5 Steps to Managing an HRIS Implementation

By Aliah D. Wright Jul 29, 2016
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HR departments' human resource information systems (HRIS) are antiquated, disparate and redundant, according to Mercer's just-released 2016 Global Human Resources Information Services study. So how do HR professionals choose and implement newer and better systems to do the work of the digital age?

Mercer research found that HR practitioners need technology that can help them work through these emerging trends: coaching and training managers in employee development, effectively using workforce analytics, branding and employee engagement, rewriting policies to address the issues of employees both globally and locally, and meeting the changing expectations of Baby Boomers and Millennials in the workplace.

HRIS professionals have moved away from focusing on compliance and inflexible technology, said Katherine Jones, Ph.D., a leader in Mercer's North American Talent Business division, speaking during a webinar to reveal the study's findings. "At the turn of the century, the focus was on talent management, which led to a frenzy of best-of-breed" systems, Jones said. "Things have changed."

Now, "we have disparate systems, redundancies, too many stand-alone applications; we have data all over the place, and we can't do reporting," Jones said.

"We've over-customized and we have fragmented employee data in decentralized data stores.

But where to start?"

First, organizations must recognize that "the view of HR has changed from the how-do-I manage-the-HR-department [view] to this very people-centric view, and it's clouded by the fact that that view is global."

Getting New Technology Online

Jones listed five steps companies can take when considering a new HRIS system:

  1. Review human capital management processes. Ask yourself, "Should we do them differently?" she said. Then ask:
  2. What strategic initiative might we simultaneously seek to pursue with a new HRIS deployment?
  3. What technology functions are required to support the processes within those initiatives?
  4. How will the combination of new processes and new technology affect my organization?
  5. What will be the impact on my workforce?

Organizations need to start small when selecting software.

"Sometimes you don't need the Maserati of an HRIS system," she said, referring to the luxury car. "Sometimes you need a good solid pickup."

Mercer recently polled 500 HR professionals in 19 countries, including many professionals who work for global multinationals and local domestic companies, for its recently released survey.

"The majority of new HRIS implementations are in the cloud," Jones said.

Among other findings, companies said the top five reasons for replacing an HRIS were:

  • To have a single system of record for HR data (66 percent of respondents).
  • To ensure reliable, consistent reporting for compliance and legal obligations (55 percent).
  • To standardize HR data across multiple geographies and/or business units (54 percent).
  • In order to move away from legacy systems that were not meeting the organization's need (49 percent).

"Usually the lifespan of an HRIS system is 7-10 years," she added.

The study also found that a new HRIS drives new initiatives.

About 49 percent of those surveyed said a new system helped them implement or expand an HR service center, 45 percent said they implemented or expanded an HR business partner model, and 39 percent said they implemented or expanded an HR center of expertise.

Jones said companies should have a clear vision for HRIS implementations that are concisely articulated, identify stakeholders and address their concerns, have realistic timelines, and create clear processes for performing them.

But definitely "plan for headaches," she said. Make sure there are dedicated resources to assist the implementation and get professional assistance if necessary.

"If you get everybody on the same page it will be much easier," she said. "Manage the change; change is not supposed to be serendipitous."


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