Posts Tagged implementations

Resourcing HR and Payroll Service and System Implementations

The Issue

The replacement of HR and Payroll systems or services is often commenced without a clear understanding of the resourcing required to ensure a successful project. Organisations undertaking such transitions focus primarily, at least at first, on the procurement aspects of the project. Where implementation resources are considered in detail, these usually comprise the resources to be provided by the supplier rather than those that will need to come from the purchasing organisation. The organisation may well ask the supplier, on the basis of their experience of these types of transition, to estimate the level of customer-side resource needed. However, it is likely that during the sales process the supplier will play down this requirement. It can be discouraging for buyers of systems or services to discover that not only must they finance a wide range of supplier consultancy activities but that significant internal resource costs will also be incurred.

In this article I discuss the customer-side resourcing needed in HR and Payroll system and service transitions. I also briefly touch on the types of resourcing which organisations should purchase from their supplier in terms of application consultancy, training, business intelligence consultancy, data migration consultancy and project management.


People And Skills

Implementations of systems and services inevitably require detailed decision-making, intensive configuration and close supervision of the supplier/client relationship. Even when organisations are outsourcing their HR or Payroll business processes, or transitioning between outsourced arrangements, customer-side involvement cannot and should not be avoided. Whatever the nature of the transition, a range of business-specific requirements will need to be met… and your supplier should not be the final arbiter as to whether or not this has been accurately and comprehensively achieved.

So, for HR and Payroll system or service transitions, what types of people and skills will an organisation need?

Whilst this is clearly subject to organisational size, business complexity and the degree of outsourcing involved, I attempt to broadly answer this question as follows.

Area Experts And Decision Makers

All system and service transitions will require the involvement of individuals who understand the business processes and system needs of the areas affected by the transition. For a transition to be successful it is crucial that these individuals have the seniority to make final decisions on system use or service provision without recourse to committee. It is also crucial that their allocation to the project is clearly defined and not simply slotted around a ‘day job’.

Examples of the type of experts needed by the project might be the payroll manager, an HR manager, the team leader of the Recruitment team, a Training manager and so on. I will touch on what this means in terms of FTE (full time equivalents) for each type of implementation later in this article.

Area Operators/Assistants

Transitions for in-house system use will require individuals with a working knowledge of the business processes in their area and with the skills to assimilate and apply any changes needed. They must have the aptitude to learn how to operate the new system and to share this knowledge with other users when required. HR and Payroll officers and Recruitment and Training administrators may be suitable for these roles.

It is also worth placing in these roles individuals who are positioned to continue working with the system or service after the transition has been completed, thus ensuring that the organisation benefits in the long term from the knowledge and experience gained during the transition.

Business Intelligence Experts

Business Intelligence is a crucial requirement from any HR and Payroll system or service, and transitions between systems or services must be managed closely to meet this need. Even within a fully outsourced arrangement the purchasing organisation may need to assign to the project staff who understand the organisation’s BI requirements:

–          to ensure continuity of reporting;

–          to liaise with the service provider;

–          to confirm access to reporting; and

–          to participate in report validation prior to go-live.

For in-house arrangements organisations will require staff who can administer the new reporting tool and write reports. Relying on the supplier for this can be inefficient and expensive. In smaller in-house scenarios the area expert may pick up these BI responsibilities, though this can significantly impact on implementation timescales.

System Users

Subject to the nature of the transition, future users of the system or service may need to be involved in the quality control and testing aspects of the project; and they will certainly need to be inducted into any changed business processes or system use. This requirement should be considered when preparing the business case for the transition and analysed closely during project initiation, in order to determine the likely impact on users and the amount of time they will need to set aside.


Technical Support / IT

The involvement of the organisation’s IT team will be required in any system and service transition, even if it is only to ensure access to an externally hosted database for data interrogation processes. In fully in-house arrangements, significant IT support will be needed during key stages of the transition to administer the set up and configuration of relevant servers (or to liaise with the supplier if these are hosted externally); to set up or liaise on comms; to provide desk top support to the project team; to liaise on installing the software and on subsequent software upgrades etc. Organisation size has a close correlation to the technical FTE required.

