24 March 2020

Planning to introduce new HR technology? Here’s how to get started

From determining your priorities to making the business case for investment, our tips will help you get your next HR technology project off the ground

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Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery is head of content and community at Ciphr. She was previously deputy editor at People Management magazine. You can find her on Twitter @c_newbery.

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Technology

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From determining your priorities to making the business case for investment, our tips will help you get your next HR technology project off the ground

Starting out on a project to choose new HR software can be daunting – especially if you haven’t implemented HR technology before, or had experience of leading a software project. But approach the project with the right mindset, and be sure to check off all the required steps, and you should end up with the right result for your organisation. 

Determine which problems you’re trying to solve

Any technology should only be implemented in the context of solving a problem; you shouldn’t be buying technology for the sake of it. While technology can solve many problems, it’s not a silver bullet – if you are trying to reduce absence levels, for example, having better reporting on your absence rates is really important, but it’s also vital that you have a robust absence management policies and procedures, and that your line managers have the skills to effectively implement these.

Make sure your potential investment will pay off by working out where your spend can have the biggest positive impact. HR technology’s impact can be measured in different ways: by increased efficiency gains, improving security, or providing a better view of data, for example. It is likely to have the most profound impact on the area/s that are giving you the most pain – if your recruitment function spends half their time filtering out irrelevant CVs, for example, then you probably need a more effective applicant tracking system (ATS) – or those which are most closely linked to your organisation’s strategic goals or regulatory requirements, such as GDPR compliance. Each individual organisation’s pain points and circumstances are unique, but the potential for technology to make a difference to how HR teams operate and add value is nearly limitless. 

Securing budget can be a hurdle

You might find it’s a struggle to secure budget and buy-in, especially if your organisation’s commonly-held view is that whatever digital HR tools you’re using at the moment are working ‘just fine’ (even if they are causing the HR team themselves headaches). Unless you can make a compelling reason to invest, and to invest right now, there’s a risk that the funds you’d like to spend on HR technology could be allocated elsewhere in the organisation. That’s why it’s vital to make a robust business case for change – outlining not only how the HR team will benefit, but the pay-off for the wider organisation, too. Any business case should include not only quantifiable measures – such as efficiency gains, for example – but also the more intangible benefits such as improved data accuracy as a result of linking your central HR system to your payroll software, for example, or setting up single sign-on (SSO) to your company’s IT systems, driven by the employee data held in your HR software, to boost network security. 

Understand the other challenges that’ll come your way

Implementation projects themselves also bring a whole host of challenges for HR professionals. Time is a major factor: if you’re replacing your central people management system, for example, that will require a lot of work – cleansing and collating relevant data, mapping existing processes to the new system (and tweaking and creating new workflows to take full advantage of the software’s functionality), and liaising with stakeholders and vendors are all important, time-consuming tasks that HR professionals often have to cope with on top of their ‘day job’. A lack of experience and confidence implementing HR software can also be a challenge: if you haven’t led or been part of a major IT change project before, there’s a lot to learn. Communication and ensuring uptake of the technology can also be difficult, both during implementation and after launch. 

Choosing new HR technology

Before reviewing the market, you’ll need to gain a thorough understanding of the systems and processes you have in place: a benchmarking exercise will help you to understand how the usage of your current system compares with your desired usage of that software, and how the system you have in place compares to technology that’s on the market. You might find that investing in some more staff training, or additional functionality – such as setting up a link between your HR system and payroll software – might solve the problem, and there’s no need for a total overhaul.

If you’ve decided that new software is required, you’ll need to review the market by meeting with vendors. Views from your peers in similar size and sector organisations can help, but remember that everyone uses technology in different ways – so what might be right for one organisation might not be right for you. It’s also worth engaging with your current vendor to understand if their product roadmap and planned development is likely to meet your needs within the required timeframe, or if they are willing to work with you to achieve your desired outcome. 

Watch now: 10 HR system selection mistakes – and how to avoid them 

Making an evidence-backed decision

If you’ve undertaken a thorough benchmarking process then you should have the evidence that you need to make a robust decision. You’ll need to define performance measures for your existing technology, if you have it in place, and assess how well it’s being used against these measures. If you’re comparing technologies on the market, you’ll need a checklist of essential and desirable functionality, and be prepared to ask vendors to model specific scenarios that are important to you. Be sure to involve stakeholders from across the organisation so you have an all-round perspective on the potential of a technology. You can also speak to existing users of the technology you’re considering implementing; they can help you gauge its effectiveness. By reviewing all these evidence sources together, you should be able to reach a decision, which is likely to be either to invest in your existing technology (either in additional functionality or user training), if you have it, or to purchase new technology.