I think it’s safe to say we all like getting new things. Whether it’s a new car, the latest smartphone, or human capital management software, there’s always that moment of excitement when you sign on the dotted line and you think “this is going to be so much better than what I have right now.” The problem, of course, is that after that reality hits. You’ve got to transfer your car insurance and license plates, switch your phone plan, or in the case of HCM software go through the implementation process. This time period is when all our anxieties creep back in – did we make the right choice? Are we spending our money effectively? Will we get what we need?

Well, I can’t tell you whether your car or phone choices are on point, but luckily when it comes to HCM implementation I know exactly who to talk to. This week I sat down with two of the project managers from our professional services team here at Kronos, Casondra Wolff and Meghan Rapp, to look through the same lens they do on a day-to-day basis to help the customers they work with feel secure in their HR technology decisions and build solutions that fit their needs.

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A conversation with professional services

Keen Hahn: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today, Casondra and Meghan. To begin, I wanted to get an idea of what it’s like for you when you kick off a new HCM implementation. What would you say your top priority is when you first start working with a new organization?

Meghan Rapp: Our first goal is always to familiarize ourselves with the team we’ll be working with on the customer’s side during the deployment process. It’s important we know who our go-to people for each module and piece of the process will be so we can keep communication flowing and make sure everything moves along smoothly for them.

KH: Speaking of keeping things moving, how does a typical HCM deployment progress? Are there particular stages that are important to go through?

Casondra Wolff: We’ve got seven distinct phases we go through in our projects – welcome, kickoff, discovery, build, build review, test, and deploy. These are all important in order to ensure a successful implementation. However, I’d say discovery is particularly critical as this is where we would collect the configuration information around how we want the HCM system to be built out. This is the basis for how the end system will look and we need to ensure the customer is on the same page and have their approval to move forward with the build phase.

MR: Also, the testing stage is really important because it’s where we ensure the customer is ready to roll their HCM platform out to their organization, so that’s when we get to have some key change management discussions to help them succeed. I think what’s most important though beyond any of the implementation phases is that we make sure the customer is engaged throughout the whole project. The reality is that every project takes time and has multiple moving parts, so keeping everyone focused on the end goal and motivated is big.

KH: I can see how that would be critical to success, and I’m sure part of keeping everyone motivated is knowing the right advice to give while also making sure any standards the customer has are met. That brings me to my next question – how do you balance between advising customers on best practices and configuring the HCM system to meet their specific needs?

CW: Like we’ve mentioned already, it all starts with ensuring open communication and collaboration so we get a good picture of what’s going on in the customer’s environment and understand what steps to take. We always recommend best practices, but some customers have a more complex setup and need further research and assistance to help them get to the right solution. The HCM implementation team will always do their due diligence to advise if a particular business case can be accommodated. But more importantly, if we find something that’s not possible, we want to make sure we advise on what can be done and really dig into each need and want to find answers that work. With our customers’ confirmation, we offer flexibility when it comes to unique business cases without having to compromise ease of use.

KH: So I’m hearing a lot about flexibility, collaboration, and engagement being key to the HCM deployment process. Can you tell me about the mindset a professional services team has when entering a new project and supporting a customer through the different phases we’ve talked about?

MR and CW: Let's get it done! [both laugh]

MR: But seriously, we try to focus on execution and make sure that we’re finding efficient ways to get through a project and deliver the most benefit to each customer along the way.

KH: I’m sure part of that efficiency is giving the right training opportunities as you move through the project. How do you help facilitate customer education during an HCM deployment?

MR: We see training and education as something that’s ongoing throughout the process. We take time to discuss goals around this at the start and then continue to monitor throughout the implementation. Flexibility comes in again here too. We have multiple resources and training opportunities we can offer, like self-paced learning, system user guides, instructor-led trainings, and hands-on exposure with the implementation consultants so we can meet different learning goals for different types of users.

KH: That focus on ongoing education must help when you start getting to the end of the implementation. Are there any other steps you take near the end to smoothly transition a customer from deployment to support?

CW: It’s something that can’t wait until the end – we have to ensure from the start that our customers have a clear understanding of what to expect once their HCM implementation is completed. That way they can prepare for the relationship they’ll have with customer support. When the time for transition comes, we use a process called Hypercare to get customers familiar with what customer support will look like for the different platform modules they’re using. During the earlier phases of implementation a lot of the expectations around support can get lost in the mix, so once we’re nearing the customer’s target go-live date Hypercare gives us a clear method for discussing and educating around the support process so there are no surprises and everyone’s on the same page for next steps.

KH: That’s a really good point – sounds like it would also be beneficial for people searching for an HCM system to look at what kinds of services and support would come along with it up front, too. Do you have any advice for people currently considering and HCM system in terms of what they should be looking for from a services perspective?

CW: The number one thing when shopping around is to look for the HCM vendor who truly has a customer-first mentality. That goes a really long way when it comes to how an organization will be treated in implementation and later when they move to customer support.

KH: To wrap up on a high note, can one of you talk about an all-time favorite moment as a services professional? What was special about it?

MR: So this might be a little cheesy, but one of my favorite moments is when we took a customer that was operating completely on paper and we got them up and running on an automated HCM system in just three months. The customer’s project team not only found humor in all the ways the new system moved them away from “their antiquated ways” but also really enjoyed rolling it out to their employees. They set up candy bowls next to their new time clocks with Payday bars and had fun incentives like offering a gold star to the first team to submit all their time cards to payroll. It was a great strategy for change management, and like many implementations the project team felt like family at the end of our project. And that’s just one example – truly there have been so many great moments.

Conclusion: Professional services is the secret sauce

I hope this conversation has put a human face on the HCM implementation process for you while also giving you some insights into how professional services teams help you get your HR technology up and running. Having the right combination of partnership and services around the software you select makes all the difference in the world when you face your anxieties around your buying decision and move toward the reality of actually putting your purchase to use. Want to learn more? Check out our HCM Buyer’s Guide to see what matters most when you’re searching for the right HCM solution for your organization’s needs.

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Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2019