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Why and how to deploy cloud HRM apps

On-premises HR solutions have been left behind by technological advances. Cloud HRM solutions are better built to handle the needs of companies and desires of users.

My company is updating its legacy, in-house human resource management applications and looking at cloud solutions. What might be advantages of cloud HRM over on-premises? What are common mistakes businesses make when adopting cloud HRM?

Most legacy on-premises human resource management (HRM) software was created before cloud computing and social networking. Usually the software is not fluent in enabling employees to self-service online. Developers of cloud HRM services and software have the advantage of taking a new tact and thinking about a business user first. The chance of adoption goes up for all business users if the application is easily accessible and looks like other platforms users are familiar with, such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook or LinkedIn. That's the Holy Grail for HRM systems.

Amelia GeneralisAmelia Generalis

New cloud providers have an advantage because they don't have to re-engineer legacy applications to make them easier to use. IBM, SAP and Oracle have returning customers who have been using on-premises solutions for many years. These companies have to re-engineer systems and re-educate users.

Choosing between on-premises and cloud HRM is a standard business question related to how you want to use resources such as materials, products, inventory and people. Software is meant to connect those things. Does your on-premises solution connect these two things? Typically, it doesn't, because on-premises solutions are very structured. They were built with a specific function in mind. A lot of the on-premises solutions were heavily engineered and weren't meant for a consistent high level of traffic. Obtaining a report with these systems meant going down to IT, waiting in the queue to make your inquiry and then waiting a week to receive the report.

With cloud solutions … you know what you're getting upfront, and hopefully you're receiving updates that make the product easier to use.

You're not getting value out of the software if there's an IT queue or if HR and finance aren't talking to each other. But you're spending a lot of money on that software; most on-premises solutions have high maintenance fees. There is often a large amount of software you didn't use each year.

With cloud solutions, you buy your license and a three-year subscription. You know what you're getting upfront, and hopefully you're receiving updates that make the product easier to use. You also only pay for what you use.

Common mistakes in cloud: Deployment speed, timing

Some companies choose to roll things out all at once. They turn on all the countries and modules at once. That's not a best practice, because it's too much for the end user to absorb.

It's best to use more of an Agile, iterative methodology. Pilot certain pieces of the software, and then turn them on over a period of time. After all, adoptability for business users enables your organization to move faster and spend more energy on revenue-producing activities.

Timing is important, too. Look at what else is going on at the business. Is it the end of the year? Is it the end of quarter? Are people focused on completing a critical business mission? If 'yes' is the answer to these questions, it's probably not a good idea to deploy your cloud HR service right then. If you're training people on a new system at these times, it's going to be hard to get them to pay attention.

You have to be smart about when you communicate and when you educate. During development, make sure that the project timelines and change management issues have been well thought through. You want a heavy adoption at the beginning because you're trying to get as many employees as possible to start using the software as part of their daily, weekly and monthly routine.

Editor's note: This expert response came from an interview between Generalis and Jan Stafford, Executive Editor.

About the author:
Amelia Generalis is Head of Human Resources for Anaplan Inc., maker of a cloud platform for business planning and execution. She has 20-plus years of experience in human resource management (HR), as well as HR systems technologies. Prior to Anaplan, Amelia was an HR leader at SuccessFactors, Tyco Electronics, Electronic Arts, Royal Dutch Shell, and Ford Motor Company, in chronological order. Amelia holds a MBA from Vanderbilt and a BA from College of Charleston.

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