September 2019
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What Comes After System Launch?
TD Magazine

What Comes After System Launch?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019
What Comes After System Launch?

How to make your talent management system thrive after go-live.

Selecting a talent management system can be daunting, and different companies base their choice on specific needs. Healthcare organizations, for example, need a strong learning management system to track and report compliance requirements or continuing education credits. Retail companies with high turnover rates may look for robust applicant tracking systems to recruit and onboard employees quickly. Whatever the driver, organizations spend a lot of resources researching vendors or building custom platforms, testing and reviewing each for functionality, and launching and implementing their chosen system.


Many mistakenly think the masses will immediately adore new technology, but the investment can’t stop there. Several obstacles often stand in the way of successful adoption and optimal use after a system’s initial launch. How can you ensure that your company is leveraging the platform to the fullest? The best organizations constantly evaluate system usage and align their tool with company strategy and business objectives. They evaluate end users’ needs to ensure ease of use, find ways to eliminate redundancies or manual efforts for administrators, and explore opportunities to enhance adoption. Let’s take a closer look.

Construct a solid staffing plan

You can maintain long-term success only by continuing to develop expert administrators (and backups) who can support your system. To build levels of administration, use available resources from your provider, implementation project team members, or other third-party training to upskill platform administrators. Those resources are critical because they address issues the implementation team may not have anticipated, field new requests or additional features, and keep up with system changes.

A prestigious university was able to upskill by combining out-of-the-box job aids that the talent management system vendor provided with lessons learned after the implementation to create custom support tools for downstream staff. Many suppliers also offer access to a community where administrators can discuss ideas with others using the same platform or solving problems unique to their industry. Ask whether your provider has this feature and take advantage of these communities to get advice on how to address common issues or find best practices for using system features.

You also need to identify any busy periods throughout the year, such as compliance deadlines when work effort tends to intensify. Measure the amount of time it takes the team to execute required tasks and then assess the work effort involved in terms of full-time employees. Develop plans to prepare staff and perhaps scale up any short-term help, either by investing in temporary resources or establishing a shared service model among internal stakeholders.

Establish comprehensive governance

During your platform selection and implementation, you may have used a RACI matrix to identify the way individuals may need to interact around the project. In short, you identified who was responsible for action items, whom to hold accountable for their completion, and who may simply need to be consulted or informed as the project moved forward. Unfortunately, this high level of collaboration often doesn’t survive beyond the project term. As the talent platform’s owner, you should maintain alignment among those individuals as identified after go-live and incorporate new stakeholders to ensure decisions are made quickly and are met with less pushback.

The lineup should include a representative at every level. Start from the executive, strategic levels and continue down the hierarchy to operational and transactional levels. This may be a combination of HR and IT across the organization along with leaders from each facility or functional area. This approach will determine the short list of people you should contact for inclusion in the governance model.

Also consider which departments need to be represented and what their goals may be. Were they actively involved in the implementation? How heavily do they use the system now? Do you need to work with any group differently than you did during the implementation? Review the Governance Hierarchy figure to identify positions within your organization that you may need to contact to establish an appropriate governance model.

Finally, establishing a regular meeting cadence at each level will enable more strategic individuals to meet a couple times a year to ensure goals are being set and met. Others on the functional level will need to meet more regularly to operationalize each organizational goal. Such teams will often discuss how the system is working to meet objectives and where improvements can be made or new projects identified in the pipeline for the platform.


What Happens After System Launch Chart

Drive adoption through communication

Like any major system rollout, you should send information via multiple channels (email, intranet, or office postings) to inform users about continued technological wins the system has made possible. But how do you identify what exactly to report out?

Start by setting baseline measurements of system adoption prior to implementing any updates, new programs, or customizations. That should include process-specific successes where end users will see certain benefits, such as fewer steps to apply for a position internally due to automated recruiting workflows, manager self-service for assigning training or tracking direct reports, or providing real-time goal progress. Not only will this help you get buy-in from staff to use the tools, it will also help you make the business case for additional investment in the future.

For instance, a commercial real-estate firm took an integrated communications approach to promote its new learning and collaboration platform and excite its employees. First, it launched a branding campaign to crowdsource the system’s new name. Once the system launched, the firm used the system homepage to clearly lay out each phase of new functionality so people could anticipate the benefits of what was coming next. Finally, the company sent promotional materials to office locations to encourage use by employees who didn’t regularly access company machines.

Gather user feedback

You need to have a solid feedback loop to constantly drive higher adoption through communication. Otherwise, employees will ignore your words and the platform. Regularly take employees’ pulse to find out what’s working and where you can make improvements.

Two effective methods for gathering end user feedback are through official surveys and word of mouth. In the former instance, use existing employee feedback channels to gather data about the system and uncover the most engaged or disengaged users. In the latter, rely on downstream administrators or managers who work regularly in the system and hear feedback directly from end users. In both instances, survey them about process-specific topics to understand why they do (or don’t) use the platform and what they would like to see changed. Ask open-ended questions such as:

  • What do you find easy or difficult about navigating the platform?
  • What would you like to see when you first log in (landing page)?
  • What could we do to improve your experience in the system?

