December 18, 2019 Coronavirus, HCM Consulting Support, Implementation Support

Banishing the New HRIS Jitters: How Wise Can Help

It’s a fact: not all HRIS systems stay relevant or grow well with every organization. The average life span of an HRIS is around five years. Given all that an HRIS typically provides, which includes applicant tracking, onboarding, time and attendance, HR reporting and analytics, payroll, HR and benefits administration and learning management, most companies can’t possibly make do without one. Yet, implementing new HR software is a huge deal. It requires preparation, education, documentation, planning and sheer grit. Here, the Wise implementation specialists share tips and information to help banish new HRIS implementation nerves.

Getting Past the Fear

These days, many organizations carry lean HR and payroll teams. While this might be a smart practice, it can create fear when the amount of work suddenly multiplies. During the implementation of a new HRIS, there is no magic wand to vanish the day-to-day responsibilities of the HR and payroll professionals tapped to complete the long-term, demanding project. As Nikki Burns, PHR, a consulting manager for Wise Consulting, points out, “One fear [about implementation] is how people are going to get all the work done–those on the implementation team are typically tasked with their normal job, and now this implementation job as well.”

Keith Lee, CPP, also a consulting manager with Wise, adds that fear of the unknown can affect even the most seasoned HR/payroll professional. “Most of the time, the staff have not been the primary decision-makers in undertaking the project, which often disrupts the comfort level they already have on an existing platform. They wonder, ‘will this new product really be better than the one we are using?’” Something Wise hears from clients frequently is that, with our consultants on board as an extension of their team, fear falls away. Knowing our experts are in their corner offering the experience and support they need gives clients confidence that they can get the job done.

The Phases (& Emotions) of an Implementation

Analysis and Discovery

Keith Lee describes this phase as the one in which having a crystal ball and the ability to mind-read would be most useful. “This is when the client is required to supply the implementation team with everything needed to configure the system so that it will work perfectly for the client without any hiccups along the way.” Arguably, it is at this stage that the ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ phenomenon is at its strongest, and guidance from a consultant can be key. “Clients have excitement over the prospect of a new system, but they also feel overwhelmed with the volume of work and the decisions needed to get started,” says Nikki Burns. “Utilizing the Wise team, who has over 188 years of combined experience across many industries, provides a wealth of knowledge from which to share best practice recommendations.”


As a seasoned consultant, Burns stresses that, during this phase, companies need to take time to figure out why they do things the way they do and decide if they should continue as is or take the opportunity to alter course and make adjustments. She suggests that being willing to change processes in order to fully utilize the new product can affect the outcome of implementation and optimization of the new HRIS system capabilities. However, she is quick to add that this can be the most rewarding part of the implementation process. “This is like watching a house being built–everything starts coming together.”


Burns describes this phase as the most anxiety-inducing phase for clients. “Clients worry. They ask themselves, ‘Are we missing anything? What things don’t we know about the new system? Is there enough time to complete all the testing and training to roll out the new system?’” Keith Lee provides further explanation: “Throughout this stage, the client reports any issues so that the implementation team can fix or “refine” the configuration for retesting. This is often a tense and frustrating time for the staff. The second part of testing is parallel testing, which is a final test with a fresh and final data load but added pressure. After this, the client is usually required to make a Go/No-Go decision.”

Go Live

“The final phase is Go Live, and emotions are high. Everyone is nervous, wanting to make sure their employees are paid correctly, and they are happy,” explains Lee. However, he quickly points out that these phases are a general outline and, depending on the organization and which HRIS product they have chosen, each client’s experience will be quite different. Lee also knows that “Go Live” is not always the final phase of an implementation. “Of course, there are additional ancillary modules that can create some added stress along the way.”

What Can Go Wrong?

Burns and Lee agree that the worst implementation situations they have seen involved a lack of testing, with Burns citing a “Go Live” where employees were issued incorrect checks. In addition, Lee has seen the recall of a UAT testing phase for a client with 10,000 employees in which every single self-service test failed. He emphasizes the importance of proper data validation during the testing phase. “If the data loaded into the system is wrong, then your testing is for nothing.”

In addition to urging clients to take time to fully test, research and resolve issues before going live, Burns provides a list of the most common considerations that staff responsible for implementation typically do not realize:

  • How important it is to make the time to take the training;
  • To have enough staff, or the right team members, to get all the work done;
  • to take the time to review what is needed on each deadline and plan accordingly; and
  • to know the worth of reporting, and the identification of, the new report writer.

Why Wise?

Many organizations already know they need to budget for third-party consulting work when they make the decision to invest in a new HRIS system. Burns and Lee agree on the top three reasons why companies understand consultants are of value:

  • They recognize that they do not have enough of the right team members to get all the work done,
  • they realize the odds of getting the job done right the first time are much higher when specialists with product-specific experience are brought in as an extension of their team, and
  • they understand that experts will provide the structure and organization to guide their team to a successful result with better outcomes than the team could have achieved on their own. 

Burns notes that working with people who have been through dozens of unique implementations is naturally going to make things easier, faster and more successful. “As consultants, we are actively reviewing the project plan and open items to ensure that items are being addressed at the appropriate times. When challenges arise, we are providing best practice recommendations.” She says it is not uncommon for HR and payroll staff to feel overwhelmed or flustered by the demands of an HRIS implementation, even when consultants are at hand to help. “I tell them that we are in this together and we’ll work through the issues. That I know what they are going through since I’ve been in their shoes. Sometimes, I don’t say anything–I just listen and allow them the opportunity to vent.”

The Bottom Line

An effective HRIS will streamline procedures, integrate hiring with your HR function, automate processes, help with compliance issues and offer self-service features to employees eager for answers. It will also offer social media capability to aid with recruiting, employee engagement and talent development. Odds are that, at some point, you will need a new one, which means you will go through the HRIS implementation process. If your organization is considering the purchase of a new HRIS, contact Wise Consulting to find out how expert consultants like Nikki Burns and Keith Lee can help shoulder the burden and get it done right the first time.

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