Magazine article Personnel Journal

HRIS Quality Depends on Teamwork

Magazine article Personnel Journal

HRIS Quality Depends on Teamwork

Article excerpt

They planned for every contingency - or so they thought -- but the HRIS project team of The Precision Widget Co. found themselves going back to the drawing board again to try to yet another solution to yet another problem. Where did they go wrong?

Technical specifications for collecting data relevant to the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) module had been written by the management information system (MIS) professionals according to schedule and passed systems tests with flying colors. A meeting was scheduled with the EEO/AAP manager and her staff. She was tied up with a top priority suit brought by a former employee. Therefore, her recently hired assistant approved the EEO data collection screens and procedures and kept the project on schedule.

Months later, in user-acceptance testing, the EEO/AAP manager discovered that important demographic data would be missing from the standard reports required by the government. New specifications were needed, having coding repercussions to other parts of the module -- but now the MIS staffers used earlier had been reassigned to a top-priority financial system.

Four months into the schedule, one key project team member was promoted to another assignment, creating competition on the team for his highly visible job. The perfect project schedule came unglued, as competing team members spent more time writing memos about each other's shortcomings and the overlooked problems they'd meant to address than they did at their assigned tasks.

The project schedule had been perfect on paper: Identifying key resources needed at various times in the project, assigning tasks in advance and linking interdependent activities precisely and accurately. It simply couldn't have anticipated every potential problem. It may be that these and other unpredictable events, such as changing management priorities, unplanned turnover, misunderstood objectives and such as acts of God as disabling illness or natural disasters, are ever completely manageable.

When process quality assurance in an HRIS implementation project focuses on the process rather than final outcomes or the product, project managers can avoid one of the most common -- and costly -- reasons HRIS projects fall behind schedule. A project that's scheduled to move forward in sequential stages, moving from one type of work to the next in an orderly, progressive manner reverts to a stop-and-go schedule because work in a preceding stage wasn't done accurately or completely. When the specifications stage doesn't go right, the testing stage will show the problems and the specification must be redone.

HRIS project schedules often are impossible to meet because of the phased structure of most personnel system development projects. The overall project consists of several fairly distinct stages, each having its own set of tasks, objectives and resources required to achieve objectives. A typical HRIS development project begins with needs analysis and doesn't involve testing and conversion until specifications and design have been completed.

What happens when user tests establish the necessity to reopen the specifications stage? First, the schedule is out the window. Future dates and time frames for the assignment of the resources needed for final testing, running the new system in a parallel mode, conversion and final documentation development are inoperable.

More problematic is finding and rescheduling people who may not be available any longer. This is especially true on large projects in which the full-time project team is supplemented varying levels of temporary specialists at appropriate stages in the project cycle. The MIS department may have provided a half-dozen programmers (to help write the specifications) who now are working on a new inventory control system that has a higher priority than HRIS. The outside consulting firm hired to assist in the writing process may have sent its original representatives on another assignment. …

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