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Catching Up on Your Releases

We’ve all fallen behind on something. Back-to-school night made me miss This Is Us and now I’m wearing ear-plugs at work all day. It rained when I was going to cut the grass and now I’m “that house” in the neighborhood. My desk at work slowly (I swear it was just clean) accumulates new paper and clutter, each of which probably represents something relevant but as a pile it doesn’t mean much.

While each of these can create some level of panic or stress, it’s not hard to imagine how to get out of each situation and maybe even prevent it from happening again.

But what if we’re further behind on something bigger?

Of course I’m talking about missing out on the latest releases from your Human Capital Management (HCM) tools. (Note: If you’re more than an episode behind with TIU, you’re on your own but I might suggest reviewing your company’s sick and/or vacation policies.)

Most vendors are releasing new functionality to their customers two or four times a year. This doesn’t include the myriad of “minor” enhancements or fixes that might just show up in your system any given weekend.

You might say, “So what?” or “Everything is working, we don’t need a release,” and you could be right that your ability to keep the lights on won’t change if you do nothing. But if you’re content keeping your head in the sand while the tech you own leaves you behind, you’re putting your company (and yourself) at risk.

Consider this: Workday, which does two “major” releases a year plus the aforementioned minor additions, averaged over 70 enhancements to just their HCM tool the past three years. That doesn’t include Payroll, Financials, or other cross-application stuff which affects multiple areas like reporting or User Interface (UI). Do you know someone who woke up with the new Workday UI last month and didn’t tell their employees it was coming? Or someone whose employees were pleasantly surprised (read: “didn't know it was coming but it was okay”) by the updated Time Off calendar in SAP SuccessFactors?

A common story for clients I’ve worked with went something like this:

We went live only a few weeks after a major release, it was too close to the project timeline so there were some new features that went ignored because the team was overwhelmed already. It took a while to stabilize the support structure. By the time the next release rolled around, people were just finally feeling okay about the system. Besides, we didn’t notice anything urgent or required and went back to checking the queue for new tickets.

If you’re a Workday customer, that could have been over 140 new features!

Note: I’m a realist, many of them your company doesn’t use or were such minor changes that even your strongest Admins didn’t notice. Even if only half of those features mattered to you, it’s 70+ things you are spending money on but not taking advantage of.

How do you possibly start to catch up if you’ve fallen a release, or four, behind? Three suggestions:

Make it a Priority

It takes time, which is why you fell behind in the first place, but your organization will never catch up if catching up is a “nice to have.” The business case is pretty simple since you’re already paying for a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution:

Your subscription to ABC vendor includes X, Y, and Z features. Not using X, Y, and/or Z is like buying a sports car but only using it to pick up groceries. You are sitting on value in the form of efficiency, user experience, reporting capabilities, etc. Without committing to taking up the new features, they’ll forever stay “on the roadmap.”

Be Strategic with the Updates

Not all enhancements are created equal. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to understand a impact of a new Korean address format if you don’t have employees in Korea. Or skip the write-up about competencies if they’re not part of your talent processes.

Once you’ve filtered out the things that matter to your business, now you can be mindful about how to go about catching up. Some changes mean old functionality is being sunset, so by default that needs to happen by a certain time. Other features are cool sounding, but could actually disrupt your users’ experiences. A final set might make sense but won’t matter for a while so there’s no rush.

Put all of the features on separate sticky-notes and place on a giant X-Y axis, effort vs value. Anything the vendor says is required, keep it to the side and know it goes on the list no matter what. The rest, plot all the sticky-notes and walk away. Review the list later or the next morning to make sure it looks right.

Now you’re ready to put onto each note a timetable. Think about what’s realistic and who you have around to do the work, when can you work on each?

Manageable Bites (for everyone, not just your HRIS team)

The temptation is to try to crank through all the new features as fast as possible. It certainly does make sense to spend some time strategizing, but don’t let get lulled into missing another release window. Get to work making as many realistic updates at a pace your business and administrators can handle. In that process of grabbing low-hanging fruit, be ready to adjust course--speed up or slow down as you see the results of all the hard work.

It’s not just what your administrators can handle though. Even if things can get done quickly, don’t underestimate the change management to your workforce-- you could risk creating the exact disruption you were worried about in the first place. Give them changes that make sense and at a pace where they are not overwhelmed either.

Take the Prossimo Step

I take a three step approach with clients I work with. (Note, sometimes folks need help building the business case before this can even start, we do that too.)

  1. Analysis - Spend some time discovering what’s missing and also what your biggest pain points are. You need all the facts before #2.

  2. Planning - We talked about this already, figure out what and when (and why) you think things can/should happen. Sometimes things have to happen in a certain sequence or by a specific time.

  3. Execution - Get stuff done and keep getting stuff done. Momentum is your friend in this situation so once you have it, keep it. But loop back to 1 & 2 every now and again so you don’t miss an important course correction. This is especially important if your process of catching up overlaps more releases.

It can be overwhelming to find yourself behind in vendor releases, but getting caught up isn’t impossible. Remember, one episode (I mean enhancement) at a time and keep taking that next step. That Prossimo step.


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