MNDA Presentation from the CIPD HR Software Show 2015

At this year’s CIPD HR Software Show, Peter Reeve and Eve Adu-Bofour gave an insightful presentation on their HR Software Journey

Were the MND Association and the strapline for today is really about preparing and thinking about what you want, well in advance, so that you don’t have that conversation with the supplier that says ‘that’s not what we want’, ‘no but it’s what you asked for!’

So what we’re going to talk a little bit about today is how we went through that process and hopefully we can give you some hints & tips about the sort of things you might need to consider.

So well talk a little bit about who we are, we’ll talk a little bit about why we changed our system, we were moving from another supplier, it wasn’t the first implementation

Why we chose Cascade, that’s written by us that bit not Cascade I will hasten to point out. How do we prepare, how do we go through that process of thinking about what we actually wanted and then the really nasty bit, which is the bit that Eve did, which you live, breath and sleep probably twenty four hours a day, which is actually making the thing work and then thinking from that what are some of the lessons that we learnt from that process and hopefully can pass onto yourselves to help you from falling into some of the bear traps that we did.

Who are we? Well we are the Motor Neurone Disease Association, were a national charity, we conduct research, we provide care and support and we do lobbying and campaigning on behalf of people with motor neurone disease. 


    We at this point have about 8000 people who are loosely associated with us either as volunteers or fund raisers and we have 170 staff. So in terms of the size of the organisation and how we fit, were a large charity but were a SME. So if you’re sat there with about 150 staff you’re probably of a similar size to us. Were probably also more famous recently for the Ice-Bucket Challenge, for which I apologise for profusely, for any colds, flus, anything that resulted from that we take absolutely no responsibility at all for that, but thank you for the money!

    Who are we as a HR team? Well we started this project in sort of 2013/2014 so I recently arrived as the head of HR and we have business partners, I know everyone calls them business partners. We were in a very fortunate position, we have one and a half of those. Eve is the lady who really led the project. I have someone responsible for training and there’s a lot of work that were still doing about making the training module work for us and there’s some big questions when you’re looking at, do we really need the training module for example, that you might want to talk about some of these issues and we have an administrator. So for 170 people, I’m pretty well off for staff, I will admit.

    Why did we change? Even before the Ice-Bucket Challenge, we were an organisation that was growing. We’ve gone from 130 staff to 170 staff in sort of 18 months and that creates all sorts of tensions and creates a lot of difficulties about getting teams to work together, about getting good quality information and so we knew that we needed a good HR information system that could answer some fairly basic questions like how much does it cost to run this place? How may staff do we have on any given day? What sort of contracts are they on? And when we asked those questions before we struggled to get answers. The main driver for me was the complete lack of integration with payroll, we had a completely separate payroll system which I think was Sage at the time, and for me that just was madness. How do you run a HR information system that isn’t integrated with payroll because if you don’t make that change then you’re going to have all sorts of problems about keeping data up to date. The sort of drivers that finance have about making sure that stuff is right, don’t then feed into HR, so you don’t get the sort of urgency that you need. So we wanted to build that better relationship with finance and actually that’s really worked for us and this has really driven that change, so this year, whisper it quietly, HR is leading the budget round because we need to know what staff we’ve got. We had huge problems, which we’ll talk a little bit more about, In terms of producing basic data, what do people earn, how long have they been here for, basic reports, what’s the head count in any given team? We really struggled with that and we had huge amounts of paperwork. If you’re an organisation with 150 people and you’ve got 7 filing cabinets, you’re probably doing something wrong. Quite a lot of our personal files needed a wheelbarrow to carry them and we felt that we really needed to change that.

    We also had a previous system that I won’t mention for obvious reasons. It had really difficult reporting tools, they weren’t based on standard query language so the sort of standard tools that you expect to get on the system it simply didn’t have. So we would spend days trying to write reports, just to get basic information and in the end we’d have to go up to ICT and go ‘can you do this for us?’ and they’d go ‘yes, in about a week!’ So just getting basic reports was really difficult. Even when we asked ICT to do it they really struggled because the underlined tables and the fields and all that sort of stuff that you’d like to not have to think about didn’t work. A lot of the source codes was in Dutch, who writes there source codes in Dutch? There was an attitude that we had from previous suppliers, which is exactly what I talked about earlier which is that’s not what we want, no but it’s what you asked for. Well didn’t you think to tell us that that probably wasn’t right? No that’s what you asked for! The other thing is, which we would really sort of council you about is we tested, we launched the self-service product on the same day that we launched the main product, It just went horribly wrong. You know you don’t beta test your self-service module on the public because we just get all those calls that your hoping will go away by getting self-service in place just come back. We deliberately over engineered this, in my organisation if anyone uses the phrase ‘development opportunity’ everyone runs because something horrible is coming your way. And this was a development opportunity. I’ve done a number of implementations before in previous life’s and so what we talked about was what we’ll do is we’ll probably completely over engineer this we’ll do a really big process for probably what’s a very simple implementation. Everyone’s monthly paid, its not particularly complicated workforce, but were going to go through this process and some of the information that you’ll find in your packs are some of the things we kind of planned for, probably didn’t need to, but saved us time in the end. So what’s the process? The invitation to tender was the first process, get that right! Eves going to talk a little bit more about that later but really think about what u want, don’t just get the provider to give you what they do. Supplier presentation, script them, work out what you want to see not what they want to show you. It can be very easy in a supplier presentation that they kind of run through there standard life cycle, well maybe that’s not right for us and maybe we need something different. Get references, get references that are vaguely similar to you, I mean we struggled to get charity references but we got references from people with the same number of staff, people with the same kind of payroll, people who are planning on doing self-service so that we were actually comparing like with like when we looked at a reference site. And make the decision and stick with it, there are certain things that are going to determine when that decision needs to be made by and if you’re doing payroll the first one will obviously be when are are planning on doing the first payroll run.

    This is the marketing bit for Cascade but we did write this. We sent out a 20 page invitation to tender sand a significant number of the suppliers just wrote back and said you must be joking! Why on earth would we reply to 20 pages of questions? But Cascade did, they were very clear with us right from the word go about what they could and couldn’t do. We knew there was certain things that were unique about us, things about the way we manage part timers, things about the way we manage holidays that were unique. And Cascade were very clear about what they could and couldn’t do, but what they did do was try and find some work a rounds, try and find some other ways of doing it. We’ve had good account management and they understood that were a charity, they understood the sector that we haven’t got money to burn and so getting this right first time was really important. Any negatives? The only thing we found slightly cumbersome and a bit clunky was the process that we went through of doing some of the training, was trying to get us working on the live system and particularly when we were looking at training we weren’t really ready for that. We hadn’t done the sort of detailed work that we needed to at that point to think about how we wanted training to run so we were kind of winging it a bit, particularly with training, we know were going to have to go back to that. What did we want in terms of the invitation to tender? We knew we weren’t a complicated workforce in terms of the payroll but we’ve got lots of part timers, we’ve got lots of flexible working, we’ve got lots of variation and anyone in HR if you ask them to work out a part timers holiday, they would probably rather tell you what the value of pie is on any given day! It is a nightmare! So we knew that we needed a system that could do that for us. Eve will talk a bit about this but we went through a lot of our policies and procedures from a HR point of view to say what does that actually mean, how would a system, particularly self-service, support that. Can it work out our holidays, how a leap year is different from a financial year, can it do that? And actually spent a lot of time looking at that, so we would always say process map your policies. Check what the stages are and can the system support it?