Project Management

With the obvious disclaimer on vested interests, I strongly recommend employing a customer-side project manager when transitioning between HR and Payroll systems or services. At one end of the spectrum this role might involve little more than managing and monitoring the service provider (a responsibility that can perhaps be assumed by one of the area experts); at the other extreme, for larger and more complex projects, it will necessitate a full time Project Managemer with Project Office back up, covering stakeholder management, project control and governance, project team management, supplier management and project communications. In the latter case it is not advisable to use supplier-provided project management since this creates a clear conflict of interest between project manager and project, i.e. the project objective of maximising quality and reducing costs vs. the supplier’s interest in maximising profit whilst minimising their costs (inclusive of project management time).


(Optional) Business Analysts

The suppliers of HR or Payroll systems and services are unlikely to emphasise the amount of business change implicit in the implementation of their product since this may deter potential customers. However, the business change implications for the organisation should be closely analysed, preferably in advance of the procurement, and the resultant workload assessed. In large scale projects the business analysts involved in this may also be deployed later on to facilitate the business change during the transition and to generate procedural documentation and guidelines on system use. In smaller projects the area experts or assistants may inherit this responsibility.

(Optional) Data Migration Specialists

Payroll and HR system and service transitions invariably require the migration of data from the old system to the new. For larger and more complex transitions, where data is sourced from multiple locations and significant mapping is required, it may be useful to deploy in-house data migration expertise if available.

(Optional) Testers

In smaller, in-house projects the Area Experts and Area Operators will undertake most of the testing activities, with participation where appropriate (e.g. during parallel running) from future system users. In larger projects, one or two individuals or even a team may be brought in to work specifically on testing and quality control.

(Optional) Trainers

Subject to the size, nature and complexity of the transition, trainers may need to be deployed to train system users.


Ad hoc involvement may be required from Audit, Finance, Communications, Employee Representation, Infrastructure, Property Services and so on. This will be determined by the nature and size of the organisation involved and should be identified during the initiation or planning stages of the project.


Resource Numbers (FTE)

So what are the resourcing levels that organisations will need during system or service transitions?

Clearly this must be definitively established through detailed analysis of the proposed changes and the business environment in which they are taking place. Nevertheless, to offer some initial guidelines, I hazard approximate “full time equivalents” below based on my experiences of these types of project and that of colleagues with whom I have worked closely.

In-House System Transitions For Large Or Complex Organisations (2,000 to 10,000 Employees)

Resource Numbers (FTE) Comments
Area Experts And Decision Makers 1 per area If the organisation is undertaking an in-house Payroll and core HR implementation, with Recruitment, Training and Self Service to follow, then this would entail an initial ‘Area Expert’ FTE of 2 (these being HR and Payroll representatives at a management level). If Recruitment and Training are to be deployed in parallel, the FTE would rise to 3 or 4, subject to the scope of the later implementations.
Area Operators/Assistants 1 – 2 per area 1 FTE per area may be sufficient here, but this may need to be increased for larger and more complex transitions.
Business Intelligence Experts 1 – 2 If the organisation has a very large business intelligence requirement then up to two FTE may be required during the transition, to analyse the requirement, develop specific reports and configure report access and delivery. In moderately sized organisations 1 dedicated BI role is normally sufficient.An alternative approach is to train area experts or operators in the use of the Business Intelligence tool. This approach, in my view, is preferable, but it will add significantly to the FTE indicated in the boxes above, particularly in light of the training required.
System Users Analysis required System users may need to participate in:

–   testing at different stages of the transition;

–   in discussions on current vs future system use;

–   in decision making; and

–   in parallel running and in attending training.

The FTE utilised here is closely dependent on the approach taken to the project.

