HR software is supposed to make our lives easier and our working time more productive. But we’re all familiar with projects that haven’t gone to plan, implementation processes that have gone over schedule, budgets exceeded, and promised benefits seemingly as far away at the end of the process, as they were at the start.

In most cases, the problem isn’t the software. It’s the way the software is implemented. But there are ways to manage implementation so that you avoid the major pitfalls and get the true benefits of your HR software. One of the first places to start is to evaluate your preferred software deployment model.

Cloud versus on-premise?

On-premise is the traditional approach to deploying software: you buy the HR system, work with a vendor or external consultancy to tailor it to how you want everything to run. You then host it on servers located and maintained on your own sites.

This approach comes with certain advantages – mainly a highly-bespoke fit to suit your existing business processes and an application that is hosted in your own building – the latter providing you with a feeling of more control.

But this approach comes with some downsides too. Most notably, it involves high upfront infrastructure costs, a heavy time commitment from your side, which often leads to implementation delays. Upgrades and maintenance also tend to be more complex and resource intensive – therefore increasing your expense.

Cloud is almost the opposite. Your organisation will sacrifice a bespoke, custom fit and instead embrace the opportunity to adopt standardised, best practice processes – as defined by the HR software vendor. This is increasingly seen as more beneficial than the heavily customised, on-premise approach, which could just be automating existing processes that have been badly designed and are less efficient.

However, this does means that business processes will likely need to change to fit the software, which must involve training and support for all users as an ongoing process, rather than a one-off implementation. The added positive though is that adoption levels typically improve as a result.

With the cloud, businesses see faster initial implementation and sharply reduced upfront costs, as the software is hosted on the provider’s servers, rather than yours. Upgrades and new functionality are rolled-out centrally, and you won’t need a small army of consultants running workshops throughout the whole process.

These factors help to explain why cloud has grown in popularity. And the most common concerns relating to the security of the cloud have also largely dissipated.

Afterall, cloud environments are situated in highly secure data centres. They are built on modern infrastructure, monitored by sophisticated security tools and the whole landscape is maintained by dedicated IT engineers. These environments are far more secure than an individual business could ever realistically achieve.

The only potential weak points are related to how users themselves access the systems via the Internet, but this can be easily administered and securely controlled.

For the majority of HR departments, cloud implementations are vastly preferable to installing software on your own servers. In a small number of cases, you may see on-premise software migrated to a private cloud environment, but in this scenario, you (the client) would still have to maintain and support the application.

Selecting the right software deployment model for your business means understanding these considerations and deciding which is the best fit.

Implementation and onboarding

Implementation is only half the battle. When staff don’t understand how to use a tool, they short-cut their way around it, negating its advantages. Onboarding is, therefore, necessary to get your employees to understand both how it works, as well as its user-specific benefits – particularly the concept of self-service.

Guided walkthroughs, gamification and regular training top-ups all help to keep staff on board and encourage engagement with both the new HR software and with departmental and company goals. With take-up so critical to the HR software business case, user experience (UX) should always be top of mind, as a better UX will always translate to higher adoption.

The reality is that this is usually easier to find from cloud vendors than on-premise suppliers. Cloud-based software is normally developed using modern, agile methodologies, which pay much closer attention to a user’s primary needs.

The result is that anything unnecessary is removed, leaving a simpler and more intuitive user interface. A reputable cloud vendor should also offer onboarding, in-tool help guides and training materials to increase access to the functionality of their offerings and improve user adoption.

Simple principles of a successful HR software implementation

1. Goal setting

Many implementations don’t succeed because businesses aren’t clear about their goals. It’s simple, ensure you’ve agreed your main objectives from the outset.

2. Data migration

Data migration is an opportunity to cleanse data, as well as create one version of the truth ahead of a new software implementation. In many cases, the actual migration will be very rapid, but this largely depends on the quality of the data and the number of different, potentially overlapping data sources. Your vendor should be able to provide templates and tools to help you expedite this process.

3. Change management

Treating the implementation of a new HR system like a one-off task, which starts when you sign a deal with a vendor and ends when the new system is live, is both a mistake and a missed opportunity.

The transition needs to be carefully managed and should include identifying likely roadblocks and bottlenecks ahead of time. You should also provide an opportunity for staff to feedback during an implementation and afterwards. It’s also important to treat the IT department as your partner from the start.

Team discussing the implementation process

4. Continued improvement

Rather than view this as a project with an endpoint, it makes more sense to start with a vision of what the company will look like when the right tools, processes and approaches are in place.

Then, it’s possible to guide a process of continual improvement toward this vision – a process that includes selecting and implementing new software, training staff to use it and revisiting that training periodically – in pursuit of your clearly-defined business goals.

Key takeaways

HR software implementations have a checkered past, with many projects failing to live up to early potential and not delivering returns. Obviously, as a cloud vendor ourselves, we believe this model of HR software deployment vastly reduces the risk of lengthy project delays or excessive upfront costs.

Cloud is quicker, less expensive, covers updates and upgrades automatically, and drives much-needed standardisation in HR. But above all, it offers a greater likelihood of adoption, which should be the ultimate yardstick against which your business case should be measured.

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Natural HR is a secure web based platform created by HR professionals that offers a comprehensive toolkit of HR management features, coupled with intelligent analytics and time saving reports to empower HR Professionals with information and business insights.