    We needed a good reporting tool, we needed an accurate picture on any given day on the association’s workforce and we needed reporting tools to support that. And the main thing as I said was communication with the payroll module and I’ve been really impressed with the way that works. Payroll in our organisation used to be something that was just horrific, they’d be a file of paper of all the payroll changes that would go up to payroll and they would sort of sit and look at it and go no that’s not right and send it back and this could go on for several days and then you’d be running around at the last minute trying to get people paid. So we wanted a clear system that said this is HR, this is payroll and this is how they integrate and it didn’t shut the system down for a week whilst it did it. So we were very clear that that’s what we wanted.

    We absolutely threw out kitchen sink at out invitation to tender, as I told you it was twenty pages, it’s huge. You’ve got an example of some of the sorts of issues we tackled and thought about in your pack. Who are we as an organisation? Who are the supplier? What do they do? What’s there recognition in the market was something we really wanted to know about. I’ve got some experience of this software sector and so we were really keen we’d got the right supplier. There’s things in there about what’s there staffing, how many people actually do technical support, if they’ve got 6 people working for them and 5 of them are in marketing you want to know that because when you ring ‘oh Dave’s at lunch’ so you’re not going to get your question answered. We looked at how they could support our reference requirements, who they were, make sure we take them up. A big thing about payroll, we all have a big thing about payroll, particularly from a HR perspective, we really struggled with getting payroll and they were wedded to Sage. It had to be dragged from their cold blooded fingers, they loved Sage. So if you’re not currently integrated and you want to be there’s probably a really good reason why not. So let’s find out, go and talk to payroll, what are their concerns, why would they worry about that. We spent a lot of time with our payroll team saying right what are the issues, why does Sage work for you, what are you concerned about this and at the end it came down to things like data accuracy, making sure that imputing was done on time. We had a reputation with being a bit of a paper based function so we needed to work with them to show that we could actually get our inputting done on time that our processes worked so they would be satisfied that it would actually run. One of the things we like about Cascade is that when you do that payroll integration it flags up everything that doesn’t quite match so you can go through and say right, well that not the same on HR and payroll why not, where’s the bit of paper or whose not done the inputting that helps us to establish that?

    And now I hand over to Eve.

    Thanks Peter and good morning to everyone. As Peter said this was a development opportunity for me. I had no idea of what I was getting myself into so what I’m going to talk about today is basically try and give you helpful and useful tips for your tender document and the implementation. So during my career I was no stranger to working with databases but when I took this on I realised it wasn’t just about databases it was about project management, change management as well. What is key to know is how it all works at the grass roots, how people all around your organisation will use this system that you choose. So you have received in your packs an overview of tender document, so if everyone wants to get that out, I’ll run through that for you. Has everybody got them out?

    So my advice to anybody that’s going to be project lead on implementing a new system is write the first draft yourself and then have version control, I think by the time we had finished we were on version 6. We wrote the draft ourselves and then we worked with finance as Peter said it was important that we had the integration across the two teams and then we went to ICT because it was important to make sure that what we were going to be having on our systems and our servers was all going to be compatible and be able to work and be able to have access to all of our organisation. So if we go to the first page, the introduction. So this is just where it’s an open invitation, we’ve put a few key points in here, so read through it at your leisure but I’ll cover a few things that I think are important for you to know. We put in there that there’ll be no charge for the tender document. Peter said we did twenty pages of a document so if someone’s actually going to commit to that ad do that work you want to make sure that there not going to try and charge you, particularly if they meet all of your criteria and you still say no to them. So it will be time consuming and make sure that you get that right. So the structure that we’ve put in here, section A, the organisation.

    Talk about yourselves, make sure they know what they are going to be getting themselves in to. We’re a charity so it’s important that whatever organisation we chose was compatible with our values and there was no conflict. Give them background information, we’ve put in here as an example multiple terms and conditions, if your organisations got them, it is important to highlight it then. For example, we have regional staff, so if you’ve got regional staff and they access all their work by smart devices, IPhones, IPads, tablets, make sure that the software that you get can be on there otherwise you’re going to have a problem. Section B, so the expectations, Peter said yes we put it out to all the suppliers that were interesting. Ask them to let you know if there going to get back to you, if no one gets back to you, then go back to the beginning and start again obviously. It is important to make sure that you state what format you want their response to be. Cascade responded and kind of like mirrored our format so we were able to look at what we asked and whether or not they were able to do it.

