Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Relationship Management V – Implementation

I was talking with a client this week about the implementation of an outsourced solution to payroll, HRIS and benefits administration that he would soon be going through.  He has every intention of engaging third party assistance with the implementation. He’s seen things go very wrong for companies who attempted to go it alone with their outsource providers. How or why implementations go wrong and fail can be debated. We can talk about bad project management, unrealistic time frames, faulty technology and the like, but that really isn’t the topic of this week’s posting.

No, I’d like to talk about the successful implementation.

Successful implementations happen every day across the HR spectrum. Client and vendor teams put in the hard work to make it happen. Sometimes third parties are involved to help with data cleanup, project management or other tasks, and sometimes they aren’t. Regardless at the end of implementation, oftentimes one person can be identified who just would not allow the project to fail. He or she could be on the client or vendor side (or with the third party) and can be recognized for the Herculean effort that ensured success.

At the end of the implementation you can also usually point to a person (maybe the person mentioned above), or a group of people, who, to put it bluntly, no one wants to continue working with.

Let’s face it, implementations can be hell. Nerves get frazzled, tensions run high, people put in long hours without recognition or compensation, and once great working relationships can be forever damaged.

Thinking about it, maybe it is a great idea that most service providers have implementation teams separate from ongoing processing. You will also commonly see account managers turn over within a year of completed implementations to allow for a “fresh approach.”

The human toll of a successful implementation is high. And it can often lead to a strained relationship from the start. We already discussed how expectations can already be out of whack post-implementation. This just makes it even harder.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, this series is about relationship management. Give relationship management a chance to work. Don’t start your relationship off in a hole.

What can you do to avoid this? Hire third party assistance to help with the implementation. If nothing else, let them be the bad guys! Let them be the ones who have to constantly badger people to hit deadlines. Let them be the ones to hold the mirror up to the team. Let them be the ones the client and vendor talk about behind their backs. Let them become the ones you love to hate.

And when all is said and done, and the implementation is completed and successful, let them be the ones you thank for keeping the client and vendor from each others throats. You’ll be glad you did.

Just think of it as pre-marriage counseling.
About the authorDonald Glade is President and Founder of Sourcing Analytics, Inc., an independent consulting firm specializing in helping companies optimize their HR / benefits / payroll service partnerships through relationship management, financial analysis, and process improvement.

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