Written by: Blase Casillas

Are HR Implementations “Mission Critical”?

How often do you hear, “Our people are our most valuable asset” or “Our competitive differentiator is our people”? All the time, right? Then why is it that in most ERP implementations HR is so often an afterthought?

Historically HR has been considered “back office”, a non-revenue generating cost center that exists to manage annual open enrollment and make sure everyone follows company policy. This is an unfortunate stereotype when in reality the primary purpose of HR is to help manage and develop the company’s “most valuable assets”, it’s people.

So why is it that in most ERP implementations there is so little emphasis on HR? Companies are laser focused on domain expertise in almost every other aspect of ERP selection criterion…particularly when looking for an implementation partner or system integrator. Specialty in Process or Lean Manufacturing, Retail or Public Sector are seen as critically important in the partner selection process, yet in evaluating partners the fact that very few if any have done more than a handful of HR implementations is somehow acceptable.

The problem often arises because of where the decisions are being made. The C-suite depend on IT and Finance to manage the ERP selection process. For that reason, the primary focus is on technology and on getting the best price, not on providing HR functional expertise and consulting. Once the short-list is compiled, department leaders are involved in the process with HR playing a support role at best. At worst HR isn’t involved until a decision has been made and they must live with the hand they were dealt.

There are some bright spots on the horizon however. Workday has led the charge in putting people first, and has put the rest of the ERP publishers in a position of catch-up in developing people-centric solutions. Microsoft has come up with their own strategy in Dynamics 365 for Talent which is still in early days, but is very encouraging for companies in the mid-market…an area where Workday struggles.

HR leadership must take a proactive role not only in ERP selections, but in the implementation and rollout of the HR, payroll and benefits areas. They must demand that implementation partners bring domain experts and consulting resources with real HR and Talent experience to the table. Assigning financials or manufacturing consultants with little to no HR experience to your HR project should raise a huge red flag, and you don’t have to accept it.

Again there is good news…dedicated ISV organizations are filling the skills gaps in many areas of ERP implementations, and HR is no exception. Companies like FourVision and Elevate have dedicated years in developing software and hiring talented HR practitioners that extend the capabilities of Microsoft’s core HR offerings and fill functional gaps through add-ons or customizations specific to your organization. They work with Microsoft and your implementation partner in building a complete solution with appropriate emphasis on your people.

Words of advice to HR Leadership…don’t be a spectator in your ERP selection and implementation. Carve out and own your portion of the project and assign the appropriate internal resources to insure success. Ask hard questions of your implementation partner(s) and demand you get talented, experienced resources with real HR, payroll and benefits experience. If they don’t have the resources themselves press them to bring in the talent or look for resources yourself. Microsoft can be of assistance, and memberships in User Groups like AXUG gives you access to hundreds of your peers who have already gone through the process and faced similar challenges.

Remember, nobody puts HR in the corner. Get out there and take your seat at the ERP selection and implementation table. Your people are too important not to.