Do you remember a time when you purchased something that was new and exciting but you also felt like you were taking a risk? For me it was when I bought my first smartphone. I was so excited to have something that catered to my personal needs around technology. Yet, the technology was new, and I wasn’t sure if it really would work the way it was advertised.

 The smartphone was designed to increase my personal productivity and make my life easier with less distraction. It delivered an experience that was relevant to me without a lot of extra work other than downloading applications I thought would be useful (and they often were). It was an indescribable feeling knowing that for the first time I could answer emails, review trends, or shop online while on the go.

You see, what made this so appealing was the flexibility of a solution that was specific to me yet didn’t take a lot of time to setup or require waiting on someone else to get answers. It’s unfortunate that I see the opposite happening with businesses and their “in-house” HCM strategies. So why are so many businesses struggling with finding a proper HCM solution for their workforce?

Tug of war custom vs. configurable hcm concept

Customization confusion

Often, organizations have overcomplicated their HCM approach by overcommunicating the need to have a highly customized solution. The idea of building an “in-house” solution that will solve all your problems – whether by creating your own technical processes or cobbling together multiple point solutions for different functional areas – is quickly deteriorating.  The ability to fix any problem that may arise is something we want from any of our business solutions, but what many organizations don’t realize is that very often an HCM system that is highly configurable and can be managed by HR will meet their needs and fix a variety of problems without the multiple interventions, overly specific features, and inflexible requirements that come with a custom system.

When I think about something custom, I revert to the classic car shows I attended back home.  The classic cars were mesmerizing with their fancy appeal and large engines.  When they started, the ground shook from the power of the engine. The cars were designed to look good and drive fast.  However, as with anything that's custom built, the limitation lies in only being really good at one thing. In this instance with the custom car, if it breaks down you aren’t going anywhere for a long time because only a very few mechanics will be able to fix it.

So how does this apply to custom HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions? What it boils down to is that the design, although built for a specific need and seeming to be good and appealing, requires a copious amount of time, money, and effort to get rebuilt and operating again whenever something goes wrong or new requirements surface.  With companies I’ve worked with in the past that have “in-house” HCM solutions, a bunch of point solutions, or a set of loosely connected processes, I’ve run into a common theme: If something isn’t working properly with the solution, those requesting help are often told “wait your turn, we will get to it when we can” because IT is overloaded with requests. Not only is this scary from a compliance perspective, more importantly it delays people from getting answers to something that is critical to the business decisions being made at the time.

What configurable really means

For all the reasons I’ve just discussed, partnering with an end-to-end HCM vendor whose platform is highly configurable is a more viable option than any sort of custom environment or ecosystem.  Businesses often naïvely think “they can’t do what our in-house system/processes can.”  This is where I disagree.  The ability to provide employees with a sustainable solution that gives insight to actionable data is where unified HCM vendors prove their worth. Speaking as someone who has seen success in helping hundreds of organizations with HCM deployment and change management, a highly configurable solution can meet the needs of your workforce.  As your business continues to grow, the value comes from the flexibility of a solution that is easy to manage without getting multitudes of people involved.

A further bonus, especially with a cloud solution, is the vendor having an assigned service team to meet your needs instead of you being told to “get back in line” whenever issues or new priorities come up.  This dedicated team can review your pain points and discuss the best options available in the HCM platform, allowing for immediate action that can positively impact the business.  

The flexibility of a highly configurable and unified solution will allow you to limit data entry points, optimize HR actions by leveraging an automated approval process, or simplify accounting reporting by tying cost centers to your general ledger.  And these are just a few small examples. The short version is a unified HCM system provides you the opportunity to streamline parts of your business that you were limited in before by giving you grab-and-go configuration options that fit your organization without requiring you to build from scratch or maintain tons of manual integrations.

Conclusion: Go configurable, stay competitive

Don’t get stuck in a classic mindset that limits your organization’s ability to achieve excellence.  Instead, review your pain points and think about a highly configurable, sustainable solution that will scale with your business needs.  It may feel like a risk at first, but the final outcome of having higher productivity and faster decision-making at your fingertips will give you a competitive advantage

Check out the Competing in an Era of Choice eBook

Published: Thursday, August 22, 2019