Technical Support / IT 0.5 – 2 Ad hoc IT support will be needed at various stages in the system transition: to administer the set up and configuration of relevant servers (or to liaise with the supplier if these are hosted externally); to set up or liaise on comms; to provide desk top support to the project team; to liaise on implementing the software or software upgrades; to maintain users and so on. Organisation size has a strong bearing on the technical FTE required.
Project Management 1 A dedicated project manager reporting directly to the organisation significantly improves the likelihood of a successful transition.  Conversely, asking managers with other, primary responsibilities to assimilate this role inevitably compromises the management of the project.As noted above, it is also inadvisable to rely on supplier project managers as this introduces a clear conflict of interest: the supplier’s interest in maximising profit and minimising costs vs. the organisation’s interest in a successful project on time and in budget.
(Optional) Business Analysts 1 – 2 Business process re-engineering, if included in the transition, may well necessitate the involvement of business analysts. Business change can also negatively impact on the post-transition productivity of staff using the new system.
(Optional) Data Migration Specialists 1 (occasional) At specific points in the project life cycle 1 or more data migration experts may be needed to collect, collate, map, upload and test migrated data. This is normally supplemented by supplier consultancy.
(Optional) Testers 1+ Subject to the project life cycle and the size of the organisation 1 or more testers may be required for testing and quality control activities. This FTE will not be continuously required.
(Optional) Trainers 1+ Subject to the project life cycle and the size of the organisation 1 or more trainers may be required to train users in changed business processes and the use of the new system. This FTE will not be continuously required.
Miscellaneous 0.5 Involvement may be required from related teams, e.g. Finance, Audit, Properties and Communications.

Note: Very large or complex organisations with tens of thousands of employees on very disparate payrolls will need to scale up the above estimates. Senior administrators or managers with experience of each type of payroll may need to join the project team. It is also the case that these types of transition respond well to increased resourcing – showing clear improvements in the quality of the implementation when good project staffing is provided. An example might be providing dedicated resource for project and system documentation, resulting in high quality procedural documentation being made available for current and future users of the system.

In-House System Transitions For Organisations of Moderate Size and Complexity (500 – 2,000 Employees)

Resource Numbers (FTE) Comments
Area Experts And Decision Makers 1 for HR, 1 for Payroll, 0.5 for other areas Even moderately sized and reasonably straightforward Payroll and HR implementations tend to need one expert decision-maker for each area.Recruitment, Training, Self Service and other modules may well require less resource, or, if these are phased in after the HR/Payroll transition, the HR expert may move on to support the implementation of the smaller modules.
Area Operators/Assistants 1 for HR, 1 for Payroll, 0.5 for other areas Please see note above.
Business Intelligence Experts 0.5 It is difficult to predict the need for Business Intelligence skills in this scenario since this is very much subject to business need. The area experts may be able to meet this requirement but this will increase the FTE indicated above, particularly in light of the additional training entailed.
System Users Analysis required System users may need to participate in testing at different stages of the transition; in discussions on current vs future system use; in parallel running and in attending training. The FTE needed here will decrease with decreasing organisational complexity and size.
Technical Support / IT 0.5 – 1
Project Management 1
(Optional) Business Analysts 1
(Optional) Data Migration Specialists <1 At specific points in the project life cycle data migration tasks will need to be undertaken. This work may be inherited by the area experts.
(Optional) Testers 1 – 2 Subject to project size and complexity. It is in fact more likely that the Area Experts, Area Operators and future users will undertake this activity.
(Optional) Trainers 1
Miscellaneous 0.5 – 1


In-House System Transitions For Smaller Organisations (Less Than 500 Employees) 

Resource Numbers (FTE) Comments
Area Experts And Decision Makers 1 HR, 1 Payroll System transitions for smaller organisations can be very demanding, since in-house resource is often difficult to find and often one or two individuals combine many of the roles indicated in this table.
Area Operators/Assistants 0 – 1 per area As a minimum even small organisations will benefit from 1 HR FTE and 1 Payroll FTE to see through a successful transition. In this scenario the Area Expert and the Area Operator is often the same person. A less efficient option is to have multiple part-time contributors.
Business Intelligence Experts < 0.5 In-house Business Intelligence expertise is critical to a successful project – but it may be the case with small organisations that this must be provided by the HR or Payroll area expert or by the supplier.
System Users Analysis required See comments above.
Technical Support / IT 0.5 Technical support cannot be avoided… but the requirement will be ad hoc rather than continuous.
Project Management 0 For system transitions in small organisations the project management is likely to be provided by one of the area experts or by a manager on a part-time basis. In either scenario, it is advisable that the individual picking up this responsibility researches the typical life cycle of these kinds of project. (A modest starting point might be my article Getting System Implementations Right.) Ideally an experienced project manager will be brought in, possibly on a part time basis.
(Optional) Business Analysts 0 Undertaken by the area experts.
(Optional) Data Migration Specialists 0 Undertaken by the area experts.
(Optional) Testers 0 Undertaken by the area experts and operators.
(Optional) Trainers 0 Undertaken by the area experts.
Miscellaneous Ad hoc Undertaken by the area experts.

