An actionable roadmap to implementing software for HR teams in mid-sized organisations



Read time
13 mins


For many HR teams, the implementation process is the scariest and most mysterious part of upgrading HR systems. No more. Here’s a deep dive into what implementing software for HR involves, and a checklist of what’s needed from you at each stage

You’ve decided you’ve outgrown your HR system (or spreadsheets…), honed your requirements, built your business case, rallied internal support, asked all the right questions, and finally settled on HR software that ticks all the boxes. Now what? 

It’s time for your HR system implementation. Implementation can feel like a black box, especially if you haven’t been involved in a project like this before. (In fact, implementation worries are one of the five biggest objections to investing into HR software in the first place.)

Let’s illuminate the process, by sharing our own nine-stage approach along with step-by-step checklists for every stage. Regardless of the provider you choose, this will help you understand what implementation looks like.

(If you’re still researching suppliers, read our guide to the most common selection mistakes.)

Four concerns about implementing software for HR

Before we dive into how to implement HR systems, let’s review the four biggest concerns organisations typically have here:

  1. Finding the time and resource to dedicate to implementation
  2. Learning to use the new HR system
  3. Cleansing and importing data
  4. Not getting enough support from the vendor

These aren’t unfounded concerns. Implementation is a big job, whichever provider you choose and can take anywhere from three to nine months (or more) depending on your organisation’s size and the complexity of your requirements.

But implementation can be much easier than you’re probably imagining, provided you follow a clear structure and are realistic about what needs to happen from your side. 

That’s where this article comes in.

If you’d rather digest this info in webinar format, check out Ciphr’s head of implementation services, plus one of our account development managers, talking about choosing and implementing a new HR system.

How to implement HR systems, step-by-step

Here’s what a typical HR system implementation project will involve.

1. Pre-kick-off welcome meeting

At Ciphr, the first stage of implementation is an informal welcome meeting so everyone involved in the project can meet, and we can address any early questions.

From our side, the team will include a dedicated project manager and an HR implementation consultant, plus domain specialists depending on the scope of your project. 

Our HR implementation team are all HR professionals with a wealth of HR expertise across all sectors, so you’ll be in good hands.


  • Assign your internal project team

From your side, implementation probably involves the same team members who have helped select your HRMS software, although that’s not always the case. It’s often also helpful to assign an internal project manager to act as a central point of contact.

  • Collate questions about the implementation process

While researching software for HR, you’ve likely involved stakeholders across the business, like procurement, IT, and finance. These stakeholders don’t disappear as soon as you secure sign-off. They still have a vested interest and will often want to be kept in the loop.

Gathering questions and input from them upfront can help maintain engagement and increase the likelihood your project will be seen as a success internally. 

2. Official kick-off

The second stage of implementing software for HR is the official kick-off, led by your Ciphr project manager. Here’s where we formally scope the project for your specific requirements and agree the best approach to get your new software up and running.

Our nine-step process is a guardrail to help standardise the implementation process, but the details of how your new Ciphr HR software is set up will depend on your organisation’s unique preferences and requirements.


  • Work with stakeholders to agree your priorities

Perhaps your team are desperate to get started with HR recruitment software and employee onboarding software because you’ve got a large seasonal influx of hires coming up, for example. Now is the best time to raise that priority, so, once the central HR software is up and running, we can prioritise hiring-related functionality.

  • Map your available resource

Implementation typically requires two-to-three full-time equivalent (FTE) days each week, certainly for the first eight to 10 weeks. 

Think about when your organisation and your team can best afford this time. You probably don’t want to begin implementation when your HR lead is just about to take three weeks off, for instance, or in the lead-up to the start of a new academic or financial year.

  • Identify expert and secure their commitment

Alongside the primary HR resource, you might also need to work with subject matter experts (SMEs) to implement different modules, such as someone from payroll to guide payroll implementation.

You’ve probably already been working with specialists to inform the vendor selection process. Maintain these relationships (or build them, if you haven’t) throughout implementation, to create excitement and accountability. This makes for easier and faster roll-out later.

You’ll also want to make sure you have full visibility of their availability – nobody wants implementation to grind to a halt when you realise the talent acquisition team are snowed under with graduate recruitment during May, for instance.

3. Setting up your customer hub

The third stage of implementation sees us creating a customer hub, to keep a centralised record of everything that’s important for implementation. That means documents like:

  • Your project plan
  • Project status reports
  • Risk, Action, Issue, Decision (RAID) logs
  • Consultancy reports 

Everyone involved with the implementation will have full access to this hub.


  • Complete Ciphr System Foundations training 

You’ll never be on your own during implementation. Our learning portal, Ciphr Academy, has learning journeys designed to complement each stage of the implementation process and beyond, to business-as-usual.

During this stage, your internal implementation team should complete our System Foundation training. This will arm you with the skills to move through the next stages of implementation confidently.

What is Ciphr Academy?

Ciphr Academy is a learning hub with more than 400 activities to support you through implementation and beyond. This includes:

  • Interactive eLearning courses
  • Scenario-based learning with system simulations 
  • Bitesize video content demonstrating functionality 
  • Comprehensive written guides
  • Bitesize classes with an experienced product trainer

4. System specification and collating data

Here’s where we outline exactly what your new software for HR needs to look like. For example: 

  • How many HR users will use the system?
  • How many managers and employees does your organisation have?
  • What’s your internal hierarchy and access permissions? 
  • Who will your superusers be? 
  • Which other HR systems are we pulling data from?
  • What integrations do you need?

This stage is about building a comprehensive map of how your HR team, works now and mapping those requirements onto your new HRIS system.


