HRIS Systems – How to Avoid Failed Implementations

The phone rings, I take the call, it’s not pleasant and it happens more than you’d think.  I’m referring to prospective clients that are deep into, or have completed an HRIS implementation before they realize that the software will not do the job.  They have spent good money, still have their needs unmet, and are exhausted by the failed process. 

Could this have been avoided?  In many cases yes – read on to discover how.

What implementations require: Most enterprise software implementations require an enormous effort.  Virtually all involved have busy day-jobs, in addition to the extra duties that they must take on.  Implementations require inter-departmental communication, cooperation and the financial costs are not insignificant.   The process itself can last for many months to years, depending on the scale of the effort.

Why enterprises go through the effort: While the process can be exhausting, the gains are potentially enormous.  Most companies will embrace new systems that promise to automate day-to-day management tasks, enhance long-term planning, budgeting and forecasting, and integrate fragmented systems.

Process companies follow: Companies typically begin the evaluation process by casting a wide net to attract a reasonable number of vendors.  The process usually involves a ‘Request for Proposals’ that winnows the number down to a manageable shortlist.  The shortlisted vendors are then invited to demo the product, a choice is made and the contract is awarded.

So far so good, the process sounds reasonable, but where do they go wrong?

Invest time in the beginning to avoid regrets later: In years past, it was not unusual for a demonstration to take an entire day.  Now we are seeing typical demonstrations last for only 2 hours and it is more like a beauty contest than a substantial evaluation.  I find that prospective clients often create requirements lists that address the deficiencies of their current systems - often leaving out many existing capabilities that are taken for granted.  While a series of demonstration days is extremely tiring, they are necessary.  It is impossible to do a proper assessment in just 2 hours.  Otherwise many shortcomings will be overlooked and only discovered in the implementation process, when it may be too late.

Deliberate before making the final decision: In addition to extending the live demonstrations to a full day, I recommend beginning with a Needs Assessment before awarding the contract. The purpose of the assessment is to make sure that everything is known and understood at the beginning.  The assessment goes much further than the demonstration; you are able to test ideas with the vendor and flag issues that may need extra attention in the implementation.  You’re also given a more meaningful opportunity to evaluate the vendor’s personnel, not just their sales personnel.  At the end of the assessment, you will better understand the vendor’s capabilities, their plan and the actual costs.


At StarGarden while we have had challenging projects over the course of 30 years, we have never had a failed implementation.  I believe that is because every project begins with a needs assessment

The secret to successful implementations is simple: Make sure that everything is understood before you start implementing an ERP or HRIS system and you won’t have to worry about the outcome later!