HR IT project musings.

I spoke with an organization the other day, they are re-implementing a core HR administrative system, because the implementation they did several years ago hasn’t had the take up from the HR department users. This puzzled me a bit. How come HR users can decide whether to use the corporate system or not?  Administrative Finance people don’t come into the office and say, “Today I’m not going to use the general ledger to process these journal entries, I’m going to use this access database that my cousin Mike built last weekend, because it has a much nicer UI and it has some cool fields I want.”

My regular readers will know that I’m doing lots of research into the impact of social software and user driven applications in an HR context, but there are some core applications and processes that need to be non-negotiable. Senior HR management need to put the discipline and governance in place to drive standard system usage. It doesn’t happen by magic.

It may well be that the earlier implementation of the standard HR system didn’t meet user needs, and the decision to re-implement makes sense. They have an experienced partner this time around, who has a pre-configured solution that has a good industry fit. The standard software’s latest release is improved.  They will use a proper formal project methodology. All goodness.

But I heard a couple of things in the discussion about the re-implementation that worried me in particular.

1. HR are too busy to dedicate resource to the project.

  If the user community for the application can’t dedicate resource, then don’t do the project.

2. The key user can only spend one day a week on the project.

One day a week on a project means you have a spectator at best.  Take the key people and put them full time on the project. Make their careers, bonuses and corporate happiness dependent on the success of the project. You need committed, not involved.

3. The key user is really technical. He can build the most amazing stuff in Access and Excel. It is great that you can find someone in HR that is interested in technology, but if he/she is the one who has built their empire in excel, you have some significant work to do to make them the champion of a standard application.

It sounds so obvious, but if this the system that will be supporting day to day HR activities for the next decade or two, then HR need to get their best and most motivated people on the project. Otherwise, IT should be spending their time elsewhere.