Key Steps for Implementing a Talent Management System

Introduction

Implementing an installed talent management system (TMS) or any component there of, such as a learning management system, is like the implementation of any enterprise-wide application and requires a variety of resources and procedures from both the client organization and the vendor.

Planning

Scoping Study/Needs Analysis

To successfully implement a TMS to meet the needs of the client organization a scoping study should be undertaken. This will ensure that the project parameters and success factors are well defined.

A scoping study includes defining:

  • corporate needs (usually pre-defined in RFI (request for information)
  • workflow processes and business practices
  • reporting needs
  • data migration protocols
  • customization with macros, custom fields and automation to reflect defined work flow processes
  • hardware and network requirements
  • external system synchronization
  • key user group expectations

If an internal RFI, based on a needs analysis, has not been developed, the vendor should be able to supply consultants who can work with customers to understand their business requirements and assist in definition of the appropriate structure to meet their management and administrative needs.

Project Plan

Once the scoping study or needs analysis is complete, the project parameters and project plan are established. The project plan identifies all tasks and activities required to complete the project and the resources required for completion of these tasks and activities. In particular, it identifies the mutual involvement of the vendor and the customer in the project, with defined dates for data migration, training, consultation and installation.

The project plan identifies review points and major project milestones. The draft project plan is reviewed and revised by both parties and approved before implementation continues. The project plan forms the basis for monitoring and measuring the progress and success of the project.

Schedule

A comprehensive implementation schedule should be drafted that reflects all the milestones related to the project. This may include people and resources required at each step, financial and budgeting considerations, and balancing workloads. Specifically, the schedule should provide realistic timelines for the pilot (optional) and testing phase of the project, particularly if extensive custom reports and macros are required.

In smaller organizations, the entire project including user training may be accomplished in as little as a couple of weeks. In larger organizations this may easily be extended to several months depending on data migration needs and customization of the application and reports, as well as availability of all the necessary personnel at the customer organization.

Implementation

System Installation and Configuration

During this phase the software is installed and configured. The technical install may be completed remotely or the consultant may attend at the client site. The system is configured in the operating environment for deployment to all users. Client workstations are configured as needed.

Typically, a sample of data is forwarded to the vendor where it is analyzed and timelines are determined for the actual data migration, which is dependent on several factors including the type, condition and number of records.

Once reporting needs are defined, existing reports are modified or new reports are created as needed. Product customization or tailoring is also developed. Macros are written to create integration with core, third-party systems such as CRM, HR, or financial.

Training

Training is vital to ensure an efficient roll-out of any new software system. Comprehensive instructor-led training for both administrators and system administrators is recommended. The system should also include built-in help for new administrative users who come onboard after the initial implementation.

Of course, the user interface should be intuitive enough that training is not required for end-users. On-screen instructions should be sufficient to lead new users through the various processes that they need to complete.

Pilot Program

For large implementations, pilot programs are recommended. Once the project parameters and project plan are defined, a pilot version of the TMS is installed and configured for testing. The system should be configured in the operating environment intended for live deployment to all users. This will ensure accurate results for performance tests at the next stage.

Imported or input data is added to the system for testing with required reports and to assess performance over the network. It is not necessary for all product tailoring to be complete before testing commences.

The testing phase may take several weeks or months to complete depending on the size of installation and the complexity of the data. Custom reports and macros can be added to the system as they become available. It is important at this stage to verify the accuracy of reports and determine that macros are performing according to their design specifications.

Users who will have access to reports should be given copies of the output to ensure the results are consistent with the specifications and expectations. The system should be tested with several users to assess concurrency or performance issues.

At the conclusion of this stage all core reports and macros should be verified as operating correctly and signed off. The system is now ready for live access.

Going Live

Once the software is installed, configured, tested and the key personnel are trained, it is time to take the system live. Depending on the complexity of the implementation it may be helpful to have a vendor consultant on hand to address any issues that may arise during this final phase of the project.

Refining the System

The project manager should identify issues that may not have been anticipated during the needs analysis. This information should be communicated to the vendor, who in turn should present a range of solutions for consideration. Changes are made and the system updated.

This process usually continues for a period of time until the system meets user and management requirements. It is then that the anticipated boost in productivity becomes apparent and the LMS becomes truly operational.

Project Evaluation

Once the implementation is complete it is useful to review the outcomes with the project team. Allow representatives from each department to assess the impact of the software on their areas and determine how well it resolves their business issues. It is not uncommon for additional requirements to be identified at this stage.

System Maintenance

Ongoing maintenance will ensure that the system continues at optimum functionality. The vendor should offer support plans and other services such as documentation and patches or upgrades for download. A forum can be helpful for users to post questions or discuss topics related to the LMS.

Maximizing the Implementation

From time to time it may be productive to assemble the implementation committee to perform a system review and define new requirements. The implementation of a software system seldom remains static and should change and grow as the organization does.

Pressures resulting from the current economic situation are causing many organizations to cut back and to try to do more with less. Organizations are striving to become leaner and more efficient. Staff shortages and budget cuts are prompting human resource and training departments to look for ways to increase productivity. But many organizations may already have the tools they need.

