Process Improvement Critical to Implementing an Online HR System

A SHRM conference speaker explains the best practices for implementing an online HR system.

By Aliah D. Wright Jun 20, 2016
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2016 Annual Conference & Exposition
2016 Annual Conference & Exposition
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Sometimes it’s not the technology that derails the implementation of an online HR system, it’s the process.

And “if you have an inefficient process, no matter what you do, it’s going to remain inefficient” unless you improve it, said Tom Sonde, principal at SilverRoad Solutions, a New Jersey-based management consulting firm specializing in business improvement.

Sonde led a concurrent session, “Best Practices for Implementing an Online HR System,” at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C., on June 20.

“The foundation of a successful system [implementation] includes process and best practices,” he said. “Today, the majority of new software is online and in the cloud. Now your IT department no longer implements or configures your software. Your software vendor does. You have fewer guardians watching what’s going on. HR has to be far more actively involved than ever before.”

That’s especially true because “more than 70 percent of organizations are not happy with their HR systems,” he said. Often, the issue is not the software itself but a flawed implementation.

Part of the problem, Sonde said, is that people fail to use best practices when launching a new system. “To leverage your new system, you must understand your end-to-end process,” he noted. “You want to understand what happens at the beginning and all the way through to the end.”

Do Your Homework

How do you obtain knowledge of best practices and system functionality?

Sonde suggested HR professionals read books, join professional organizations, talk to consultants and go to conferences to learn best practices. “Go to other companies that have implemented the software you’re about to implement. Do your research. Go to LinkedIn. Make a phone call,” he said. “Generally, people are very happy to share their experiences—especially what went wrong” during their implementation.

As for system functionality, “you don’t have to be a systems expert, but you need to understand what the system is capable of,” he said. You can find out by chatting with software providers, reading user manuals, visiting vendor websites, reading books and talking to consultants.

In discussions with vendors, “you can’t let the vendor railroad you,” he said. “If you think there’s something that’s important that needs to be [addressed], you need to be able to dig in your heels.”

Sonde told attendees that they don’t need to be technology experts or to “understand the nuts and bolts behind the screens. You simply need to understand what [the software] is and what it’s capable of—and you need to be able to speak intelligently with the vendor.”

Having an understanding of the end-to-end process increases automation opportunities, he said. For example, “wherever you see paper … eliminate it.”

Other tips:

  • Educate process owners to avoid making design decisions based on the current system.
  • Make design decisions with input from all process owners (those who will help implement the system depending on their function—payroll, benefits, etc.).
  • Ask process owners what they would like “in a perfect world.”
  • Enlist executive management or the software vendor to help employees network with others who have successfully implemented the new software.
  • Push back with the vendor when appropriate.
  • Designate a senior HR staff member to make final system set-up and process design decisions.
  • Avoid decision by committee.

If pushback occurs from employees who are wary of using the new system, Sonde said, HR professionals should keep in mind that some users may view the new system as a threat “to the way things have always been done.” They may also be afraid of the unknown, of being made obsolete by technology or, if they’re in charge, of “losing their ‘kingdom.’ Some people are afraid the new system may uncover some hidden issues or they may be afraid that changes may result in additional workload.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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