Note: The relationship between organisation size/complexity and the resource required for system transitions is not directly proportional. A minimum amount of resource will be needed for even fairly small organisations. If insufficient resource is allocated there will be a significant risk of project failure or of overloading the individuals assigned to the project.

System Implementations With Partial Outsourcing

To determine the resources organisations will need where partial outsourcing is planned, please see the estimates in the tables above. For each area being outsourced the Area Expert FTE can be reduced by 50-75% and the Area Assistants to 0%, since  much of this work will be picked up by the service provider. The Area Expert FTE cannot be reduced to 0%, however, because in-house expertise will still be required to monitor the setup, testing and outputs of the service being provided.

Transitions To or Between Fully Outsourced Services


Resource Numbers (FTE) Comments
Area Experts And Decision Makers 0.25 – 0.5 per area As noted above, the Area Expert FTE cannot be reduced to 0% since area expertise will be needed to make decisions on the service configuration and to monitor the performance of the supplier and the service.
Business Intelligence Experts 0 – 2 If the outsourced provider maintains a database which the organisation’s staff must access for their reporting and data needs, then business intelligence expertise may well be required during the transition to set up or refresh the reports to be used.
Technical Support / IT 0.5 – 1 Ad hoc IT support may be needed for desktop and comms if the organisation’s staff access an externally hosted database for their reporting and data needs.
Project Management 0.25 – 0.5 Some element of supplier and resource administration will be required even for fully outsourced transitions.
Miscellaneous 0 – 0.25 Contributory work may be required from teams such as Finance, Audit, Communications etc.

The above table indicates the resourcing needed for transitions in outsourced arrangements for small to fairly large organisations. Larger national and multinational organisations with employee numbers in the tens of thousands will need to scale these up accordingly.

Implementation Services Provided By The Supplier

As part of the procurement of new HR and Payroll systems or services, organisations will need to buy help and support for their implementation or transition. For organisations taking in-house solutions, the suppliers can be expected to provide:

–          Supplier-side project management, to oversee the day to day relationship with their customer and the timely delivery of the purchased products or services;

–          Application consultancy, to lead the customer’s project team through the setup required to implement and use the new system;

–          Business Intelligence consultancy, to advise on reporting tool configuration and potentially produce the more complex reports needed for go-live;

–          Data Migration consultancy, to facilitate migration into the new system;

–          Tech consultancy as determined by the proposed hardware, comms and database configuration;

–          Bespoke software development; and

–          Training in all areas of the new system and in the use of the reporting tool.

The numbers of days purchased for each of the above types of consultancy will be subject to analysis, negotiation and the supplier’s recommendations. However, it is important for organisations to emphasise during the procurement and within the resultant contract that these recommendations should be reasonably binding and that a stream of change controls relating to work that the supplier should have been able to foresee will be unwelcome.

Areas which are frequently underplayed in system and service transitions are the amount of training required; the amount of data migration consultancy which should be purchased; and the amount of bespoke development needed. Examples from a recent project I worked on were the omission of a Finance interface from a Payroll implementation contract, which then had to be separately purchased at considerable extra cost; and the failure to recommend data migration consultancy to cover fairly obvious data such as post and hierarchy information.



In summary, HR and Payroll system or service transitions are almost always more resource intensive than organisations expect. This is partly because organisations tend towards optimism when it comes to using existing staff, and partly because system and service providers tend to emphasise the direct rather than indirect costs arising from transitions. To avoid surprises it is therefore useful, when preparing the business case for such transitions, to include a detailed analysis of this potential area of cost. The resourcing guidelines above will, I hope, offer a useful starting position for organisations embarking upon this exercise.

November 2013

Luke Andreski  PMI PMP

Project Management Services


With thanks to Emily Roach of Approach BI Ltd for the addition of ‘Testing’ resource to the above discussion.

© 2013 Luke Andreski. All rights reserved.

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An Exciting Article On Project Filing


In giving this article the title I have given it I might be accused of miss-selling… however, and quite unexpectedly, I find myself, if not exactly excited by, then at least seriously interested in, the topic of project filing.

A significant element of any project manager’s work is to collate, create, review and update documents which relate to the project or projects in hand. For this reason it is important that project documents are filed in an intuitive and sensible way, reflecting both the project management methodology being used and the life cycle to which the project adheres.

