Mastering HRIS Implementation: 3 Essential Steps for a Seamless Transition
So, you’ve purchased a shiny new HRIS. What now? With every new software purchase comes software implementation. Any implementation comes with a unique set of challenges. But weighed against the benefits of a new HRIS, implementation challenges are insignificant bumps at the start of a great new journey.
As with most things in life, preparing for HRIS implementation in advance can set you up for a smooth ride in the early days of your new HRIS and beyond. Alternatively, 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 new HR software.
At BambooHR, we've helped more than 30,000 companies adopt our award-winning HR software. Read on to discover what we've learned during 15 years of guiding companies through HRIS implementation.
We’ll discuss what implementation is and the three main things to prep for: 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 transition from its current HR management system to the new system. Typically, your HR software provider will offer implementation. This service is usually optional, although there are HR software providers who require implementation for business or technical reasons.
For most customers, implementation involves two things:
- Migrating existing employee and company data into the new system
- Training employees and helping them become familiar with the new system
While that seems relatively simple on the surface—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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Saving Time: How Long Does HRIS Implementation Take?
Time is the HRIS implementation challenge our customers mention most frequently. Simply put, implementation takes more time than most clients expect. It's easy to underestimate the time you'll need before, during, and after the implementation process for various critical tasks. Expect to devote anywhere from 4 to 14 weeks to HRIS implementation. At BambooHR, our standard implementation process takes 6 weeks..
Even with the best support, you will need to make time for the following six stages of a successful HRIS implementation:
Internal meetings to discuss what stakeholders require from the new HRIS
Just as you sought input from stakeholders to inform your HRIS purchase, 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. For example, your IT department may ask for a customized field where they can track the computer/phone hardware needs of each employee.
Coordinating with third-party HR tools
Whether your new HRIS is an all-in-one system 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 integrates with your new HRIS.
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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.
Phone calls with implementation advisors
You’re probably aware that implementation will involve actually speaking with your implementation expert (or experts). Make sure not to miss, push off, or cut calls short—otherwise the entire implementation process could 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’ll make life easier on yourself if you learn the system and are able to self-serve help content. Learn the educational resources your HRIS has in place, and take time to dive in.
Training stakeholders and employees to use the new system
This isn’t technically part of HRIS 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 entire organization is fully on board. So, understand that you might not be able to get right back to business as usual right after implementation.
Migrating Data: What Employee Information Do I Need to Start HRIS Implementation?
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—though in rare cases, it is.
For most companies, however, data migration includes gathering disparate data, checking its 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.
Employee and Organizational Data
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 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.
“Implementation 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 to predict how next year will go. BambooHR is easy to use—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 have to adjust your timeline as you find a solution for integrating the systems.
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’re 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.
Building Buy-In: How Do I Support My Team through HRIS Implementation?
Buy-in is one of the trickiest 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 ROI of an HRIS, the need for a new system, and 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 HRIS 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 is a better guarantee of getting the highest return from their HRIS investment.
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The HRIS Implementation Process
Throughout the transition, stakeholders will monitor how HR performs and judge the new system. 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.
If you plan for the data challenges involved in switching to a new HRIS, you can budget enough time and people to address it. Similarly, you can build goodwill by customizing your system to meet stakeholders’ needs. Make sure your plan includes input, feedback, and training sessions specific to their respective data.
Rolling Out of A New HRIS
When the rest of the organization starts interacting with the new system, that’s when buy-in becomes critical. This 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.
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