While Talent Management becomes more and more a critical success factor in the competitiveness of companies, HR organizations have recognized that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provides powerful solutions for Talent Management. The new products distributed from the cloud promise to combine Talent Management best practices with the technological benefits of SaaS. Create, share, collaborate, agile information processing and 24/7 mobile access to Talent information are only a few typical product advertisements.
But the implementation of SaaS in Talent Management poses several new challenges, which are not obvious at first glance. Compared to the installation of customized software, the trend of purchasing access to a running system in the cloud may have dramatic consequences on the functional design and implementation of Talent Management solutions. ShapeIn Consulting has defined four guiding principles that help you to meet the challenges of SaaS implementations and avoid related risks before, during and after the implementation of a SaaS solution in Talent Management.
1. Follow business outcomes rigorously!
The success of Talent Management depends primarily on the contribution and engagement of the business and commitment of local stakeholders, especially the local HR departments, Talent Management specialists and the affected employees. There is no doubt that Talent Management is a very important task for the company, but all business stakeholders will only play their part in Talent Management seriously when they recognize the benefits for their own business outcome. A lot of former HR processes were linked to attributes like „pure data recording“, „mandatory administer tasks“ or „valuable for HR only“. In addition business stakeholders often have to gather various data in different IT systems to accommodate information demands of headquarter. These IT-tools have rarely delivered value to the local business processes in the past. As a consequence HR should not implement just the next IT-system with data gathering tasks. Talent Management requires a “system of engagement” that encourages business stakeholders to work with the system. And this will only happen if the system supports business outcomes sustainably.
So focusing on „what to achieve“ to support the business results, rather than „how to proceed“ to ensure consistent data recording, is the most important guideline for project teams to bear in mind throughout a SaaS implementation project.
SaaS vendors do not deliver a technical support system alone; they provide an own functional approach that is aligned to their technical platform. Because of this implementation projects have to prove permanently if the functional design of the solution will meet the business requirements. From the project structure perspective it requires the involvement of the business in a very early phase of the project and the establishment of a comprehensive quality management role to carefully monitor the exact alignment of the solution to business requirements.
2. Prepare implementation accurately!
Entering an already running Talent Management system in a cloud may seem to offer both easy technical integration and quick technical installation. However, the downside is that the functional design of the system is to a certain extent already completed. The client has to accept standardized Talent Management processes, limited configuration possibilities and the absence of customizing options. This need not necessarily be a disadvantage, especially when the vendors typically offer proven best practice processes within their solution. But it means that the functional preparation is totally different from former IT-implementations: While the project team should not invest too much effort in designing their own processes in so much detail that it runs the risk of not being supported by the solution, the initial configuration of the solution will in itself, demand reliable information regarding structuring elements of the company at an early stage. To provide Talent Management workforce segments, position management, job families and job levels are all critical structuring elements. And these are often very difficult to define within a fast moving implementation project running to tight deadlines. Particularly in SaaS implementations where structuring elements will be valid for all entities of the client, irrespective of whether the client is a small local company or a global and multi-industrial cooperation!
Defining the structuring elements, which are needed for Talent Management, seems to be more critical and difficult than an in-depth discussion around Talent Management processes. SaaS project implementation teams should definitely consider this on day one! Best to clarify the existence and validity of structuring elements in the company before selecting a vendor for the SaaS solution. This empowers the project team to compare the vendor´s functional approach and derived structural requirements to their own company’ scenario in the early stages of the software selection.
In addition project teams must ensure that the configuration they set up for a pilot scope is really suitable for the whole company: Talent Management demands one common instance in the SaaS solution – one single point of information – to tap the full potential. But current SaaS solutions are typically realized without an easy “parallel” configuration option for running different, independent organizational or workforce segments – one common instance allows just one configuration. Hence, an important prerequisite for piloting a SaaS solution is an overall target picture for the Talent Management IS with all relevant specifications and structuring elements.
