Utilising the Agile approach to developing HR systems (HR/IS)

As organisations of all sizes are starting to undergo massive transformations in their HR / People & Culture functions, one area of focus for improvement and optimisation is consistently front of mind for the teams – the intersection of HR and technology, where there is a huge opportunity to modernise and take advantage of the leaps that technology is making in this space.

Great demos, but reality is trickier than that

The vast number of modern HR tech available for all the employee and people-related services are nowadays developed with the user in mind, and the companies are great at offering cool and engaging demos of their interactive, easy-to-use HR systems with nice user interfaces and intuitive configuration processes.

As you can imagine the theory compared to reality is a bit different. If you have worked with HR/IS system implementations you know it isn’t as rose tinted with a tech demo. Many have wrestled with an endless wish list of features and requirements from all over the organisation. Conflicts between local special needs and the efficiency of global harmonisation is constant. Inevitably, the final released version is a result of endless compromises.

Moving from massive programs towards Agile development of the HR tech stack

Ten years ago, an HR/IS project was regarded as a major separate program. This has now changed. HR teams have moved to a continuous cycle of HR tech updates, realising digitalisation is something we do hand-in-hand with any development of the HR work or processes. The intersection of HR & technology is a natural space where the Agile approach will make a big difference in the successful digitalisation of HR services and processes.

How does Agile in HR/IS help you succeed?

  • User centricity. When developing any product through the agile approach you will do a lot of validation with real users. You’ll include user and stakeholder feedback within your work cadence and run design thinking in HR to recognise the true needs of your users. Never again will HR configure and build a HR system for HR, when we’ve learned how to discover and work through the lens of the employee experience first.
  • The HR product owner perspective will help you lead your tech deployment and continuous development as a product leader. Instead of having an endless wish list of development activities, you’ll start clarifying the real need, the value and risk of each update and prioritising really valuable features also for each tech update.
  • Release thinking, incremental development of your tech. For example: if you’ll begin implementing a new HR system you might start thinking in releases. The first release could be setting up the core HR master database as a digital twin, but still run all the processes in the existing system. The second release might be to build in the necessary main employment lifecycle processes in the new system, such as hiring, job change, and exit with solid validation of the user experience. In your third release you would ensure all the integrations work from your new system to all other dependent systems, and rigorously test data flow, reports and find any bugs. The fourth release might be the actual user-facing release, when you actually move your managers and employees to use the new system for basic employment-related matters. Later releases might include stepwise migration of talent, recruitment, onboarding and other people processes onto the new platform.

Digitalisation in HR

Digitalisation isn’t just about making whatever you’ve been doing before tech work in a digital format. It is about redesigning your practices to be leaner, easy-to-use, just-in-time for the user. It is about simplifying, automating and scaling operative processes, so you can free up peoples’ time for more value-adding work.

Additionally, who wants to use bad IT systems or applications any longer? Not me. Not you. And definitely not your millennial manager or your Gen Z high potential hire. The Agile approach will help you build the employee experience worth their time, including both tech, employee services and the underlying processes.

Watch the recording of our meetup about Agile in HR/IS projects

We spoke about this theme in a meetup with Lea Ralic, an Agile HR Certified Practitioner and a long term HR/IS consultant. In this meetup, we explored how an Agile approach to introducing & evolving HR technology can accelerate everything from decision-making to deployment, and how it can really help bridge (& close) the gap between HR & employees by bringing them on a co-creation journey. You can watch the recording of our chat on YouTube.