So, you’ve made the decision that it’s time to change your HR systems platform. You’ve got a great in-house staff who knows where the current gaps are, knows something about the software options out there and is eager to create HCM nirvana for your organization.

Who will you trust to implement your new system?

Here’s five tips culled from my experience in the HR tech world both as a customer and as an advisor.

#1 – Don’t be a hero. You need help from a third-party.

Even with the best of in-house technologists and HR experts willing to put forth effort, you cannot possibly navigate the terrain of software implementation by yourself and achieve success. In fact, if the software company you’ve selected is worth anything, they will take responsibility for having trained and skilled partners to bring your new system up successfully.

#2 – Understand Cloud. It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.

If you are implementing a cloud software solution, know that cloud is different. It’s implemented differently than most on-premise implementations. And after implementation, you need to know what you’ll be dealing with.

Cloud products (also known as SaaS – Software as a Service) are designed to take much of the heavy lifting out of the business. It doesn’t remove ALL the things Your IT department would do. Basically – it will remove your infrastructure – that is, the need for hardware, servers, storage capacity and the physical implementation of regular software upgrades or new releases. The biggest advantage of cloud software is that it is going to allow innovation more quickly and easily than your on-premise solutions — but only if you actually put a process in place to take advantage of innovation advantages delivered in the quarterly releases.

Insider Tip: If you are a SAP SuccessFactors customer, join the online community (which you can access via successfactors.com with your S-User ID). SAP delivers a countdown to each release and comprehensive educational materials on what is changing. SAP SuccessFactors also has a Release Center that makes the update so much easier for customers than what we had to do to manage a release on-premise. From the Release Center, you will know exactly which notes are impacting your own system; what’s required and what is optional.

#3 – Get Smart. Work the conference circuit.

Talk to people. I met and befriended a lot of consultants at conferences. I also met a lot of fellow customers who shared their experiences with me. I know who to trust. I used to call these events “free consulting” to the (tongue in cheek) chagrin of the partners I met there.

Conferences are not “boondoggles.” In fact, dollar for dollar they may be the best investment in setting your future strategy if you use these events wisely — asking questions, exchanging business cards and then later having a virtual Rolodex of people to call if you have questions or get stuck. (If you know what a Rolodex is…)

INSIDER TIP: Many companies and member associations offer events free or deeply discounted. Americas’ SAP Users’ Group has regular chapter meetings open to members and one day events under the brand “ASUG Express” that are typically offered at no cost. And ASUG validates the content to prevent sales talk by presenters.

 

#4 – Diversify your project team.

Whether you choose a large systems implementation partner or a smaller organization, the question you should be asking is, “what is the background of the individual(s) who will lead my project on the partner side?” If you’re moving from SAP ERP HCM to SuccessFactors cloud solutions, does your consultant have a background in SAP ERP HCM? This is pivotal to success. Ask Steve Schnoll, who puts it as “choose a partner who is bi-lingual”. Having knowledge of the destination software alone is not enough.

Oh – and about your part in all this: you will need to assign resources to the implementation — not so much because your team knows exactly what they want and how you do it today, but more so because you need continuity.

Insider tip: Assign a process owner in your own company who will make the final and difficult decisions and will work hand in hand with the partner to ensure timelines and scope are adhered to by both your internal and external project team members. To be effective, this person needs to be a leader with backing from your CxOs. He or she is a negotiator, line-holder, change agent who liaisons between the your own project team members and the partner.

 

#5 – Do the work to find the right partner for you.

Choosing a partner for your software implementation is a very personal thing. It has to be the right match to your business objectives, to your culture and to your wallet.

What do other customers do? Find out.

Make some calls. Using the contacts you made in #3 above, find out who is willing to share their own implementation experiences with you. Ask them exactly what product(s) they implemented, on what timeline, with how many internal resources and with what partner. Listen objectively and sort through the good and the bad comments.

Use the Partner Finder. Partneredge is SAP’s online tool for finding a partner skilled in the product(s) you want to implement. Narrow your search to “Implement, Service and Support” Partner Types and then solution and location.

Use the SAP Consultancy Registry to make sure the consultant is certified. A firm can be an SAP partner – but their individual consultants must also be certified in SAP SuccessFactors, as shown in the example below where I used the registry and searched on last name “Marson.”

More importantly – check individuals’ resumes. An individual may have completed training, but have they actually done an implementation of the type and size you are planning?

Validate with independent third party insights. Raven Intel is a free online community that serves as a third party to provide candid reviews of implementation partners. Raven provides peer reviews and ratings on projects and exposes the talents of smaller, less-known, but highly qualified implementation partners. The community is open and free to customers.

Yeah, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. But with the right systems implementation partner, the road will be less bumpy. Take your time with this step. And know that it’s never too soon to start looking for the partner of your dreams.

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