Currently I prefer to work with the Project Management Institute’s ‘Project Management Body Of Knowledge’(PMBOK) methodology, with its nine knowledge areas: Scope, Integration, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk and Procurement. These need to interface with the typical life cycle of the projects with which I am currently involved: initiation; planning; analysis and design; system configuration; data migration; testing, documentation and the transition to operational live running. Then of course there are the pragmatic considerations of information storage and retrieval: What do you need immediate access to as soon as you open a project file? What folders will you need to access most often? Are there other areas of documentation or data which are not covered by the matrix of knowledge areas vs. life cycle? How can you ensure your file structure is intuitive and easy to adopt?

With all this in mind I have devised a project file and folder structure for use with both hardcopy and electronic filing which I have tested against the storage requirements of real project data.

This structure seems to me to work… but is it the best?

Take a look:

The Project File

Folder 1: Stakeholders and Contacts

This folder will include simple contact lists as well as stakeholder analysis and stakeholder management planning

Folder 2: Governance – Charter and Scope

This folder will include the contract, initial scoping documents or terms of reference, the project initiation document or charter, and any further detailed scoping. In other words, all the documents by which the project is initially defined

Folder 3: Project Planning

Once you have established the scope of your project – the objectives, requirements, outline timescales and budget – serious planning can commence, and this folder should contain not only the usual MSP Gantt charts but also meta-planning documents such as your plans for project management,  for quality assurance, for human resource management, for communications and so on

Folder 4: Status – Activities Issues and Risks

To include status reports and updates, issue logs, risk logs and schedule variance

Folder 5: Status – Costs

This folder will include budget or project costs and utilisation reports, and earned value or other assessments of value achieved versus expected. The utilisation of third party deliverables should also be reflected here. This area is given a folder in its own right to reflect the importance of cost within most organisations

Folder 6: Change Control

To hold change requests, both pending and authorised. These, in conjunction with the data held in the Governance folder, define the project

Folder 7: Project Coordination

This folder holds the ‘project office’ type of documentation not already covered by the other folders: the agendas, papers and minutes for formal meetings(such as Board and Project Team meetings). Also documentation related to supplier management or the administration of supplier deliverables such as training and consultancy

Folder 8: Project Data

This folder holds the data associated with the life cycle of your particular type of project, e.g.

8.1   Analysis and Design

8.2   Infrastructure and system administration

8.3   System configuration and build

8.4   Data migration

8.5   Testing and quality control

8.6  Procedures, manuals and guides

Folder 9: Phase and Project Closure

To hold documentation relating to the closure of phases or the project as a whole, including the documentation of lessons to be learned

Folder 10: Miscellaneous

…because there will always be some documents which are impossible to categorise or which do not deserve a category of their own.

This is how I have begun to structure my project files. How have you structured yours?

Luke Andreski PMI PMP

I am a project manager with many years’ experience in HR and Payroll system implementations. I am in the process of completing my most recent contract for the housing and care organisation Midland Heart. After a one or two month break I will be seeking a new contract from August/September 2013 onward.

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Prerequisites For Successful HR and Payroll System Implementations


Before an HR or Payroll system implementation can begin, a number of important activities must already be underway or drawing to a close. This post briefly looks at the following:

  • The decommissioning of the existing system
  • The procurement of a new system
  • The opportunity for a business process review
  • Other important ‘up front’ success factors.

Decommissioning The Current System

The decommissioning of the current HR and Payroll system can be considered a project in itself. This project should include:

  • A review of the current system’s strengths and weaknesses
  • An analysis of how the system’s weaknesses may be addressed by a new system
  • Consultation with champions of the current system, if there are any, to ensure buy-in for system change (i.e. the initial stages of change management)
  • A cost/benefit justification for moving from the current system; and
  • Decisions on which current system data should be deleted, which should be archived and which data should be cleansed for loading onto the new system. It is best practice within system transitions for the new system be populated only with data that has been checked for accuracy, coherence and integrity. It is also crucial for the implementation of the new system that close attention is given to – and time allowed for – the data mapping process.

The analytical outputs from the decommissioning exercise will feed into the procurement process for the new system and into the initiation and planning stages of the implementation project.

The decommissioning of the current system may be dealt with as a subproject of the implementation project, but it should nevertheless be undertaken rigorously, with the activities described above commenced well in advance of acquiring the new system.

