strategy, Snage said, "you'll get stuck in the weeds; you're dealing with operational issues and conflicting interests all the time. If [stakeholders] see a succinct road map of where you're trying to go, it helps."

Partner with IT

Just as HR doesn't handle an organization's IT infrastructure, IT often doesn't understand how some HR systems work and shouldn't have to adopt new HR platforms alone, said attendee Joe Almodovar, senior director of global business systems for Chicago-based global management consultancy A.T. Kearney Inc.

IT professionals "typically do not have the working HR knowledge to effectively and efficiently configure HR applications," Almodovar told SHRM Online during an interview at the conference. "For example, configuring a compensation module requires knowledge of salary ranges, comp-ratio, etc."  As another example, "implementing benefits requires the ability to distinguish between a defined benefit versus a defined contribution plan, both foreign concepts to the IT group."

HR professionals need to be involved in selecting new software, but are often not included in the process by IT professionals, attendees in the room told the panelists. But experts said HR should be mindful that IT still has to ensure the new software works with old systems.

"When we look at new systems, we get distracted by what's new and shiny," Jones added. "And we forget our organizations may not have the resources to accommodate integrating something new."

IT can help assess what the "true needs are" she said, adding that Halogen customers will often buy everything the company offers in its high-end package and then realize years later that there are elements of the system they never used. The panelists suggested that organizations buy only those technologies they absolutely need.

"The business process has to drive the technology. Not the other way around," Snage said.


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