3 reasons your HRMS project was a failure, and how to fix them

The worst has happened. Your HRMS project has failed. Once the blamestorming and finger-pointing is over, it’s time to take whatever practical action you can to save it. Of course, the solution or remedial action will depend entirely on why it failed, and what exactly constitutes ‘failure’.

1. You chose the wrong product

‘Wrong’ is a strong word to use. Perhaps it’s a case of badly-identified requirements at the business case or selection stage. Maybe your HRMS selection team were taken in by a slick product demonstration. Maybe a key stakeholder group were left out of your consultations and their needs went unconsidered. Maybe no-one is to blame and some unforeseen external change has occurred, such as new compliance legislation, that renders some of the functionality inadequate. But avoid focusing on responsibility for your company’s HRMS project failure too much - spend your efforts fixing the problem instead.

Recommended reading: make sure your selection team isn’t blinded by slick PR and well-oiled product demonstrations with our completely independent HRMS Software Guide.

First, talk to the vendor or supplier. Can the HRMS be customized to bring it in line with what you need? Are there additional modules available? If the system is open source, could you engage your own developers to make the system fit for purpose?

From an internal point of view, if the system can’t be made to fit your requirements, can the requirements be changed, processes redesigned, or working practises altered? None of these options are exactly filled with glory but they may get you out of the hole you’re in.

2. You went over budget

Purchase or, more likely, implementation costs somehow spiralled out of control and your agreed budget is in tatters. The system itself is working as expected but now your ROI forecasts and business case are the subject of unwelcome attention.

Is it too late to switch to a cheaper product? Probably, but it might be possible and if there is lower-spec system that will still fulfill your essential functions then you may have to sacrifice some of the nice-to-have features or the fancy support package. Alternatively, talk to the budget-holder or finance officer about the possibility of re-profiling the budget; maybe the expense can be spread over a longer period or offset elsewhere and ease the impact the HRMS project failure has on your organization’s financials.

3. Adoption of the new system is low

You have an HRMS that functions as expected and your budget even has some loose change remaining, but user adoption is low and the system is in danger of being labelled a waste. The obvious and essential first step is to consult with users to discover why they are not using the system. Perhaps they are clinging to old ways of working, or are unaware of what functions are available, or maybe they just don’t know how to.

A common reason for HRMS project failure is insufficient or incorrectly-positioned user training, in which case you should evaluate the training in detail. Bear in mind that the content of the training may have been exactly right but the method or channel was at fault (they needed face-to-face input instead of e-learning, or vice versa). Once you have the results of your investigation, you can design and deploy tailored training to meet the skills or knowledge gap.

However, don’t dismiss the possibility that the training is being scapegoated by users who just do not want to use a new system.

Whether the issue is training or not, it’s probable that there has been a failure of communication of some kind and you need to re-engage with your stakeholders. Talk to them and based on the responses, formulate a new and better communications and marketing strategy (which may include new training) to ‘sell’ the new system more convincingly.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall