Six Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing a new HCM platform

I recently took a trip to Laughlin, NV, a small tourist town on the Colorado River at the very southern tip of the state.  The tour I enjoyed the most was a jet boat tour down the river to Lake Havasu on the Arizone/California border.  A short layover where we toured the London Bridge (an actual London bridge was purchased taken down, brick by brick, and reassembled in Lake Havasu)  and then a 2 hour trip, back to Laughlin, up the river by jet boat again.

The draft of the boat on plane or in layman terms how deep in the water the boats sits when travelling at high speed is 14 inches.  The bottom of the river is covered in stones and in some places was only 18 inches deep.  The boat was quite fast and I am certain if we were slightly too far to the left or right of the safe line in the river, we would have easily ran aground with considerable damage to the boat and our tour group.   Having a boat captain with the experience to know the right line to travel was the only way to make this trip.  I would not have dared to do this on my own .  The responsibility for what might and would probably go wrong would have been too great.

Implementing a new HCM platform is not an easy challenge and one of the first mistakes made by many is not choosing the right implementation partner.  HCM partners are professional organizations who work with you and guide you along to ensure the technical details and your specific needs are properly set up.  This is extremely important and your chosen partner will undoubtedly perform this function much better than you could on your own, given this is their line of business.  But beyond the technical and set up functions, there are still some mistakes that are more of a planning and organizational structure and are all squarely in your control as the client.

The right implementation partner makes the complex simple and will make your decision to upgrade to an HCM system all that more confident.  Although you may only do this once or twice in your career, an implementation partner makes this journey multiple times each year and will make sure it is done right.  With that said, the tips below are good advice and will help you in asking the right questions with your implementation partner.

 1.  Don’t Rush It

Give yourself and your partner enough time to properly implement the new platform.  Not allowing enough time will increase the risk that the implementation may fail.  With that said, it is often the case that organizations do not allow enough time to ensure success and find themselves under-prepared for the overall project.  You will want to make sure adequate time is allocated for testing and data conversions.  You will also want to pay particular attention to ensure enough time is available for reviewing requirements and working through them to ensure they meet your organization’s needs.

When assigning internal roles and responsibilities keep in mind that your staff still have their day jobs and in many cases will not be able to dedicate 100% of their time to the project.  This is an important factor to discuss  with your implementation partner.  Make sure they incorporate this factor when creating milestones and deliverables.  And make sure to allow enough time for stakeholders to review requirements and configurations.

2.  Don’t be too conservative, either

This is a little contradictory to the first point of not rushing it, but is also a fact that if the timeline and milestones are too long then this can also cause problems with an implementation.  Adding time just as a buffer can cause the team to lose momentum and unnecessarily slow down and lose traction.

Try to keep your timeline realistic.  Make sure you have time to complete each task and milestones, but dont be so cautious that you add unnecessary delays.  Padding each task will add up and slow down your project significantly.

3.  Use the right project methodology

Project management is a skill with specific training and methodologies associated.  Ask what type of methodology your partner is using and if it is appropriate for the type of project being implemented.

Two popular methodologies are Agile and Waterfall.  Agile groups tasks into sprints of work with smaller goals being met,reviewed and adjusted with each sprint.  Waterfall has much larger milestones with the project being divided into phases.

Waterfall is considered rigid where Agile is thought of as more flexible.  Waterfall sees the implementation as one large project divided into phases.  Agile sees the project as a collection of many smaller projects.

In Waterfall, the scope is determined in advance of the project and there is little or no change to the scope during the project.  In Agile the project scope is more flexible and may be changed even after the initial planning has been completed.  With Waterfall each phase such as designing, configuring, testing, and accepting are completed once each.  With Agile each of these same functions happens multiple times with each sprint iterating through these same or similar phases.

The key take away is that Waterfall is keyed on completing the project as designed and strictly following the  plan where as Agile is more focused on customer feedback with each sprint and strives to reach a collaborative (customer/vendor) result with each phase.  Typically your implementation partner will have a methodology in mind that they have had success with.  You just need to know if you have a preference and if their methodology works well with your internal preferences.

4.  Scope Creep

It is important to appoint a strong project manager who will challenge decisions and protect the project from scope creep from both your internal project team and with the implementation team.  Roles and responsibilities established at the beginning of the project must be implemented and followed.  Each leadership decision must be evaluated and compared to the original scope of the project and due consideration must be paid to ensure the project does not become extended due to wants versus needs.  New requirements may need to be pushed into a new project to be completed after the original scope is complete, versus continuously adding to the existing project.  It is important that the project have a start, middle and end.  The project manager’s goal is to see the project complete and defend scope creep.

5.  Having the right person in each role.

It is not necessary to have your entire staff on the project just because they are willing and able.  Key people with specific knowledge of the role and who are responsible for the results will make the choice for the role assignments for the project.  Having the right person for the right role is very important.

It is equally important to allocate people with enough time for the role.  Make sure the  right people for the role have the right amount of time available for the role.  Don’t let their day job suffer as they are allocated too much time on the project.

6.  Change Management, So important!

Do not forget the 3 C’s, communicate, communicate, communicate.  A new HCM can seem more difficult to use without the proper training and testing.  Failing to discuss how the new HCM will change the everyday workflow with the people who will be effected is a recipe for disaster.  It is very important to discuss how the message will be delivered and to craft a communication plan.  Knowing how you are going to engage with stake holders and champions to garner buy-in and ownership in the project’s success is critical.  All of this is communication and it is vitally important.

The old way of doing business, good or bad, is how your people are used to operating and change often may seem worse before it seems better.  This is usually due to people not knowing how to accomplish tasks they did before with the same proficiency and muscle memory.   Terminology or workflow may be different and initially it may seem foreign or cumbersome.  Having a good change management process is very important and can make or break a successful implementation.


No one wants to be part of an unsuccessful implementation.  Time, effort and money are all valuable and no one wants theirs wasted.  Give yourself the time to do it right without additional padding.  Make sure the project methodology is compatible with your preferences and  ensure the project is properly governed with a strong project manager to keep scope creep from taking over.  Make sure you have the right people on the bus and that they have a plan to communicate the changes to be implemented thoroughly.  And most importantly choose the right implementation partner to avoid the rocks in the river.


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