System Procurement

The procurement project will have outputs of central importance to the implementation project. These outputs should include:

  • The initial business case for the system transition, which may feed from the decommissioning exercise
  • A Schedule Of Work or detailed definition of the requirements which the new system and its supplier must meet
  • A contract which includes:
    • Delivery targets
    • Implementation timescales
    • The supplier’s detailed confirmation of the extent to which they can meet each individual requirement in the SOW
    • A supplier-incentivising payment profile
    • Penalties for supplier non-performance
    • Insurance against subcontractor non-performance
    • Defined implementation consultancy and support
    • Defined system and DBA training
    • A detailed Support SLA including escalation points
    • System performance guarantees
    • An agreed change control procedure
    • A supplier/client conflict resolution strategy
  • The purchased software, hardware, database environments, comms, services and implementation support.

It is essential, in addition to the organisation’s procurement team and representatives from IT, that both senior and junior HR and Payroll users are engaged in the selection process. Representation should also be sought from other important stakeholders, such as Finance, Audit and the employees themselves.

Business Process Review

An opportunity which should not be missed when taking on a new HR and Payroll system is that of reviewing the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the business processes being supported by the system. The business process review should cover:

  • Document and data flows
  • Authorisation processes
  • The practices, codes and calculations used in areas such as absence recording
  • System-related HR processes and procedures in general
  • Departmental boundaries and responsibilities – and whether these should be modified in light of the capabilities of the new system
  • The data required by the organisation and who should have access to that data
  • The standardisation of data formats and codifications throughout the organisation; and
  • Whether all the reports currently generated are needed and what new reports might be required.

Other Important Success Factors

Other precursors to a successful HR and Payroll system implementation include:

  • Commitment to system change by management at an executive level
  • A recognition of the size and complexity of the forthcoming project. HR and Payroll implementations can range in duration from four months for a small company with straightforward pay and employment conditions to nine months for companies with employee numbers in the low thousands… through to twenty-four months for very large organisations taking a phased implementation approach
  • Detailed, up front project evaluation and planning
  • A financial commitment recognising the many factors of a system change of this sort, inclusive of:
    • Hardware, software and comms
    • Project management
    • Expert consultancy
    • Training consultancy
    • Project staff
    • Time taken from HR, Payroll and Finance staff for initial consultations through to testing and parallel running; and
    • Temporary productivity reduction whilst familiarity is gained with the new processes and system.

For an extended discussion of the key features of successful HR and Payroll implementations, please see the document ‘Best Practice for HR and Payroll System Implementations’ on this blog.


Implementing a new HR and Payroll system does not begin when system access is first provided to the project team – or even with the signing of the contract for the new system. A rigorous procurement exercise must first take place, and this should be supported by analysis of the reasons for change, the production of a compelling business case, the production of a comprehensive requirements document and some anticipatory change management.

Undertake these activities and your implementation should get off to a running start.

Luke Andreski

©  Luke Andreski 2012. All rights reserved

Comments and feedback welcome!


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Best Practice For HR and Payroll System Implementations


HR and Payroll systems are required by all types of employing organisation to support the administration of employees, the payment of employees, the management of employee data and the provision of management information. This need is met in the UK by database and software providers such as SAP, Oracle, Ceridian, NorthgateArinso, Unit4, MidlandHR and many others, offering web and server-based, in-house, partially managed or outsourced solutions.

Over time organisations outgrow the systems they use (or which are used on their behalf) and the transition to a new system becomes essential. Transitions are also compelled by statutory change, software end-of-life, business reorganisation, company buy-outs, technological advance and changes in management focus or direction.

As a result a continuous demand exists in all market sectors for the decommissioning of current HR and Payroll systems and the implementation of new ones.

This document seeks to identify best practice for such implementations, and in doing so I cover the following areas:

  • The implementation project life cycle
  • The project team
  • Project initiation and planning
  • Core HR and Payroll system implementation activities
  • Best practice project management
  • Key features of successful implementations; and
  • Similar types of implementation

Initially I focus on in-house implementations, where a project manager and project team work in the host organisation to implement the new system, and the system supplier provides system expertise in the form of consultancy. I will discuss the implementation as if it is one of a combined HR and Payroll system. These considerations will also apply to the implementation of HR and Payroll modules within an ERP solution.

