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HR software: reflections on change management


A few years ago, at the beginning of my career at a Big Four consultancy, I started to work in the Change Management unit and back then I thought it was the best job in the world, because I could combine two of my great passions:  technology and people.

At the time, I wasn't aware of how critical our work was and probably neither did many of my colleagues. However, today due to the course of time and, why not say so, the large number of implementation projects for Human Capital Management Systems that I took part in, I’d like to share a series of reflections that I find interesting to consider for managing change in these HCMS implementations

Reflection 1: Do you know why you're implementing it?

I don't think any of us are immune to the fads. And this includes companies. However, in this case, I believe that any company that plunges itself into implementing an HR technology solution for the first time, to changing the provider or to adding on new functionalities into their solution, must understand why it is doing so. What am I seeking from this change? What is the purpose or vision behind it? Key issues indeed, given that for information systems, investment can become highly relevant. So, I think it's key to be clear from the outset, with as much detail as possible, as to why and what for.

I propose that, at least in the business environment, this decision be conditioned by a business mandate, since it is not enough to have a good idea that’s nice to have without a "must" driving and pushing action.

Reflection 2: Do you know what is going to be modified when you implement an HCMS?

The British novelist Arnold Bennet said, " Any change, even a change for the better is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts." For the sake of convenience, spend less effort on reviewing what the drawbacks and needs are. It may be worthwhile to review the McKinsey 7S Framework (Shared values, Structure, Strategy, Systems, Style, Style, Skills), leave it as 4 or whatever deemed appropriate. Experience suggests that at least processes, technology, people and organization must be checked; this way you will get a complete all-round analysis.

Reflection 3: Do you know why implementations fail?

No one learns from someone else’s mistakes and not long ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that he didn’t know of anyone who got muscles from watching someone else working out. While both statements may be true, it is no less true than analysing in greater detail why implementations fail can help us take decisions on what aspects to consider as drivers for failure and/or success, based on how they are managed.

According to a study by, between 50% and 70% of projects fail; this failure is understood to be the non-achievement of the expected results. Moreover, going deeper into the post-mortem analysis of possible causes for failure, the study provides us with some guidelines, such as:

  • Assume there is a natural consensus that doesn't actually exist
  • Consider technology as the main challenge to success
  • Skimping on the preparation for implementation
  • Trying to do everything at once
  • Provide adequate support to users
  • Underestimate the level of resourcing needed
  • Overestimating the best practices to be implemented
  • Losing focus: not being able to see the wood for the trees
  • Rolling deadlines endlessly

We can see that most of these reasons respond to people's expectations, needs and ways of working, with people at the central core of all these reasons. Therefore, we can assume that one of the main (if not the main one) reason for failure is how people interact with the solution.

Moreover, we can bring into the equation other aspects that would call for writing another article, such as the level of HCMS input into the employee experience or into the employee-centric policies (which in some cases are the root cause for the implementation of such technology solutions).

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Thus, while taking into account all of the above, we can consider people to be the kingpin in change management, and that the implementation of an can be defined as the discipline responsible for "establishing the required mechanisms to ensure that the implementation of a new HR management tool or module is easy and effective".

In this context, it makes sense that we think about what we want to solve, and from the people’s point of view in all change processes there are three questions which all the stakeholders ask themselves:

  • What do I have to do and how?
  • What are the consequences / benefits / penalties of doing it or not doing it?
  • How much will it cost me in terms of effort?

The answer to these questions, as Michael Ende would say, are for another story that deserves to be told another time, something which I will do in my next post, "HR Software: The Key Requirements for Implementing Change".

Enrique Sala Pascual

Enrique lleva desde el año 2000 dedicado a la consultoría de RRHH, primero en Accenture y posteriormente en Development Systems. Ingeniero de formación y humanista de vocación, su actividad en múltiples proyectos durante estos 17 años le ha permitido observar la realidad de la gestión de RRHH en múltiples empresas, sectores e iniciativas. Desde su actual posición en Meta4 su objetivo es aunar la visión de Personas, RRHH y Negocios en búsqueda de “la respuesta”: ¿qué debe hacer RRHH para dar respuesta a las necesidades del negocio gestionando la parte “Humanos” de los Recursos?

Enrique has been an HR consultant ever since 2000, first at Accenture, then in Development Systems. An engineer by profession and a humanist by vocation, his work across numerous projects over the last 17 years has allowed him to observe HR management in many companies, sectors and initiatives. In his current post at Meta4, his mission is to fuse people, HR, and business together as well as to seek the answer to: what HR must do to meet business needs through managing the “human” side of “resources”?

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