Successful HCM Implementation

If you clicked hoping that you will get the magic recipe to a successful HCM (or any HR Tech) Implementation, you would probably leave my blog disappointed because I don’t have the method.

In the last six years, I worked in the HR Tech implementation space, both from the vendor and internal implementation team, and there is this question: Was this implementation successful?

Implementation typically takes from a few months to a year. Spending, on average, 2 hours with the client’s critical users on calls, might give you a false sense of everything going great. This is especially so if that person is in a good mood, or it’s a Friday (Pro Tip: always schedule weekly status calls on Fridays). It’s hard to break the surface layer with someone in a 1-hour call, especially when the call structure is like this:

  • First 5 minutes: Let’s wait for everybody to connect.
  • Next 5 minutes: Let’s give them 5 more minutes.
  • Next 10 minutes: Small talk – especially how’s the weather.
  • Minutes 20-40: Previous week issues/bugs status
  • Minutes 40-50: New issues/bugs
  • Last 10 minutes: Wrapping up or giving you back 10 minutes.

As a consultant and project manager on the vendor side, I followed the same structure with every client I had. 

I send an email every Sunday, once I publish my weekly article. I also share some good content. Mostly HR related.

Why am I curious about this topic?

In the last year, I switched boats to the internal implementation team. And the project does not end when the project transitions to the post-implementation support team. Also, I got the opportunity to see how end-users feel about the product below the surface. 

In the last two years, I’ve been an active member of a few HR communities, including a mastermind group of implementation consultants. They shared the same feeling: I have no idea if the client is satisfied with the newly implemented HCM.

Of course, every vendor has a way of measuring the satisfaction of a project, mostly using NPS, but damn, that is subjective. I have some good friends that can hack that way of surveying the satisfaction only to get promoters scores. It’s pretty easy actually: always send the survey:

  • Around the salary day
  • Close to the weekend
  • Before that person goes on vacation (work a little to know if they are about to go on vacation)
  • After you solved a huge issue/change request that is painful for the client


The problem

It will go a little deep to understand the main factors that might cause a faulty implementation. One important aspect is that I will only discuss migrations from a platform to another because new systems are different animals. Usually, they are clients who move from tons of spreadsheets to software and that’s always a huge step ahead and makes the users happy.

Users not engaged

Have you ever been forced to move from an application to another one? If you’ve been there, you know how frustrating it can be. HR Tech is something extraordinary: in some companies, IT is the application owner, while HR is just the process owner. In other companies, IT is the data owner (because HR data is sensitive), and HR is the application owner. While departments debate around policies and owners, the ones in tranches that create the new hires, that manage the HR data, that do the heavy lifting, are just pawns. No wonder that they are not engaged in the project.

An easy way to engage the users is to involve them in the project as key users, testing users, even in more high-level activities like requirements gathering or functional consultants. They can be the best ambassadors for this type of project.

Poor requirements gathering

I’ve seen this so many times that I can’t remember. Each module, from ATS to Payroll, should have a business analyst or a functional consultant that can ask the proper questions to the users and translate the answers into specifications that can be implemented by the technical teams. That’s no brainer, but lots of projects are doomed to fail because of this.

Imposed implementation

When working for a vendor, I think that the IT departments have imposed half of my client’s implementations. I believe that IT has it’s own reasons, from security concerns to infrastructure changes. Sometimes, IT is assessing the HR Tech buying process, without or with very little involvement from the HR department—a recipe for disaster.

Ok, everyone understands why and how things can go wrong, but how can we make things better? I have an idea:


HR Tech stack audit

Some companies are auditing processes. Others are auditing how money is spent. HR Tech is something that can be audited, too. How?


Assessing the time spent on each HR process is a starting point for optimization. Once you understand how and why the time is used, maybe you can remove some extra steps that provide little to no value. For instance, instead of sending an email once a task is completed to the requested, maybe create an automated notification to be sent to the requested once the ticket has been set to “closed” in the ticketing software.

Once you mapped all the processes and made sure that there is nothing to optimize and you still need to reduce processing time, that is a great moment to move to a new tech stack.


Most of the HR processes consist of moving data from one part to another: from an Excel file to a system, from an email to an app, from a screen to another, from a system to another one. This copy-paste activity can be challenging, and it’s easy to copy the wrong cell in a spreadsheet or paste it to the wrong field. It’s human error, and it’s natural to make some mistakes. 

One of the best reasons to upgrade to a new HCM system is to avoid moving data from X to Y manually. This is why it’s essential to choose a system with lots of integrations built-in to prevent creating new development.

Self Service Experience

That’s not just a buzz phrase. Self Service is a tech trend. From banking to retail, people take control of their actions. While 20 years ago to make a bank transfer you had to go to a bank office, stay in line in front of a cashier, fill a paper form with your data and the receiver’s data, the cashier has to enter in a system the info from that paper form and so on. Today you have an app on your phone, select the phone number or email of the person you want to transfer the money, enter the amount, and that’s all.

It’s the same with HR Tech: employees should maintain their personal data, and managers should perform their manager’s processes without needing an HR person to help them. That is a great reason to move to a new HCM system.

I also wrote an article called 60 Questions to ask when buying HR Tech – you might want to check it.



If you are considering changing your HCM, make sure you have the right reasons. Once you checked all the boxes, make sure you involve everyone in the project, set up the right expectations, and keep everyone informed about the progress.

An implementation can be a very demanding project, so my last advice is to establish an internal team to lead it and bridge communication between the vendor and end-users. 

I send an email every Sunday, once I publish my weekly article. I also share some good content. Mostly HR related.

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash