Good morning. Thanks for taking some time today with me to cover frequently asked questions about HR Digital Transformation. I am Retired Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Haberlach US Air Force. After retiring from the CIO support office for the personnel and manpower directorate at the Air Force, I joined Definitive Logic team and have since been working HR systems, digital transformation efforts for DOD and federal organizations.

Over the last three years, there are a few repeating questions I get from partners and clients and I’d like to share some of those with you today. My intent is to break this down and make these answers relatable to everyone.

So I’ll get right into this. I want to start with one of the most important questions:

Why should we use a Foundational HR system? 0:45

So think about the HR system and think in terms of your smartphone before your smartphone, you traveled with a camera, a camcorder, a voice recorder, a pager, maybe a gaming system for your child and a laptop. Today, you can pick the smartphone that has your priorities in mind. Maybe you want a better camera or higher memory. Those decisions enable you to get the most of what you need out of a single system and leave that camcorder and that heavy camera at home. Core HR systems are designed with that same concept in mind. In transitioning to a core HR system, your career managers and employees no longer have to sign into multiple systems for recruiting and onboarding and talent management, feedback management, benefits management, or time and attendance. Just to name a few and leadership is given all the needed data in one place in embedded analytics, enabling data-driven decisions. That is the Holy grail.

What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?  1:51

Again, I get this one a lot. So your smartphone provider supports your phone with software as a service, handling the security and passing those best practice options that they’ve collected for your use. In turn, you pay a shared fee for those upgrades and options and the more people use it, the more capability, the more innovation, the better your experience and the more you get for your money. This is the heart of software as a service. With a core HR system, if a company can adopt the best practices and transform some of their processes to match the software as a service. As we all have to do for our cell phone, the capability achieved as well beyond what one HR organization can dream up.

So would you custom design your own cell phone or custom design and operating system for that cell phone? Would you start buying random apps with no operating system to bring them all together? No, you wouldn’t do that. The expense would be insane and you would lose the innovation that comes from integrating with other organizations through software as a service.

This is one of my favorites.  Can I customize SaaS?  3:08

So I’d like to start by updating our vernacular. Configuration design sessions, very special words, configuration design sessions, not customization, not development, not custom code, not months of delays and cybersecurity vulnerability. There are many ways to configure your cell phone, but it is difficult to truly customize it. If you change the underlying code your security updates won’t work. This is the same for core HR software as a service. To be the best it must offer infinite ability to configure without customizing code. Custom code can break the connection to the upgrades and configure options. They have to be flexible enough to match the needs of over 2000 companies worldwide to utilize at the same time. This allows the integration with systems that you need to keep.

There are dozens of Niche HR systems out there!  Why start with this? 4:10

All right, the next question, there are dozens of niche HR systems out there why start with this? In the same way, you need to start your personal cell phone journey by selecting the cell phone with the foundational integrated system before you start downloading your custom apps or your cell phone add-ons, a company needs a core HR system with integrated HR analytics for data-driven decisions first. All that data needs to be related and connected. Your people need a single place to sign on. Please don’t make them remember 10 passwords for 10 different systems.

A company benefits by maintaining recruit to retire employee history with audit-ready tracking for personnel changes. This is only accomplished with a consolidated foundation, the result of one core HR system. So you turn it on, configure it to match the organization’s needs to best take care of your employees. Then if something vital, some vital function is missing you can integrate the niche apps that you desire as a bolt-on option. I don’t know about you, but I have a Nikon extra special camera at home and I can’t remember the last time I took it out. I prefer to use my cell phone because I prefer to use one system.

But my organization is so unique, don’t I need to build my own HR systems?  5:35

I have heard this argument hundreds of times since I began in IT and HR back in 1993. I’ve heard this from the Air Force, the Army, OSD, different companies that I’ve talked to and other government agencies. All these organizations are so different, we are all so different but at our core, we are not so different. At one point, this was true custom apps needed to be made, custom systems needed to be made, but that is ancient history. Consider this if you were to design your own cell phone, would you be able to think of all the requirements upfront? Would it be able to integrate with other systems available? What if you want to add functionality to your custom system, what would that cost?

This is a bit of a repeat from above, but I need to reiterate this with a great core HR cloud software as a service, you will get infinite configuration options more than you can definitely count. How else could 2,123 companies and agencies worldwide use the same core HR software as a service. They get to share best practices from other agencies and companies together.

Big Bang or Modular Implementation? 6:58

So digital transformation is hard. A big bang transformation is a great concept. That basically means I shut off the old system and I turn on the new system all at once, but it’s not realistic for a platform that has so many modules and functional areas. There are two issues with the big bang and the first relates to your people. This is a big change for a large organization, and it will affect everyone. New processes need a roll-out strategy and a communication plan. Include a change management team and set up a plan to relay this to your people, give them time to adopt and transition from each legacy system to the new.

The second issue is with the configuration timeline, holding off until it is complete is not realistic. Our experts recommend a systematic strategy with modular implementation and short term integration to core legacy systems to support that transition. This supports the change management efforts, find a service provider who will act like a partner and work with you to enable a smooth transformation plan to meet your pain points first.

So what is the best way to go about acquiring? 8:15

Just like your cell phone you need to try it before investing heavily. I highly recommend a low-cost proof of concept contract with a core HR system, something small with a few of your most difficult use cases. Use the results to garner that support that you need from all levels of your organization. After that core HR system is selected, then you write a support contract with an opening to configure functionality options from that core HR system listing basic modules you need like recruiting benefits, talent planning, learning.

So the problem with researching and writing a 200-page requirement document with all the capabilities you can think of are threefold. Number one, what if some amazing functionality is missed? Number two, you may limit your implementation partners, options and flexibility to show you the best practices. Number three, the focus groups just wasted a year of research coming up with those ideas. Basically they reinvented the wheel. So don’t limit yourself.

The core HR software as a service will inevitably offer more than a single organization could ever imagine. So we recommend organizations turn their efforts to the design sessions, to consider the options available in the system while it’s implemented. This can create a minimum viable product within three to six months for each module.

So that’s it for me today. I just want to say thank you for your time today. I want to remind you that the days of legacy and custom HR systems are over just like your cell phone, your core HR software as a service can offer a configurable, functionality that feels custom without the cost.

So if you want more information, feel free to reach out to me. Thanks so much for your time.

Samantha Haberlach

Human Capital Practice Director

Samantha is passionate about Digital Transformation for our Department of Defense, Federal Agency, and private sector clients. With 25+ years of AF and Corporate experience in Human Resources, Information Technology and Financial Management, she has a broad base of knowledge. Specializing in Business Process Analysis, Stakeholder and Change Management, she directly leads the technical teams for Human Capital systems and provides a unique perspective to help clients integrate across functional areas, and transform their process onto new software platforms. Minimizing customization. Enabling maximum higher Return on Investment.