Implementing HCM software: A step-by-step process

Leveraging innovation to automate and integrate critical human capital processes

Nov 28, 2023
Labor and workforce Human-centered design Human capital Business optimization

Implementing new human capital management (HCM) software is a complex process, requiring knowledgeable resources and project management—and involving months of planning, data transfer, employee training, testing and retesting to get it right.

However, if your organization has clearly defined goals—and you approach the initiative with preparation and forethought—a new HCM system can offer a significant return on investment and set your company up for long-term operational success.

Mapping out specific goals

HCM systems are a hub for managing all aspects of internal payroll and human resources. With the right software, your organization can streamline, manage and automate an array of processes, including:

  • Payroll
  • Workforce management
  • Performance analytics
  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Benefits
  • Learning
  • Employee self-service
  • Compensation

Identifying potential efficiencies to be gained in critical areas, spotting gaps in internal processes and thinking through software features to help achieve organizational goals are essential steps in HCM software implementation preplanning and analysis. Failing to lay the groundwork for exactly what goals you want to achieve with an implementation is an enormous missed opportunity. If you don’t outline your business objectives before starting the software selection process, you could end up hitting more snags than expected once implementation begins, because you won’t understand which options to choose at pivotal junctures.

Accurate data transfer

Since your data is the foundation of your HCM system, it must be set up to optimize long-term outcomes. This is a task that benefits enormously from the insight of a skilled consultant to ensure your data is transitioned into your new system correctly. In our experience, this is where HR departments—especially departments going at implementation alone—hit the most unforeseen snags.

“Scrubbing” your data is important, because if it is not clean and accurate, the new system may have issues right off the bat. This is an area in which in-house implementation teams often uncover obstacles they did not expect. The way the data is mapped and organized in the new system is also important if you expect it to work optimally for your specific business needs.

If there’s one key to success, it’s knowing where you want to go.
Steve Grem, Managing Director, RSM US LLP


Before your go-live date, your system should be tested again, again and again. Errors in employee personal data, payroll tax inaccuracies and salary misinformation frequently reveal themselves during this period of extensive testing, and you don’t want these issues to create regrettable mistakes once your system is up and running.

Change management

Many implementation teams underestimate the importance of change management. Communicating how this new system will affect your organization and employees at all levels is imperative to optimize adoption. The decision to implement a new HCM system affects every member of your workforce. Transparency, enthusiasm and role modeling from management communicate an intent to support every member of your team during this significant organizational change. The change management process should include user training for your IT, HR, and payroll departments, and employee meetings to discuss exactly how employees will benefit from new system features.


If you’ve planned and tested correctly, go-live should be a celebratory occasion. The last step in the implementation process, your go-live date is when your team gets to flip the switch and get your new system up and running. A smooth transition is a telltale sign that your team handled implementation preparation correctly. While this milestone is exciting, we recommend having your team members involved in the project on standby in case any unforeseen issues arise. Have experienced post-go-live support available so that if issues arise with the first payroll cycle or other trouble crops up, advisors are on hand to avert or quickly minimize damage.

Ultimately, HCM software is an innovative and modern tool that can help you save time and resources, mitigate internal HR obstacles, keep your organization tax compliant and ensure you never miss a payroll period. But when it comes to the implementation process, you get out of it what you put into it—the more you invest in careful planning and preparation, the more benefits you’ll experience from your HCM in the long term.

RSM contributors

Additional related solutions