Maintain a compelling design

First impressions play a pivotal role in the way users interact with a new system. A poorly designed user interface can keep employees from engaging with the platform. Worse, a negative experience can cause key stakeholders to search for their own solutions. Find a design that shares your message efficiently and works within your specific content needs. For example, while one company may assign training content based on user attributes (job function or department), another may offer the ability to browse broader topic areas (project management or written communication).

Whatever the interface design, partner with your company’s marketing or public relations teams to help develop captivating branding that’s in line with corporate guidelines but differentiated enough to make the system stand out. Also, consider working with instructional and graphic design partners who can assist in creating engaging content. Most important, explicitly tell users how their feedback from the previous tool has affected the system design and where it can improve how they work. That will continue a virtuous cycle of adoption, feedback, and continued design updates.

Create a system plan

Technology constantly evolves, and talent management platforms are no different. Therefore, stay on top of new releases and continuously review for potential workflow breakdowns. Fortunately, creating and maintaining a system road map doesn’t have to be complex. It begins by developing a formal release process beyond any vendor-prescribed plan. Organizations can be strategic about launching new groups or initiatives in the system by first identifying key dates that affect that system.

For example, schedule major programmatic launches a couple weeks after your development team or vendor pushes the most recent software release to production. That enables administrators to validate the release’s impact on integrations or other processes before work begins on launching new programs. Be transparent about your plans and timelines; it helps stakeholder groups understand what is currently being worked on and where any initiatives they are particularly interested in may be slated.


Integrate your talent ecosystem

A talent management platform is part of an ecosystem that you can make thrive by understanding each integration point. First, identify whether your company is using multiple systems for each phase of the talent life cycle (from recruiting to performance management and succession), then locate where the path from one to the next is confusing or requires additional end user effort. Finally, you may find an integration with systems outside the immediate talent ecosystem helpful in reducing administrative, managerial, and end user burden.

Once you have investigated each module independently to identify disconnected processes or workflows, brainstorm how you can fix the experience with the responsible teams. For example, does the organizational development team have a way to automatically assign learning opportunities based on competency gaps? If not, work with the learning management system’s administrators to understand how the two technologies can communicate. If you can equate additional clicks or poor individual performance to lost time or revenue, you’ll have a better case for resources to help you bridge the gap using scripts, system application programming interfaces, or flat file transfers. Think outside the box and enlist the help of people who can turn your creative thinking into code to sync the environments.

The selection and implementation of a talent management platform is only the beginning of a long journey. Be proactive in mapping a path for the platform, and make plans to continue to invest. Remember to build and continuously enforce a strong operational foundation, repeatedly survey end users and assess the environment, update the technology with compelling features or available content, and always prepare for the next step by integrating systems and investing to gain economies of scale. Doing so will ensure that the technology keeps pace as the overall landscape and business needs evolve—and give your company an increasing return on its investment.

Add Platform Updates Into Your Road Map

Organizations must stay on top of new platform releases and continuously review how to address reported bugs in the technology.

Here’s how.

First, determine the software’s current state by answering these questions:

  • Is the platform homegrown (built and maintained in-house)?
  • Did a vendor build the software but it’s now maintained in-house?
  • Did a third party custom-build the platform and now currently manages it?
  • Did a vendor create the software and a third party currently manages it?
  • Is the organization licensing SaaS (software as a service) technology online?

Next, keep business requirement documents current. Changes will inform a release plan that captures the timeline for code changes and iterative feedback from subject matter experts (in homegrown environments). In SaaS platforms, most feature updates are included in the licensing cost, but be prepared for new features to accrue additional investment of time, resources, and—potentially—funding.

Third, set aside time to review documentation on new releases and software updates if you don’t have direct access to developers. Be sure to review the nonproduction environment update if the vendor provides a preview window before the final production rollout.

Finally, your team must understand the ongoing and upcoming costs and where budgetary responsibility may fall depending on whether the system is internally versus externally managed. Evaluate costs for internal shared resources or external developers. Remember: Custom-built platforms may not always be up-to-date with the latest talent management industry standards, and they carry costs for code changes, testing, and deployment.

What Happens After System Launch Chart

About the Author

Brandon Williams is a manager for The Educe Group and the vice president of learning for the ATD's DC Chapter.

By day, Brandon is a consultant for organizations who have chosen to implement new or optimize current talent management systems. These groups vary in size and span industries from healthcare and higher education to retail and financial or professional services. He has spoken on various topics including blended learning approaches, learning management systems, and collaborative learning, all with an eye to use technology as a means to a strategic end. Additionally, he's done the "in the weeds" work to take his clients live with mission critical systems to track compliance, evaluate employee performance, and plan for succession while always helping employees engage and develop in their careers.

By night, Brandon manages a team of four directors who volunteer to serve DC Metro area ATD members (and non-members alike) who live or work here. His team works tirelessly to develop thriving communities of practice, deliver professional development opportunities (to study for the CPLP, mentor peers, or develop skills in workshop settings), and offer engaging events virtually or through signature dinner programs.

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