How to develop a knockout HRMS project plan


Every HRMS project should have a detailed and thorough plan. Fail to plan, plan to fail. In some ways, we could argue that an HRMS project needs such a plan even more so, as they are often the combination of two very different functions: Human Resources and Information Technology. As well as ensuring that these two sides work together, a documented and agreed up HRMS plan can alleviate any confusion or misunderstandings.

How much time should you spend planning your HRMS? Well, Software Path's HRIS report showed that on average companies spend 20 weeks selecting their HR software - that's just choosing which HRMS you want, when you put into consideration the time you will spend implementing your system, then you'll be putting a fair amount of time (and effort) into your HRMS project - that'll require a bit of planning.

How do we go about creating such a plan? What do we need to document in our HRMS project plan?

The scope document

Before we begin our knockout HRMS plan, we need to start with a scope document. It should be used to obtain agreement from the stakeholders that the HRMS project is needed. It should include the business requirements behind your HRMS project as well as your objectives or the end goals to be achieved. It will often include key milestones and deliverables. A typical scope document for an HRMS project plan may be ‘the implementation of a recruitment system’ with the objectives being: to achieve cost savings and improve efficiencies through one global HRMS. Key milestones in our scope may include an HRMS go-live date, as well as other high-level dates such as completing design and testing.

This document sets out in one place the requirements and rationale, the expected business benefits, and can be critical for gaining initial support for the project among the C-suite. In fact, the scope document is the source reference for everything that follows; from selection criteria to implementation, to evaluation, and finally, the calculation of ROI.

Setting objectives for the project

Later, when the dust has settled and you want to know just how successful your HRMS project (and plan) have been, you’re going to rely on the initial objectives – so it’s best to get them right.

As with any objective, there are benefits to making it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound). Taking the above, “to achieve cost savings and improve efficiencies”, we can create two objectives.

The first will specify the cost savings you expect to make, using cost points that are easily tracked and measured, and with a clear timescale outlining when you expect those savings to transpire.

The second will specify which areas of HR work you expect to be more efficient, and identify how you will measure the improvements (i.e. what data you will collect and what the current benchmark is) and, of course, by when.

Determining a timeline for the project

Next, you need to take the scope document and build out the details that will achieve your objectives. You do this in the HRMS project plan. It is here that you include each and every task, along with the timing and the resources needed. You also need to connect these tasks, so that you know which can happen at the same time or where you have prerequisites. This plan will enable you to see an overall schedule and see where your business is over or underutilized and where additional resources such as HRMS consultants may be needed.

An HRMS project plan also needs to work with the yearly schedule of HR. For example, many HR departments are busy during year end or benefits enrollment periods. You need to adjust your project plan so that we do not include intense weeks of testing that overlap during these periods. Don’t forget to include holidays too!

The result is a clear set of milestones that will be used for project governance, tracking progress and anticipating risks or problems, each with a clear time period and resources allocated.

Be realistic with your task timings – if they are over-optimistic, you risk project drift and even possible failure.

Creating an HRMS project plan

All the information you have gathered is then laid down in the form of a single project plan - often using a GANTT chart or other form of work breakdown structure document. The plan should show each task, the resources needed, who has lead responsibility, and what deadline has been agreed.


The core headline issues for the selection phase of your HRMS project plan is as follows:

  1. Requirements gathering – assess what you have, be specific about what you need, and gather input on what you want from stakeholders.
  2. Delivery method – cloud or on-premise?
  3. HRMS security – consider the various risks, including any BYOD policy you may have in place.
  4. Vendor shortlist – having established your requirements, who appears to meet them?
  5. HRMS demos – find out whether they offer demos or not.
  6. Make a decision.
  7. Contract negotiation – with your chosen vendor.

For a more thorough exploration of HRMS selection, check out our free HRMS selection guide (including a checklist)


The core headline issues for the implementation phase of your HRMS project plan is as follows:

  1. Change management – from now on you cannot make a success of your HRMS project without your users and stakeholders. Take into account how they are likely to react to the new system and plan to communicate and involve accordingly.
  2. Hiring an HRMS consultant – you may benefit from external expertise.
  3. Data migration – the quality of data will determine the value of your new system, especially in users’ eyes, so it’s worth spending the necessary time on getting it right: review the current database for completeness and accuracy and plug any gaps.
  4. System testing – again, rigorous system testing prior to go-live is essential; incorporate a schedule for testing, configuration and system setup in your project plan.
  5. User training – system training is a key opportunity to engage users with the new HRMS, building both skills and enthusiasm; a shortcut here is a significant project risk.
  6. Go-live – ensure enough resources are allocated to this stage to give users a good first impression of the system in action.

For more detail on the elements of this HRMS implementation checklist, check out our free HRMS Implementation guide

Putting it together – a planning checklist

So, to summarize… the following is a checklist of your HRMS project planning activities, in an order that works for most businesses (the caveat being, individual circumstances may vary and that should always be the ultimate decider: what your business needs from its HRMS).

Project scope – Lay out the overall purpose and business requirements for your new HRMS. Essentially, this forms a kind of contract with stakeholders (particularly those in the C-suite), setting out the broad parameters of what your HRMS project aims to achieve.

Project objectives – Building on the scope document and its overall goals, setting specific and measurable objectives effectively gives you a set of metrics for measuring the project’s success (or otherwise). This activity is the foundation of any future ROI exercise.

Project team – With the foundations in place, assemble your HRMS project team (it’s highly unlikely you can do this alone!). Good practice suggests the inclusion of key stakeholders who can accurately represent (and influence!) the views of their peers, including users, C-suite, HR, IT, etc. Team members are likely to be working on the HRMS project part-time while continuing their ‘day jobs’. If necessary, consider adding an HRMS consultant to the team roster for additional specialist expertise and experience; such a consultant may be part of the vendor’s organization or they may be a separately-sourced freelancer or agency.

Project timeline – Now that you know exactly where you’re heading and why, it’s time to plot the route for the journey by identifying all the tasks that need to be carried out. For the vast majority of businesses, that list of tasks will look broadly like this:

  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Agreeing business and system requirements
  • Setting objectives
  • Agree a budget, based on the agreed requirements and objectives
  • Vendor research
  • Invite vendor proposals
  • Draw up vendor shortlist
  • Demos and assessment of shortlisted systems
  • Check references of preferred vendor
  • Contract negotiation with successful vendor
  • Review of HR processes and procedures
  • Physical and technical installation
  • Data cleansing and migration
  • System testing
  • More system testing
  • User training
  • Go-live
  • Post-implementation review
  • ROI exercise
  • Agree/amend future HR technology strategy

A final tip

Don’t forget to monitor the accessibility of your HRMS project plan. As well as communicating the project’s goals to influential stakeholders, the plan should be readily available to employees and other involved individuals working on the project. In any organizational change or technical installation, transparency can be a key success factor.

HRMS project planning should not be rushed. A common analogy is to see the planning process as a rehearsal for the actual project – you’re imagining a walkthrough of the entire project and the more detail you consider during that walkthrough, the less you’re leaving to chance. After all, unexpected obstacles and changes are a given in any project – the more you are able to anticipate, think through and mitigate beforehand, the better.

Originally written by Heather Batyski

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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

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