How to Prevent HRIS Implementation Challenges [The Big 3]

Weighed against the benefits of a new HRIS, implementation challenges are insignificant bumps at the start of a great new journey. But if you’re not ready for implementation, things can slow to a halt, creating a less-than-ideal impression of your brand-new HRIS system.

Challenges with HRIS implementation can prolong what could have been a fast and easy process or prevent your organization from realizing some benefits of your shiny new HR software. Uncertainty about implementation—whether it’s needed, whether it’s worth the price—can even stall the purchase of an otherwise perfect system.

So, let’s dig into this mysterious box and find out what’s inside. We’ll discuss what implementation is and the three main challenges of HRIS implementation: time, data, and buy-in. Then, we’ll provide a quick checklist to help you sail through implementation as quickly and smoothly as possible, so you can get up and running in your new system.

What Is HRIS Implementation?

HRIS implementation is a service that helps an organization make the transition from its current HR management system to a new system. Implementation is typically provided by the company providing the new HR software, and the service is usually optional, although there are HR software providers who require implementation for business or technical reasons.

For most customers, the bulk of implementation involves two things:

  1. Migrating existing employee and company data into the new system
  2. Training and familiarization with the system

While that seems relatively simple on the face of it—it’s only two steps, after all—HRIS implementation can be challenging if you’re not prepared for it. The three main challenges that we mentioned above—time, data, and buy-in—are what stand in the way of a smooth and effective implementation.

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Challenge #1: Time

When speaking with our own team, time was the most frequently mentioned HRIS implementation challenge they thought customers needed to understand and address. Simply put, implementation takes more time than most clients think because they don’t include the time they will need before, during, and after the implementation process for various critical tasks. Even with the best support from the software company, you will need to make time for the following six stages of a successful implementation:

Internal meetings to discuss what stakeholders require from the new HRIS

Just as you sought input from stakeholders to inform your HRIS purchase (at least we hope you did) you’re going to have to sit down with these same departments to hammer out the details of any customization they need in the new system.

Coordinating with third-party service providers

Whether your new HRIS system is an all-in-one that handles every aspect of your administrative processes or a standalone data manager, you’ll need to make time to coordinate with internal stakeholders and any outside parties involved in payroll, benefits, time tracking, pulse surveys, learning systems, or any other service that syncs to your new system.

Data gathering, editing, and formatting for migration into the new system

This is probably the biggest time hog in the implementation process. As you’ll see below, there’s a lot more data scattered in a lot more places than you might think, and it all needs to be collected, organized, and checked for accuracy—on your own time.

Phone calls with implementation advisors

You’re probably aware that implementation will involve actually speaking with your implementation expert (or experts). Remember: you’re important, but you’re likely not the only client on your implementation team’s schedule. Make sure not to miss, push off, or cut calls short, unless you want the entire implementation process to go way past the expected timeframe. Missing one call could mean a day or more of downtime.

“Homework,” or self-training assignments

This was cited by our experts as the number-one most ignored aspect of implementation, and yet it’s one of the most critical. Once your implementation is complete, you’re the expert; no matter how awesome your HRIS customer service staff is, you can’t call them every time people in your organization come to you with a question. Self-training has a big impact on buy-in as well, so it’s important to make time for it.

Training stakeholders and employees to use the new system

This isn’t technically part of implementation, but it’s something you need to account for just the same. It’ll take time before everyone in your department is up to speed with your new HRIS, and then more time before your organization is fully on board. So, if you expect to be able to get right back to work immediately after implementation, think again.

Challenge #2: Data

The next HRIS implementation challenge you have to tackle is data. Data migration might appear to be as simple as exporting files from your current software and uploading them into the new software—and in rare cases, it is—but it often includes gathering disparate data, checking it for accuracy, eliminating duplicates, and reformatting multiple file types so the new system is able to read them. For customers just getting out of traditional paper file management, implementation could even mean entering data by hand, one employee at a time.