Often existing systems are not being utilized to their full potential. An organization may be able to use features in an existing system to move into other business areas.

In addition to using new features, organizations can often streamline their current processes by tailoring pages workflows. Sometimes additional training from the software vendor can offer more efficient ways of handling daily tasks.

Key Resources

The success of a Talent Management System implementation, like any enterprise system implementation, rests on the people involved. Using skilled, well-trained and experienced specialists will ensure a successful implementation.

The implementation project team should have a balanced and complementary skill mix with sensitivity and knowledge of the client environment and a sound knowledge of both information and learning technology.

The project team must be responsive to the changing business requirements and have strong communication, analytical and problem solving skills.

The vendor is normally responsible for assisting with installation of the LMS in addition to training – although these services will be billed over and above the cost of the software.

The customer retains responsibility for the additional components of network installation, including hardware, networking, operating system, database, printers, PCs and database client.

There are various technical responsibilities throughout the implementation that the customer must carry out. Suitable staff should be available to the project at various times during the implementation and afterwards to carry out periodic upgrades and other tasks.

The Internal Project Team

The internal project team is comprised of internal staff from management, operations and information systems. This team should work with the vendor consultant on an ongoing basis and is responsible for the success of the project.

Project Sponsor

The project sponsor is the individual or group of individuals who have requested the project, e.g., the Vice-President of Operations or the Director of HR. For larger projects, it is advised that customers consider appointing their own internal project board and project assurance team to ensure the project meets the entire organization’s expectations. The project sponsor should appoint the project manager.

Internal Project Manager

It is important to the success of a corporate software implementation to assign a “champion” or project leader. The customer project manager will be responsible for committing and coordinating customer resources to the project.

The leader will establish an implementation team that should represent management and key user groups. The project manager will be responsible for day-to-day contact with members of both the vendor project team and the customer implementation team at each stage of the project.

System Administrator

The customer should identify a system administrator responsible for the overall set up and administration of the LMS. The system administrator role covers two distinct areas and may, on some projects, be split between two individuals.

At an application level the system administrator is responsible for controlling the set up of the system and ensuring consistency of implementation across the modules.

The second role of the system administrator covers the more technical aspects of setting up user profiles, data site management, network security, etc. In some circumstances, the IT department may carry out this role, however, some of these activities may be configured through the client software and could be carried out by a key user.

Vendor Resources

Vendor technical resources assist with data migration and the implementation of the infrastructure of software and networking supporting the LMS. Vendor resources also assist with the development of requested customization of reports or macros and add-ons as required.

To address large-scale implementations, the vendor should utilize specialists from a variety of fields. These may include accounting, network specialists, trainers and project managers.

Vendor Project Liaison

For each implementation the vendor should appoint a project manager to be responsible for supporting the project team, and supervising custom application development and technical support.

Implementation Consultants

Depending on the complexity of the implementation, the vendor should also appoint one or more implementation consultants. These consultants are specialists in the analysis, design and implementation of learning management systems.

The principal role of implementation consultants is to understand and interpret the customer’s requirements and to accommodate those requirements in the implementation. As well as providing assistance with the design of the solution, consultants can advise on the set-up and development of procedures and integration of business rules.

Project Management

The entire project should be the responsibility of the two co-project leaders — one leader from the client organization and one leader from the vendor. Once a scoping or needs analysis has been completed their responsibilities are to:

  • establish the project parameters
  • develop the plan and define the budget
  • ensure the overall integrity of the plan by managing the staff on each of the project teams
  • ensure impediments are identified and resolved
  • control costs
  • manage communications to all project members, corporate staff and management, and local site staff and management

The customer project manager will participate in reviewing, formulating actions and revising the project plan as necessary, and as such, should have appropriate authority to commit the required customer resources. For medium to large-scale implementations, the customer project manager ideally should be available to the project full time.The project managers must establish a plan with input from the vendor, implementation specialists and the client organization. Changing requirements must be managed efficiently.Effective communications are essential in managing a project. Coordination of resources to efficiently utilize time, skills and effort are imperative. Team building is key to managing a long-term project. If the team is committed to the project it has a much greater chance of succeeding.

Critical Success Factors

There are several critical success factors involved in implementing an TMS.

Resources

The success of an implementation rests on the people involved. The project team should have a balanced and complementary skill mix with sensitivity and knowledge of the client environment and a sound knowledge of IS technology. The project team must be responsive to the changing business requirements and have strong communication, analytical and problem solving skills.

Planning

Planning is an ongoing process and involves anticipating the potential impediments to a successful project. The project manager must establish a plan with input from the vendor, implementation specialists and the client organization. Changing requirements must be effectively and efficiently managed.

Communication, Coordination and Cooperation

Effective communications are essential in managing a project. Coordination of resources to efficiently utilize time, skills and effort are imperative. Team building is key to managing a long-term project

Conclusion

Any large enterprise implementation needs buy-in from all stakeholders to be successful. A talent management system in no different. If the key players in the customer organization are on-board, the implementation will get the support it needs to more forward.

For some organizations, a phased implementation is best, with critical functionality implemented first. For others, the complete system is installed but certain functionality is not made available. In other cases, the organization chooses to wait until the complete system with all functionality is up and running before going live.

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