There’s no denying that cloud-based solutions are all the rage in the Human Capital Management area. Whether it be SuccessFactors, Taleo, or Workday, cloud-based solutions have shaken up the industry and bring the promise of even more innovation. But not all is rosy in the land of cloud. A recent blog post highlighted a survey where one third of responding companies observed that cloud-based solutions were harder and more expensive to implement than expected. I don’t suppose these findings should be terribly surprising to us. All new things come with a disproportionate amount of hype and over-sell. But apart from the unavoidable hype, these findings remind me that cloud, or no cloud, there are three key factors for success in any project of this sort.
Businesses follow processes. Those processes may be poorly defined and vary from department to department, but processes are always involved. The key to success of any implementation, cloud or no cloud: the organization’s processes must be integrated into the new system. This not only requires the system to be flexible enough to accommodate the process, but it should also enable new efficiencies. But it is not enough that we think about the system and its ability to incorporate or even improve the business process. In a way, that’s the easy way out. What’s tougher, but very essential, is that the business must ensure that the business processes are defined, reliable, and consistent.
In some cases, the business does not truly understand its own processes, whether it is recruiting a new employee, processing a leave of absence request, or changing a personnel status for benefits purposes. Processes must be defined and repeatable. Those processes must also be reliable. Apart from any system consideration, the processes of the organization must be reliable enough to accomplish the required work. It makes no sense to incorporate insufficient or broken processes into a new system. These processes must be consistent. Suppose an organization is composed of six different operating units, and each unit has a different process for hiring, terminating, or transferring employees. On occasions, such variations are required. But too often, these inconsistent processes develop unnecessarily over time and should be consolidated to realize benefit. Cloud or no cloud, process integration is key.
Effective project management has always been a key factor in project success, whether on-premise or cloud-based. I stress the word effective because the degree and style of project management required to achieve success is surely different with different projects. The style and type of project management to send a rover to Mars or bring a new pharmaceutical to market or implement a new HCM solution varies. But generally speaking, effective project management should not be thought of as some sort of desk-bound obsession with numbers and spreadsheets.
Projects are composed of real people completing relevant tasks. People and their activities cannot be merely reduced to status reports, spreadsheets and Gantt charts. Effective project management means talking to people, coordinating with people, encouraging people and helping people achieve the results required for success. Effective project management means walking around, asking questions, listening, negotiating, convincing, and yes, sometimes, arm-twisting. I don’t deny the value of spreadsheets, status reports, and Gantt charts – but they’re a poor substitute for the human-to-human contact required to get the job done. Cloud or no cloud, effective project management is essential.
Change is hard. Change can be a real pain. But change is also a constant in modern business life. Sadly, it is all too possible to integrate reliable and consistent processes into a new system, manage the project to a “successful” completion and pat ourselves on the back for a well-managed project, only to have the system rejected by those that use it. Clearly, these kinds of projects have failed. Every project needs to catalog the change its users will face.
A change inventory is a smart tool to incorporate on every project. Simply document each point of change the new system will bring. If the system is implemented in phases, document the change by phase. For example, today this is how we generate a job requisition, this is how we’ll do it at the end of Phase 1, and this is how we’ll do it when the project is complete.
By identifying these change points, we can make an effort to manage the change.
- What training will be helpful?
- What job aids will make a difference?
- What processes need to be further refined?
- What communication is needed?
- What support tools can we put in place to make the change easier?
- Where do we expect organizational resistance?
- Who can do the hand-holding or arm-twisting required to break through the organizational resistance?
Change is a pain, but cloud or no cloud, change management is key to a successful implementation. In our well-intentioned and probably well-deserved rush to embrace cloud-solutions, let’s remember the fundamentals. Whether the solution is on-premise or cloud-based, process integration, effective project management and change management are key to success. Cloud or no cloud, these are still the keys to success.
In our well-intentioned and probably well-deserved rush to embrace cloud-solutions, let’s remember the fundamentals. Whether the solution is on-premise or cloud-based, process integration, effective project management and change management are key to success. Cloud or no cloud, these are still the keys to success.