The Implementation Project Life Cycle

In PRINCE2 and PMBOK the definition of a project life cycle is very similar:

  • Initiate the project
  • Undertake a detailed fact finding and planning exercise
  • Execute the stages or phases of the project
  • Formally close each stage or phase (signing off against predefined success criteria and taking forward lessons learned)
  • Project closure

Both methodologies give a detailed breakdown of how each of these life cycle elements must be executed and controlled to minimise the risks of schedule slippage, cost overspend and unsatisfactory deliverables. The project management activities that bracket the delivery phases of the project – objectives definition, scoping, requirements gathering, planning, learning lessons, performance measurement and project administration – are all about ensuring that organisations get right the fundamental, deliverable-based core of the project.

Given the range of deliverables required from HR and Payroll implementations, it is crucial that a structured approach along the above lines is adopted.

The Project Team

A project board or committee should include executive-level representation, senior HR and Payroll management, an IT manager or director, and a nominated project sponsor. It may also include a senior supplier representative, an employee representative and representatives from affected departments such as Audit, Finance, Training and Recruitment. The latter group may not need to attend all Project Board meetings (or all parts of each meeting).

The project team should include:

  • The project manager
  • A senior HR officer or manager, empowered to make system set-up and HR process decisions on behalf of the organisation (avoiding ‘decision making by committee’)
  • A senior Payroll officer or manager, empowered to make system set-up and Payroll process decisions on behalf of the organisation
  • Experts in the process areas affected by the implementation
  • Hands-on team members to undertake non-strategic work
  • A representative from IT; and
  • A supplier- or third party-provided consultant with prior knowledge of the system and its implementation.

Depending on the size of the project, the team may also at some point include:

  • Business process  re-engineering expertise
  • Experts in documenting the use of the system
  • Additional external consultancy
  • Trainers
  • Dedicated resource for project communications
  • Dedicated Business Intelligence resource; and
  • Super-users participating in pilot and parallel running.

Key recommendations in regard to the project team are:

  • That the core team members are dedicated full time to the project
  • That supplementary resources are assigned to the project on the basis of agreed time allocations
  • That the team includes representation from all areas within which the system will be implemented
  • That, prior to or at the commencement of the project, the project team are trained in how to work together as a team on this kind of project
  • That at least some of the project team members are able to continue working with the system after project completion, perhaps in a system support capacity, thus benefitting the organisation with the expertise gained during the project
  • That a project area or project HQ is provided for the duration of the project, where the project team will be based.

Initiation And Planning

As a minimum, project initiation must include the creation and signing-off at an executive level of a Project Initiation Document, a Project Charter or a Project Brief, on the lines defined within PRINCE2 and PMBOK. The project initiation should also include detailed stakeholder analysis and the allocation of resource for the initiation and planning stages of the project.

As a minimum the project planning stage should generate strategies for controlling the cost, the timing, the quality of outputs and the risks of the project, and provide detailed plans for project execution, communications and control.

Phasing, both in functional terms (e.g. initial roll-out of core HR plus Payroll, then Training or Recruitment, then Employee Self Service) and in terms of business area or geographical location, is generally recommended for HR and Payroll implementation projects. It is also advisable within large implementations to undertake initial pilot runs, over and above the parallel running, even within a functional or business area.

Core Implementation Activities

HR and Payroll system implementations will typically include the following activities:

  • System, hardware and comms delivery and configuration – preferably with multiple environments allowing for training, testing, trial system configuration and setup, and parallel and live running
  • DBA setup, with immediately active backup protocols and the ability to restore or copy environments promptly when required
  • Project team training
  • System setup: parameters, tables, hierarchies, rates, calculation formulae and rules, menus, security etc
  • Development and upload of bespoke software, interfaces and reports
  • Data cleansing (assuming data will be migrated from the legacy system)
  • Data migration tests
  • Iterative testing of system setup, bespoke software, interfaces, reports and system functionality
  • Production of user guides and other documentation
  • Training for the users who will be involved in acceptance testing, pilot and parallel running
  • User Acceptance Testing of end-to-end processes, inclusive of interface testing
  • Data migration for parallel and pilot running
  • Parallel and pilot running
  • Remaining user and manager training
  • Phased rollout (by functional and/or business area, with relevant data migrations if applicable)
  • Phase closures and the carrying forward of lessons learned
  • Project completion

All these activities must be actioned in accordance with the project plan and closely monitored for timeliness, cost, quality and risk. Preventative and corrective actions must be taken when necessary to ensure the project remains on time, on budget and ‘on spec’. Guidance for achieving this will be offered by the adopted project management methodology.

