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Micah Fairchild HR Software Selection Teams: The Right People in the Right Roles

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 By Micah Fairchild

HR Application Selection Begins With Choosing the Right Review Team

There’s no denying that a successful HR software selection process is a team effort, and failing to gather the right members for that process can be disastrous. In fact, as research behemoth Gartner attests, failing to get the people factor right is one of the leading reasons why technology implementations have such an abysmal failure rate. Furthermore, as IDC analysts have cited on numerous occasions, it’s only by involving a broad cross-section of roles that varied stakeholder issues and concerns have any hope of being satisfied.

The news isn’t all bad though, and more than just an on-time and on-budget HR software implementation can be had if the right team is put together from the beginning. Indeed, benefits such as organization-wide buy-in, employee engagement, and achievement of a sizeable return-on-investment (ROI) can all be met by simply having the right people in the right place at the right time. That said the process by which such benefits are realized requires certain key roles and functions to be filled; along with careful consideration of who might be best to fill them.

HR Software Selection Team Role #1: Steering Committee

While certainly more applicable to organizations with large employee populations or strong governance cultures, one of the most important tasks to complete is setting up the steering committee (or whatever else it may be named: project board, ‘inner circle’, etc.); because at a macro level, this group’s function is to make key project decisions. Comprised of senior executives, human resources management and subject matter experts (SMEs), and IT representatives, this committee provides direction on the alignment a given HR application has with a wide-range of business goals, budget, strategy, and ROI forecasts—ultimately being the body of people that will decide HR software solution should be purchased.

HR Software Selection Key Role #2: C-level Sponsor

As Personnel Today magazine (in a series of articles on e-HR transformation) suggests, “The biggest single contributor to success is securing the unwavering commitment of the senior change sponsors… [And]…we strongly recommend getting this in place early as a priority”. In large part this is the case because having a member of the C-suite championing the HR software initiative will not only greatly aid the project’s visibility, but can also have a positive impact on securing necessary funding and offering an image of corporate credibility—factors that send a clear statement throughout the organization that this project matters. Additionally, the C-level sponsor acts as a representative on the steering committee of the top level of organizational leadership.

HR Software Selection Key Role #3: Function Representatives

Beyond the steering committee there should be a layer of representatives from the organization’s different divisions and/or departments (e.g. sales, marketing, distribution, warehouse, etc.) depending on the company’s size. These individuals serve as key project contacts, helping to gather and disseminate information to the wider workforce. While these roles need not be formally defined, it is critical that they exist in order to feed specific concerns and business needs into the HR application selection decision-making process.

HR Software Selection Key Role #4: Project Manager

Requiring a strong set of communication and project management skills, the project manager is the hands-on leader of the HR software selection process; and in most instances the subsequent implementation of the chosen application. As such, this role should have direct accountability to the above mentioned steering committee—taking responsibility and care for all day-to-day project issues such as scope, time, budget, and quality.

Filling the HR Software Selection Team’s Roles

Of course, once the critical roles for the HR software selection process have been identified, the next task is to decide who externally or internally would be best to fill them. As a starting point for an HR application selection initiative, consider who your internal stakeholder groups are—ensuring that all major groups have avenues for involvement. For example:

  • Accounting & HR: in-house HR personnel will feel the most fundamental impact on their working lives given the fact that a newer HR software system not only frees them from manual or rote administrative tasks but also places greater expectations on them. Still, further interests may also stem from the responsibilities for accurate record-keeping, statutory compliance, as well as the training needs of other employees in the use of the new software.
  • IT: depending on the deployment options being considered (e.g. on-premises or SaaS), IT stakeholders may raise a host of concerns about various technical advisory issues; including hardware/software conflicts, data security, and access;
  • Procurement: while a smaller group in the grand scheme of an HR software selection project, these interests are no less important and will likely harken back to the purchasing process and be primarily concerned with procedural and budgetary factors.
  • Employees & Managers: these two groups will be primarily focused in on individual, transactional interests such as access, but managers will likely have an added layer of reporting capability concerns (i.e. reward, performance, budget management, etc.).

Using External Talent

Still, while stakeholder interests may well be covered, sometimes the internal talent for project management is simply not enough; either because in-house personnel do not have sufficient experience with software selection projects or there isn’t enough time to dedicate to an initiative of this magnitude. If that happens to be the case, one option that is available for tackling the issues of functional complexity and integration is to engage the services of a HR software consultant—a resource that can offer guidance on everything from requirements definition to data migration to full-scale project management. While the finer details of HR software consultant selection are covered in some of our other articles, the basic, core requirements that these external personnel should possess are:

  1. A thorough understanding of the HR software market; in terms of both technology and terminology.
  2. Experience with the HR software selection process; especially considering that the purpose of using a consultant is to leverage the know-how of someone who has been through the selection process dozens of times.
  3. A broad HR automation skillset; including systems, project, and people skills.
  4. Credibility and objectivity with stakeholders.

Selecting the HR Software Selection Team—Final Thoughts

Admittedly, an HR software selection project team that has the right membership mix and leadership may not guarantee success. However, its absence will almost invariably guarantee failure. Yes, this due diligence of sorts may be time-consuming, but assembling a well-balanced and representative team to drive the selection (and implementation) stages of bringing in a new HR solution will pay dividends down the road. And considering the benefits of increased employee and managerial buy-in; improved usage rates; and the strengthening of the likelihood for early ROI, I’d say that that’s time well spent. End

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Author  Author: Micah Fairchild
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Benefits such as organization-wide buy-in, employee engagement, and achievement of a sizeable return-on-investment (ROI) can all be met by simply having the right people in the right place at the right time.


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