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Dave Foxall 5 Reasons Manager Self-Service (MSS) Software Initiatives Fail

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 By Dave Foxall

5 Keys to Manager Self-Service Software Success

"Managers and employees must embrace a new sense of ownership in the HR process and be willing to fully leverage technology, rather than a paper-based, face-to-face process," so said the US Office of Personnel Management back in 2007. As a key factor in business success, few of us would deny the continuing truth of that statement today. In fact, the 2011-2012 HR Service Delivery and Technology Research report from Towers Watson found that HR technology spending is holding steady or on the rise for most organizations. One such reason for this is that companies are increasingly turning to strategic HR software functions such as Manager Self-Service (MSS) modules to give their managers more direct and autonomous access to Human Resource services and processes. Indeed, that same Towers Watson research found that 79% of US companies surveyed already had Manager Self-Service (MSS) software in place, rising to 94% when those planning on implementing MSS during 2012 were included.

The reason Manager Self Service software is so popular is the suite of potential benefits it dangles in front of executives. It presents the managerial workforce with streamlined paperless processes, highly customizable to corporate needs, with the additional benefits of clear audit trails and flexible reporting facilities. Add to this the carrot of greatly reduced HR costs and most senior decision-makers begin to find self service software solutions attractive. However, Manager Self Service initiatives are like any other business "change" and according to a McKinsey & Co.'s report, The Convenient Truth about Change, 70% of all "changes" in all organizations fail. Management Self Service software initiatives are no different in that fact and though success is certainly possible, it cannot be taken for granted; and a number of specific pitfalls must be negotiated in order for that success to happen.

Manager Self Service Software Failure # 1: Employee Engagement

If HR software is already in use, it may be tempting to simply add on the Manager Self-Service (MSS) module with minimal fanfare and neglect to consider the importance of maintaining employee engagement with your managers. However, the impact of self service on managerial practice and culture is significant. Managers will often need persuading of the benefits of what can seen as "Do-It-Yourself HR" and resent being asked to do what they might consider to be "extra work". Given the inevitable changes that will occur to existing business and HR processes, new unfamiliarity can be created which could ultimately leave managers feeling deskilled overnight. As such, much like any change program, an MSS initiative requires a compelling vision of the future and clear communication to create a genuine appetite for the changes to come.

MSS Software Failure # 2: Wider Strategic Alignment

Management self service software in isolation is destined to wither on the HR vine; it must be linked to the broader HR service delivery strategy and corporate direction. For example, if an aim is workforce expansion then link this goal to the MSS module's onboarding processes. Creating clear strategic connections is important not only for employee and management buy-in but also to identify tangible success factors that can be used to measure the real success of the implementation.

MSS Software Failure # 3: User Confidence

Many people do not trust faceless IT. Despite the increasing ubiquity of self-service options in everyday life (Amazon, anyone?) many people retain a fundamental distrust of the faceless transaction. Clicking 'Send' and then receiving a confirmation email or pop-up does not create the same feeling of confidence as hearing a human colleague say "I'll do that right away". In fact, a 2010 Shared Service Institute survey found that email and the telephone are still the most popular delivery channels for HR services. The groundwork for managerial confidence must be created top-down and in advance.

MSS Software Failure # 4: Under-Utilization

Most self service software packages contain valuable features which are never used or activated; typically the case with a quick (and lazy) implementation that simply uses the HR software to replace existing activity, leaving the extra features never fully leveraged. In fact, a whole sub-industry has grown up around Manager Self Service software expertise, featuring in job postings, LinkedIn profiles, and blog posts. If there's no expansion of service, there's no point.

MSS Software Failure # 5: Calls to HR Remain Steady

This is a surface sign of failure which may actually be an indicator of success. The assumption that introducing manager self service software reduces managers' need to contact HR is often erroneous. Easier access to HR services can expose a hidden demand that previously went unmet as managers viewed traditional routes of engagement with HR as "too much trouble". However, a greater level of managerial involvement in HR matters may in reality be one of the greatest successes of an MSS initiative.

Bottom-line for MSS Software Success

Manager Self Service applications can offer great strategic business benefits but to realize those benefits, a company needs to be very clear on its business case (at all levels) and the magnitude of the change cannot be underestimated. As Joel Barker said, "Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world." Or at least, significantly change your business. End

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A 2010 Shared Service Institute survey found that email and the telephone are still the most popular delivery channels for HR services."


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