I recommend, where both HR and Payroll systems or modules are being implemented within an organisation, that they are implemented at the same time, in order to gain efficiencies in terms of project workload and cost. Where this is not possible, I recommend that the implementation of the HR system or module takes place first. The reason for this is that the system configuration and setup that is common to the two areas is more complex on the HR side (e.g. organisational hierarchy, employee records, absence recording) and it is easier to utilise a subset of a pre-existing configuration than to build a complex configuration on the back of a simpler one.

Best Practice Project Management

Where a proven methodology is already in place within an organisation then I recommend that this methodology is used for the HR and Payroll system implementation.  It is important that the project manager and team use the same ‘language’ as their colleagues, and that the documents, reports and strategy for the project are recognisable and broadly understood.

Where an organisation is not using an in-house methodology I recommend either PMBOK or PRINCE2, with partial adoption of some of the efficiency strategies of Agile.

In addition to a project management methodology, the HR or Payroll implementation will require a protocol for configuration management. This ensures traceability from the initial project objectives through to the final outcomes of the project. Configuration management also ensures that version and change control are rigorously documented throughout the project.

As with the project management methodology, if there is a protocol for configuration management already in place this should be used; otherwise a proven example should be adopted from an external source.

The considerations detailed above clearly apply to best practice project management in general. Activities which the project manager of an HR and Payroll system implementation may wish to additionally emphasise are:

  • Stakeholder management
  • Project communications (including communicating with employees); and
  • Supplier management.

For further guidance in regard to project management best practice, please see ‘A Perfect Plan’, also in this blog.

Other Features Of Successful HR And Payroll System Implementations

The following factors are recognised as contributing to successful HR and Payroll system implementations:

  • Clearly defined objectives and success criteria
  • The participation and publicised interest in the project of management at an executive level
  • Buy-in at all stakeholders levels
  • Allocation of responsibility for the implementation to all the departments within which the system is being implemented
  • The purchase of sufficient expert consultancy, with an emphasis on skills transfer from consultants to employed staff during the implementation period
  • The purchase of sufficient system training
  • Sufficient payroll parallel running, for example two monthly payrolls paralleled over six weeks, with weekly and other payrolls being paralleled  within this period
  • Interfacing the new HR and Payroll system with other systems within the organisation wherever possible to minimise data entry. The new system should become the core repository of employee data. This requirement is potentially met within ERP implementations, offering HR and Payroll modules as part of a larger functional suite
  • Developing in-house Business Intelligence expertise for use with the new system, which remains available to the HR and Payroll teams after the implementation project is completed
  • Educating project stakeholders to expect a reduction in productivity immediately after system implementation, whilst the new processes bed-in and familiarity with the system is acquired
  • Engaging with other organisations which use the new system, and with a system User Group if one exists.

Similar Implementations

It is clear from the above that best practice for Payroll and HR system implementations will also apply to the implementation of other, similar systems, such as T&A, Pension, Finance, Recruitment, Training, Document Management and ERP packages. There will of course be changes of emphasis and the business expertise required by the project team will differ with each system or module.

Many of the practices detailed here will also apply to the implementation of partially managed or fully outsourced solutions, with the main difference being that the supplier will have to undertake much of the project work rather than the customer who is receiving the service. With suppliers who regularly undertake outsourced implementations the project will be more of a repeatable ‘process’ and therefore should entail less risk. However, new risk is engendered for the supplier through the supplier’s lack of direct experience of the client organisation’s internal working and the resultant increased need for fact-finding. The outsourced customer also inherits the risk of not being in direct control of the implementation and of not retaining or gaining system and procedural expertise should the outsourcing fail.


In conclusion, best practice within HR and Payroll system implementations mandates a closely planned and managed project with considerable commitment from the involved organisation. A successful project will demonstrate many of the features detailed above and offer the ultimate rewards of greater productivity, greater access to system processes and data, and the improved engagement of staff and employees with the objectives of the organisation.

Luke Andreski

©  Luke Andreski 2012. All rights reserved

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