Implementing new systems is hard. However much people hate the old systems, they have learnt to live with them, how to get round them, and they are a fantastically useful target for blame. Implementing new HR systems is particularly hard. As a “hygiene factor”, people “just” want HR to function flawlessly with no attention and minimal investment.

This is the context in which companies planning a new or replacement core HCM system consider how to split the project into manageable chunks. The result is often a timid, risk-averse approach, when the best attitudes for success are boldness and speed. In this case, we really believe that the best form of defence really is attack.

Many larger multinational or global companies naturally think of their organisations in geographical terms. All the more so in HR where the different regulatory environments enforce an at least partially geographic view. And the reflex action is to consider a phased roll-out of a major infrastructure element like a core HCM system in geographic terms. We think this should not be the default position for a solution like Workday. We believe that customers are better off aiming to migrate core HR data for the entire population and, if phasing is required, deferring non-core functionality until later phases. Getting the whole population on the system from the beginning – especially all the senior management, generates a strong momentum to the initiative that militates against opt-outs and postponements.

Disadvantages of a geographic phasing:

  • Cross border management
  • Regression impacts of new local requirements being added to a live system
  • Risk that later regions do not engage in initial “global” design activities
  • Consequent reluctance of later regions to accept the implementation done for earlier regions
  • Reluctance to change already agreed business processes in light of input from new regions

Phasing by functionality – consider deferring the following functionalities to a subsequent phase:

  • Talent management and succession planning
  • Workforce planning
  • Mobile
  • Professional profile e.g. certifications, languages, job history, awards etc
  • Importing historical data
  • Compensation review processing and one-time payments
  • Dependents, Beneficiaries and Emergency Contacts
  • ID information, licences and visas
  • Business asset information (laptops, phones, credit cards)

Conclusion – we firmly believe that it is a more efficient and effective approach to phase the roll-out of a SaaS HCM solution like Workday by functionality rather than by geography. It should be the default starting point when planning your project.