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Pre-planning is Critical to Get the Right HR Solution

May 08, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Most small businesses choose to keep paper employee records at first when it comes to personnel documentation. Typically, that’s because there are a few employees involved, paper and folders are far cheaper, and the amount of paperwork needed is minimal at first. So it’s no surprise then that as a small business grows, what was once a simple matter of maintaining a few folders has now become a hardcopy library requiring a full-time person to keep track of. At that time the idea of converting all that paperwork and HR forms to an electronic format, saved and backed up within a software system with updated personnel rules and policies, becomes very attractive.

However, implementing new HR software is far easier in concept than in practice. Many small businesses dive in without the appropriate pre-planning, finding themselves stuck with a tool that doesn’t serve the company’s specific needs. It’s in this regard why pre-planning an HR software solution to use is so important. Just like any other IT purchase, the business needs and scope need to be defined first before any discussion of specific software packages begins.

A number of questions should be answered in detail before any IT acquisition process begins. These include:

  • Why is the software needed? Sure, automating a hardcopy paper process sounds appealing in this day and age where everything is expected to be digital for easy reference. However, does the tool make sense within how the given small business operates? A business owner and managers need to confirm whether the full features of automation justify their purchase, or if it will just be another tool collecting dust at the end of the day. A good way to test this theory is whether it is possible to get rid of the paper library when the system is up and running.
  • Who is the software tool really for? Will the business’ HR manager and department managers be able to utilize the tool for personnel recordkeeping, retention, promotion review, legal matters, and performance evaluations, or is it being considered for a very narrow purpose? With this answer, then the cost-benefit analysis becomes even more important, especially in a small business that has limited resources.
  • Exactly how would the software tool be installed and implemented? This is a key factor. Implementation can be a complete disaster and business disrupter if not planned out carefully. Will it be rolled out slowly or will all users have access and be expected to use it right away? Will you give managers access to entire employee records or just the parts applicable to them?
  • What else has to be involved to make the software tool work? Often, there are hidden requirements, whether it be a specific base operating system, a network platform, training, or other equipment. Understanding all of the elements ahead of time gives a better picture of the true cost and effort needed to migrate to an automated HR software solution.
  • How much budget will be set aside for this new software? Online software (i.e. SaaS, web-based, “in the cloud”) is all the rage right now, but you need to realize that those are subscriptions you will need to pay monthly or annually in order to continue to use the software and see your HR data. Traditional PC-based software is typically sold with a one-time license cost. Even though there may be optional annual technical support fees, you would still be able to use the software and have access to your data whether you opt in for tech support or not.

HR software solutions are never perfect because everybody runs their business a bit different. Planning makes up for these nuances and helps alleviate a lot of unwanted surprises down the road.

Tags: HR software employee records
Category: HR Software Solutions

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