HRIS implementation can involve every type of employee and organization data imaginable, from names, headshots, and job titles to tax, payroll, and benefits information. If your new HRIS is capable of managing it and your company has it on file, implementation is when you’ll find a place for it in your new system—which means you need to have it all ready to go, or at least as ready as possible.

Coordinating with internal stakeholders to see what types of information they expect to be able to store in the new system, where that information is, and what you need to do with it in order to upload it can take weeks or months. If a company is going to hire an in-house implementation consultant, this is generally the reason why; it’s a whole job in itself.

Your implementation expert is probably the best resource you have for tackling the data issue in the most efficient, thorough, and effective way. They’ll be able to tell you in advance what data you need to gather, how it needs to be formatted for the HRIS, and best of all, how your new system can use that data strategically.

“One of the biggest advantages [of implementation] is how it helps customers realize the full potential of their new HRIS. They may not even know they can keep track of things like uniforms or equipment, or how to run reports on the data they’ve been collecting for years and use those to predict how next year will go. BambooHR is easy to use, for sure—but we can customize their experience so people say ‘wow!’ right from the beginning. That’s a huge win for HR.”

-Becky Bhagat, BambooHR Implementation Manager

Data integration from third-party services creates another HRIS implementation challenge. If your outside services are compatible, there’s still the matter of syncing the two systems together, which may mean multiple calls to your payroll or benefits providers. But if they aren’t—and it definitely happens, even when you consider compatibility during the buying process—you’ll be dead in the water if you don’t have a new, compatible provider lined up or all your data exported and formatted.

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Often, it’s what you don’t want to keep—duplicate entries, conflicting information, and erroneous data—that makes data the biggest HRIS implementation challenge. No matter how expert, implementation consultants don’t know your data like you do. They are trained to spot red flags and obvious inconsistencies, but they rely on you to ensure the information going in is accurate and up-to-date.

Challenge #3: Buy-In

Buy-in is one of the hardest HRIS implementation challenges to resolve, simply because it hinges on the emotions of outsiders. There are three big buy-in concerns during the transition to a new HRIS system: at the time of purchase, during the implementation process, and at the roll-out stage. Here are three ways you can address these buy-in challenges.

The initial purchase

At this stage, HR may need to convince financial stakeholders of the need for a new system, not to mention whether implementation is worth the additional cost. Thorough research is the solution, and it starts with consulting internal stakeholders. Reviews and buyer’s guides are excellent tools, but only if you understand the needs and wants of each department in your organization. Consulting internally ensures your choice has the support of those outside the purchase process and makes buy-in easy during training and roll-out.

The price of implementation

As for implementation itself, larger organizations will likely understand the wisdom of hiring an expert guide to climb the mountain of data, and since HRIS software pricing is often calculated on a per-employee basis, the cost of implementation will seem less dramatic.

For smaller firms, however, implementation can seem extravagant until you consider that many small businesses also have small HR departments that wear multiple hats; asking them to implement new HR software without help could have an outsized effect on the function of the entire organization, and an implementation service also is a better guarantee of getting the highest return from their HRIS investment.

The implementation process

All throughout the transition, stakeholders will be observing how HR performs and judging the new system from outside the process. It’s tough enough to tackle data migration and software training without someone looking over your shoulder, so the best thing you can do is create a plan and stick to the schedule. You’re well aware of the data challenge involved in switching to a new HRIS, which means you can budget enough time and people to address it. You’re aware that implementation can aid in customizing your system to meet stakeholders’ needs, so your plan can include input, feedback, and training sessions specific to their respective data.

The roll-out

When the rest of the organization starts interacting with the new system, that’s when buy-in becomes critical. This challenge is where HRIS implementation shines. You can select a system that’s perfect for your organization and deliver it on time to the minute, but if you don’t know how to teach others to use it and how to highlight the benefits it delivers, none of your hard work to that point will have been worthwhile.

Implementation is your opportunity to learn from experts who know your HRIS and its capabilities inside and out. They can help you showcase features that save your company time and money, customize your data tracking and reporting for instant strategic insights, and ensure that the big change you’re making in your organization is viewed as a change for the better.