  • Complete Ciphr Building Your System training

This learning module provides further guidance to your internal implementation team on getting your system set-up. The training will take you through everything you need to know to collate your data and help us develop specs. 

  • Collate your people data 

This often holds a lot of fear for many HR professionals, and it is a big job (whatever system you choose). But it’s much easier if you’re structured, focused, and leave yourself plenty of time.

This task can be especially complicated if your data is currently spread across lots of disparate systems and spreadsheets. Take heart, though, because if that’s you, you also have an enormous amount to gain by creating a single integrated system. (And, in any case, our training will guide you through the process).

  • Approve specification documentation 

We’ll work together to build out the specification for your new software, but we won’t start configuring until you’ve approved it. 

Check, check, and triple-check here: this is the blueprint for your new HR system. It’s harder and more time-consuming to retrospectively tweak or add configuration later on.

5. Importing data and implementing base configuration

Here’s where your new HR software starts to take shape. We’ll configure the system to the blueprint we outlined and then import your data – which you will have provided to us in the required format and, hopefully, cleansed before import.

At this stage, we focus on your base configuration so your HR team can start using the system to administer your HR data. We take this phased approach so you start seeing the benefits of new software for HR as fast as possible. Future stages of implementation happen concurrently.

For most organisations, reaching this point takes around eight to 10 weeks. Customers often tell us this is the most exciting stage of implementation because you’ll go live with your new software for the first time.


  • Enrol your HR team for systems training 

Your system is set up and ready to go. Now you need your HR team to familiarise themselves with the new software. You’ll have been completing training activities on the Ciphr Academy in preparation for launch, but be sure to check out its library of written and video content, too. If you want to learn more about specific functionality, book onto one of our live bitesize classes with an experienced product trainer. 

  • Track any issues 

From now on your HR team will be operating (almost) business-as-usual, although ongoing implementation is still happening. As you start to settle into new ways of working, keep note of any issues or questions that emerge to raise with your project manager. 

6. Additional configuration

This stage looks different for every organisation, because it depends on the software package you’ve bought and your implementation priorities. 

Typically we roll-out employee and manager self-service immediately, then our HR analytics module. Payroll and payslips usually follow, then other functionality in the priority order we established during kick-off.

For example, this could include:


  • Work closely with relevant SMEs

Additional roll-out is typically easier and faster if you work with subject matter experts. Here’s where it will pay dividends to have involved broad stakeholders upfront.

  • Continue learning through the Ciphr Academy 

As you roll-out new functionality, your HR administrator users should be logging into the Ciphr Academy regularly to complete relevant learning activities, build their skills and confidence in using the new software. 

  • Establish a communication plan

A robust communication plan is crucial to engage employees with your new software. There’s a definite change management piece here, because you’re asking employees to change habituated processes. 

You might also encounter some cynicism from employees who have experienced top-down mandated software change before and found it a chore. It’s critical to overcome these attitudes with proactive, positive communication that emphasises the end benefit to employees. This isn’t just software for HR – it’s software for everyone. 

  • Consider pilot testing with small employee groups

Depending on the size of your organisation and internal attitudes to change, you might find it useful to pilot your new software with a smaller employee group before an organisation-wide rollout. 

This approach would help you dedicate resources to iron out any creases, ensure a smooth launch, and secure employee champions before going live across the organisation. 

7. Approval 

Here’s where your project manager will start planning your transition towards business-as-usual. This stage typically involves some back and forth as we address any issues or questions that have cropped up during roll-out. When you’re totally happy and confident, we’ll hand over your new software for HR to take ownership.


  • Gather consensus  

To help this stage go as smoothly as possible, it’s helpful to collate feedback across your various stakeholders and domain specialists, so we can address at the same time. 

It’s important that everyone involved in the broader project – IT, finance, procurement, recruitment, and so on – feels they’ve been heard and their needs are accommodated. 

8. Handover to business-as-usual

This is where you officially transition to business-as-usual, with a project closure meeting to round-up the project and wish you good luck. (Although it’s certainly not goodbye, as you’ll be passed over to our wonderful customer care team.) 


  • Choose a quiet day to launch the system 

Officially launching your new software for HR beyond HR and into your wider workforce is the pinnacle of your efforts. Give yourself the best chances of success by scheduling go-live for a quiet day, so you have your employees’ full attention and can give them yours too. 

  • Celebrate – you’ve earned it

Take a deep breath out and relax; your project has finally come to fruition after months of work researching vendors, making requirements lists, coordinating stakeholders, and overseeing implementation.

Over the coming weeks you’ll start to see the full benefits but take a moment now to congratulate yourself and your team. 

9. Ongoing account management and aftercare

This final stage isn’t the final stage so much as the first stage of hopefully many successful years using your new HR software. Your dedicated customer success manager and the customer care team will be on-hand to continue helping you get the most from your Ciphr platform.


  • Monitor activity level

Keeping your people engaged with your new software is critical to long-term success, so in these first few months it’s worth keeping a particularly close eye on things and ensuring everyone is on track. Monitor activity levels, and proactively contact managers and teams that might not be engaging with specific areas of functionality (such as performance reviews and appraisals).

  • Celebrate your successes

New HR software is a significant investment. What makes that investment worthwhile is the results you achieve, the savings you realise, and the great employee feedback you’ll get. Ciphr’s analytics functions should help you monitor your progress against the goals you set out at the start of the project, and demonstrate a return on investment (ROI) over the medium and long term. 

Share successes regularly, to close the loop on your project, build positive perceptions, and boost HR’s credibility. Now’s where you get to celebrate all the big wins everyone’s achieving.


If you’re currently researching HR software vendors, we’d love to chat. Download our brochure to learn what Ciphr brings to the table, or book a demo to see our HR system in action.