Buck Bond Group
3 critical steps to ensure a successful HR digital cloud transformation

3 critical steps to ensure a successful HR digital cloud transformation

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In an interview with one of the NASA scientists who helped land the Viking Orbiter on Mars, the scientist was asked about the most critical part of the mission. I was surprised when he answered, the very beginning.” If the mission went off course at the start, it could result in course corrections of greater magnitude and, ultimately, could cause the mission to miss its target and fail.

This concept also applies to HR digital cloud transformations. In response to COVID-19, many organizations have accelerated their adoption of cloud technology to accommodate the needs of a remote and mobile workforce. Talent management enablers like online learning, performance management, and recruiting have quickly gone digital – perhaps without the time needed to establish a foundation for a successful transformation.

HR digital transformations can fail.

Recent market studies have shown that while over 50% of organizations have moved to new cloud technology, many system transformations fail to realize the desired benefits and outcomes. There can be many reasons for falling short, but experience has shown three key areas that are inextricably linked to successful outcomes. Not coincidentally, each of these occurs prior to the start of the actual implementation.

1. How strong is organizational alignment and support?

In many cases, a move to a new HR cloud system can be in reaction to a business event, such as the current health pandemic or a merger. It could be based on issues with the incumbent system, or simply implementing the “latest technology” in the face of antiquated, ineffective systems. The effort can often be siloed in one department or another, without the overall understanding and support of the entirety of the organization.

As a result, many organizations fail to adequately define objectives and expected benefits for the new solution or to  gain cross-organizational support for the initiative. A critical first step is gaining organizational alignment with the support needed to achieve those benefits and objectives.

The fix

Initiative leaders must answer many key questions, including:

  • What are our key business issues and priorities?
  • What business challenge are we’re trying to address?
  • What is the business case with quantifiable and qualitative benefits?
  • What are the medium- and long-term impacts of the effort?
  • How does this tie in to the overall vision and strategy for the organization?
  • How much support and resources can the overall organization provide?

Keeping the focus on these objectives and expected benefits throughout the project will help ensure consistent alignment throughout the effort.

2. How rigorous is your HR cloud technology selection process?

The selection process for the new solution can often be short-circuited and may circumvent the thoroughness necessary to choose the best fit solution for the business. A rush to implement may result in poor choices that can impact the organization for many years.

Taking the time to rigorously investigate the market and potential solutions will pay many dividends.

The fix

Selection criteria should directly tie back to objectives outlined in the business case and the overall organizational strategic plan. Here are a few considerations:

  • The most successful selection processes are managed and supported by third-party consulting firms who are not only vendor agnostic, but also bring a proven approach combined with selection, market, and industry expertise.
  • The best software solution doesn’t always correlate with the “best technology on the market.” The objective should be a solution that is ultimately determined to be the best solution for the organization and consider, among other things, the business case, organizational dynamics, and corporate culture.
  • It is imperative to develop a set of guiding principles for the selection process, tying the selection to the organizational vision and business case.

3. How extensive is your pre-implementation planning process?

Many organizations move quickly to implement. Not taking the time needed for pre-implementation activities creates significant risk for both the project team and organization.

The fix

Before the cloud transformation begins, a pre-implementation kick-off to thoroughly prepare the organization will help minimize the risk and greatly increase the likelihood of a successful implementation. The process involves an assessment across the common components of people, process, and technology, and is most effective with a thorough and detailed approach.

A few questions to consider:

  • What are your resource needs and skills required for effectively supporting the project and transformation?
  • How prepared is the organization for the pace of the implementation and the impacts to the business?
  • Is there a roadmap and plan in place for deployment that considers business events and regulatory requirements?
  • How do we best foster a collaborative culture within the project team?
  • What consulting partnership(s) are required to support the implementation?
  • What are your ongoing data access and analytics needs?
  • What type of service delivery model should be developed to support the organization operationally?
  • What processes, policies, and procedures should be reviewed and harmonized to effectively support the transformation?
  • What digital and mobility capabilities are required to support your organization and employees?

Essential beginnings

An executive once said he had three questions concerning the implementation of a new HR cloud system for his organization: “How much is it going to cost? How long is it going to take? What are you going to do if something goes wrong?”

Being intentional about conducting a rigorous and thorough process at the beginning of an HR cloud transformation is critical to the mission. Gaining organizational alignment, developing a strong business case, and engaging a trusted advisor to serve as an objective advocate will set a course for success.