Aerospace Engineering for HR Professionals
It’s a truism that in almost any development process it is very difficult in later stages to make up for what’s been missed or gone wrong at the beginning. Whether it’s a young person’s education, a job interview or a software implementation: a good start is essential. It is also widely accepted that getting the business requirements right is important for your SAP HR or SuccessFactors implementation.
So, let’s talk about defining requirements for HRIS implementations.
Well – we can talk about this later. Let’s talk about something more fun first: Aerospace engineering.
Imagine this aircraft manufacturer, who want to build a new commercial airliner to be the best in the world and beat all the competition. The CEO has this vision and asks the Sales Director to lead the project, because the sales team is close to the customer. The sales team is great: they really listen to their customers, the airlines. They also ask market research who work with passengers and key users – sorry: crew and pilots. They involve the corporate design team and the legal department. Eventually, they finalise the design with all features: speed, fuel consumption, carbon emissions, number of passengers, required runway length, price, you name it… And they have a huge 1:100 model made to present to customers.
It was a huge success. They brought 300 orders worth >10 billion Euros back from their first roadshow – all signed contracts with price, delivery date and of course a penalty clause should the customer reduce the order or the manufacturer fail to deliver in time.
The logical next step?
Call in the engineers and ask them to do the technical design and get it built.
Of course nobody in their right mind would expect this sequence to work. You can’t just make things up you’d like an aircraft to do and tie yourself into a potentially lethal contractual situation without involving the engineering and manufacturing teams right from the start, can you?! It will turn out that such a design simply can’t be made to fly – for all we know it might be closer to a submarine than an aircraft. And even, if it flies, it will probably be 3 times as expensive and take twice as long to be built.
It’s a no brainer, right?
So, why is it that SAP HCM as well as SuccessFactors consultants again and again and again find themselves in the situation, that requirements have been fixed to a scary level of detail (usually in some random places, whilst completely blank in others) or that business requirements are “still to be discussed”, but a deadline and budget have been fixed? And every attempt to change sth to make it feasible – or in some cases to just make it free of logical inconsistencies – is countered by the argument: “This has been signed off by the board/ the union/ compliance/...”
Think of your next HR initiative as an aircraft: you want it to fly
I must say that the situation has been improving in the last 10 years or so, but it is still happening far to often that the IT team responsible for implementing a solution is not asked before it’s too late to avoid fatal design flaws. I appreciate that HR teams suffer as much as anybody from people, who think they know their business (after all, everybody has been a candidate, attended a training, received a payslip and are therefore self-proclaimed HR experts), but when you start your next HR initiative, which will need some kind of IT to work, think of it as an aircraft. Sure, you want to check with the engineers to make sure it can fly before you sign anything.
Trust me: I’m an engineer 🙂