Redefining HRIS Migration Success

By 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for culture change as CHROs.

A recent prediction made by Gartner clearly demonstrates how IT’s role is evolving from that of an agent who “gets things done” to a more strategic partner who thinks critically about loftier organizational goals.

This transition from service provider to business partner is a logical next step for IT. After all, the biggest challenges facing an organization’s ability to meet its goals in the future lies at the intersection between people and technology.

Making the right technology and process design decisions can mean the difference between an organization merely doing the same thing with new tools or embodying a completely new way of working.

Consider an HRIS (Human Resource Information System) migration as an example.

This kind of management software, which potentially helps HR with virtually any transactional process (from managing payroll and time off requests to tracking benefits payments), can be approached in one of two ways:

  • as a way to generate more process efficiencies for HR; or
  • as part of a larger system that transforms the way that managers, HR leaders, and business leaders make decisions about talent.

HRIS Success: It’s Not About Enabling Better Transactions

Most HRIS migrations fail to consider larger talent implications. They are “lift and shift” — take the data and processes from the old and move to the new.

At best, this approach means an organization spends millions of dollars to do exactly the same kind of HR, but more efficiently. Businesses may end up with faster payroll times, easier bonus payment processes, and quicker scheduling, but can still face the same retention problems, diversity issues, and talent shortfalls.

It’s the same HR, but with a different HRIS.

A more intelligent approach is to view the HRIS within a bigger context, asking how the rollout might be designed to help business professionals on the front lines use new workforce information or clearer workforce information to really do things differently. A company’s workforce is its greatest cost and risk–yet most HR departments are struggling to provide strategic insights to the business that will drive better outcomes.

In other words, successful HRIS migrations are based on careful considerations about what kind of environment supports not just better HR transactions, but better decisions about HR programs and business results.

Data visualization from Visier Talent Acquisition showing whether spending more on hiring results in better new-hire quality

Of course, a baseline level of transactional efficiency is important, but it provides capped value to the business and rarely impacts the bottom line. When management software is complemented with advanced analytical insights, however, IT can turn an information and workflow management system into a decision-making system.

Most HRIS migrations fail to consider larger talent implications. They are “lift and shift” — take the data and processes from the old and move to the new.

The first step is to start with people analytics (the best analytics platforms can process data from legacy HR management systems). This yields many benefits both pre- and post-HRIS migration.

Here are the three main ways that people analytics supports a truly successful HRIS migration:

1. More Strategic HRIS Investments

The HRIS market is vast, composed of established vendors offering modern cloud solutions with extensive end-to-end capabilities, alongside niche players who focus more narrowly on a specific HR area, like payroll or benefits administration.

The risk of rushing to deployment without doing the proper pre-work is that the organization pays for a heavy HRIS when only a simple solution is required. Conversely, it could purchase a system that does not provide the required capabilities, leading to more work in the long term.

With people analytics, you can pinpoint where your legacy systems are falling short in terms of helping to fulfill business objectives. Let’s say that your organization tends to experience a spike in turnover following annual bonus time. In this case, it makes sense to prioritize an HRIS (or niche solution) that supports a more nuanced approach to variable compensation so that it can be spread throughout the year.

In the end, the more clearly you can make the link between modernizing transactional data processes and business outcomes, the more targeted HRIS investments you can make.

The risk of rushing to deployment without doing the proper pre-work is that the organization pays for a heavy HRIS when only a simple solution is required.

2. Better Understanding of Data Value Requirements

It’s easy to be short-sighted and decide that a particular data value isn’t needed because it hasn’t been requested recently. This can cause reconfiguration headaches for IT when business leaders and managers eventually realize that, yes, they do really need this data. Moreover, it may lead to customizations to the HRIS to collect the data through convoluted processes that affect the usability of the new system.

The most advanced people analytics platforms will provide a data inventory, helping you answer questions such as: What data has your organization been collecting? Is it meaningful or could it be more meaningful? What information would business leaders and managers like to have? In this way, analytics forces you to think critically about the data values that you need.

Analytics will also show you where you are getting the most data inconsistencies; if you do this prior to migration and set up, you can plan remediation. Most solutions will enable you to set required fields, and add drop-down lists (rather than allow people to type in values). This can lead to much better data quality, which is important given that many HRIS migrations get mired in dirty data.

Analytics forces you to think critically about the data values that you need.

3. Deeper Insights into Cause and Effect Relationships

Once the HRIS is deployed, a people analytics platform complements it to produce deep, trended analytics about the workforce. Many HRIS vendors offer embedded analytics capabilities, which provide basic metrics and dashboards that do not yield the kind of insights required for decision-making. The most advanced people analytics platforms, on the other hand, provide pre-built content related to a range of areas that matter to the business, including career journeys, movement modeling, and collaborative headcount planning, features that are beyond the capabilities of most HRIS offerings.

Data visualization showing employee movement breakdown for top talent in August 2018 at a fictional organization

The people analytics team from one company, for example, chose our people analytics platform to complement Workday as a management system. By analyzing performance, promotion, and cost data from hires over a four-year period, the company’s people analytics team was able to determine that hiring new grads was a smart investment. Using this information, the company’s University Relations team encouraged business leaders to commit to a more aggressive new-grad hiring target for the following year.

One way that people analytics supports better decision-making is by enabling organizations to leverage historical data. This is important because historical data fuels more powerful predictive analytics (around areas such as risk of exit or internal movement) and also because reviewing past trends (such as the impact on performance or engagement during the last reorganization) is key to gaining insight.

When you move to a modern HRIS, you could lose your organization’s historical data if you don’t have a people analytics platform in place.

Once the HRIS is deployed, a people analytics platform complements it to produce deep, trended analytics about the workforce.

HRIS Migration: Take the Road Less Travelled to Business Impact

Smart HR practices are about moving the needle on business performance. The best HR leaders go beyond recordkeeping to improve innovation through better diversity or help agile teams bring new products to market faster with better organizational design.

CEOs want to see a stronger link between HR strategy and business results, and this is inevitably impacting the decisions IT needs to make. HR and IT both have a critical role to play in shaping how people work. This is a big responsibility, and redefining what constitutes success for an HRIS rollout is a good place to start.

Author Photo
Caitlin Bigsby |
Caitlin Bigsby has over 22 years of experience in HCM software solutions and has worked with dozens of organizations over the years to help them maximize the value of their investments, in both their people and their software. Caitlin shines a light on how analytic insight can elevate the strategy of Human Resources. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and dog, Toby.