3. Involve stakeholders intensively!
Although SaaS solutions are hosted in the vendor´s cloud, they do not empower HR to run the system autonomously. A lot of aspects still require deep expert know-how within the company. Whether talking about embedding the SaaS solution in the existing HRIS landscape, alignment to implemented modules, access rights from the end user´s desktop to the vendors web platform, data modeling, interfaces to other internal and third-party systems or data security – HR can not implement SaaS solutions without a broaden network to IT capabilities within the company. Partnering with the IT or HRIS department, must be an integral part of the implementation project team approach. And this integration should start early – IT-experts may provide valuable support in the selection of the right vendor!
In addition, the implementation of a broad Talent Management solution on a SaaS platform requires a new mindset of how to approach system usage. Typically, the successful implementation of SaaS in Talent Management requires serious cultural transformation to build up a real business outcome oriented solution and a system of engagement. Of course, change management is already an important part of every project but managing the SaaS transformation is different. It does not start and end with top down communication, achieving buy-in and training. In fact all users, irrespective of whether they are located in HR or the business, have to understand, that a “system of engagement” lives and will bring benefits to those users, who continuously expand and self-optimize access to the system. This depth of usage will help them manage their talents effectively and positively impact their business results. To initiate a “system of engagement”, the end users must be motivated to discover the functionalities and system adoption possibilities and benefits for their individual needs. HR has to abandon controlling measures and liberate the business leaders as autonomous and co-equal end users.
As a consequence a SaaS implementation demands a high level of maturity in organizational readiness: Without a solid mindset of using the Talent IS, HR and business leaders will fall back into established patterns. HR will start to implement processes and functionalities in a top down manner, and business leaders will participate during the pilot phase, but lower their engagement after only a short time because of the so called “software sucks problem”: Typical reasons for this are that the expectations of business stakeholders are not fulfilled or managed well. Adoption is slow. Response to feedback is poor, and the key contact persons always refer to the limitations of the system. To avoid this scenario, project teams have to ensure the organizational readiness of all relevant stakeholders during and post go-live of the implementation: The “Process Owner” of the past, who designed the HR process and set up policies and guidelines to be made operations by the business, now has to become a “Product Owner”, similar to the consumer industry. He must steadily assume “marketing and messaging” tasks, react quickly to end-user issues and new requirements, and shape the embedded functional offerings of the SaaS solution to optimize the process “life cycle”. This is the new role description for “Corporate” Process Owners.
4. Manage the project entrepreneurially!
Vendors of SaaS provide a combination of technical platform and highly sophisticated functional approaches. This new kind of holistic product delivery does not fit to former implementation methods like the V-model with its sequential work streams from plan to deploy. The limited configuration possibilities of SaaS have to be considered in an early state of process design and because of this, SaaS implementation projects have to merge functional with technical design aspects. A separation of blueprint development and functional specifications for the software no longer makes sense. Iterative shaping activities that match the functional requirements of both the business and HR, with the SaaS deliverables and configuration possibilities, are needed on an ongoing basis throughout the whole design phase of the project.
In addition the SaaS vendors evolve and improve their systems quickly and continuously. Typically they release a new version of their system with added functionalities and new processes several times a year. Project teams have to consider that they do not install a steady version of a solution and that they will have to manage several updates and release changes during the implementation, especially impacting end-user usability.. And of course they have to discuss how updates will be managed after the implementation project has been completed. Clients are not able to reject updates or release changes from the SaaS vendors!
The variety and complexity of the requirements facing the project team, as described above, clearly demonstrate, that the implementation of a SaaS solution for Talent Management is far more than a part time job for HR employees. The business oriented quality management, the importance of business outcomes and structuring elements, the management of very different stakeholders, the cultural transformation, the iterative character in the design phase and the evolutionary speed of SaaS solutions can only be handled by fluidly operating, skilled, agile and flexible project team. Companies are not well advised if they expect the implementation of a SaaS solution in Talent Management to be a “ring-fenced” independent HRIS project. The decisions regarding the project and subsequent results will impact the Talent Management approach and HR Core data usage across all entities of the company – and this attribute requires an appropriate set-up of the project team and project organization!
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