    If an organisation is not going to do that make sure that they at least give you a full break down of costs. We’ve also put in here that make sure that they know when you want to start using the system, when you want to be able to stop using your current system and also with that if you’re paying licence fees to your current systems, you have to extend that for any reason, that’s going to be an additional cost that you’re going to have to factor in. Section C, the proposal. So you’re giving the company the criteria to sell themselves basically. I won’t go through all the points here but I do want to ask you to turn the page and look at section F and that’s where we’ve kind of highlighted a few of the things in regards to costs. So In here it might be worth stating about expenses as well.

    If you’ve got an organisation, if you don’t pick Cascade, but I’m sure you all will, but if you’ve got an organisation that’s based in Scotland and your based in Devon, are you going to be paying their expenses, as a charity that was important for us that we highlighted that you know, let’s look at how often you’re going to be down or whether or not we will be paying for accommodation. If you look at G, it says a draft implementation time table, it’s very important this because the last thing you want, particularly if you’re doing a HR and finance integration into a system, that you’re not doing it at the end of a financial year or you’re not doing it at summer when no one’s going to be there, so it’s very important to look at that. And also, within that time line which I’ll talk a little bit about later, make sure that you’ve got everybody in on the days where you’re going to need the training, so you are not having to retrain people on the basic functions of the system because obviously depending on their role they’re going to have questions that they’re going to want answered. At the very bottom of C point 2, supplier’s details and Peter touched on this earlier is get some trade references.

    So today you have already seen Cascade obviously you’re going to see other systems as well and you’ve heard us speak about the system, like Peter said we tried to get information from another charity but it’s very important to be able to have that information, because that way you can talk to them and they’d be able to share with you some of the issues they may of faced. For example, when we were running in payroll for the first time, the old system and the new system, it was important for us to know that we called Cascade for the first time we were going to be a priority, not we have a 48hours turn around and we’ll get back to you then. So it’s important to know that type of information. And then Section D, Section D is where if you are running this project you are going to spend all your time kind of going through. Now with us, what we did is we looked at our essential criteria and our desirable criteria.

    Now you’re essential criteria is going to be your legal items, so you must have name, address, national insurance number or you can’t pay people. If an organisation responds to your tender and obviously they can’t accommodate the legal stuff, the essential stuff then you already know they are a no. What Cascade did, where they couldn’t do the things that we needed was they presented us with solutions and then you’d be able to look at that and you’d be able to go ‘ok, yes actually we can make that work!’ because whatever system you get in you need to make sure that it supports the legal items, your policies and procedures and you also need to be thinking to the future, what is your organisation going to be wanting to be doing and make sure that the system in six months’ time isn’t going to be out of date. The desirable stuff you know that’s the would be nice to have, you can put emphasise on the return of investment of the system that you’ve bought in. so for example, if you wanted the system to, you know, kick out key messages every time someone logs in you know that would be a desirable.

    Ok so, what you also need to consider is any occupational schemes that you have. So we turn the page and we are looking at Section D, point 3. One of the things we did is we made sure that Cascade had all the forms and our policies that were important, that needed to be on the system, that were obviously going to affect pay. So for example, maternity, we’ve got an enhanced maternity scheme. Now some systems that you may be looking at today may only give you what statutory rights people have to maternity, paternity, shared parental leave. Cascades system was able to accommodate our policies so instead of paying six weeks at 90% we pay full pay, so they were able to accommodate that and that goes straight to payroll. The last thing you want to do is having to be making enhanced payments with your system because they don’t speak to each other. So that’s definitely a must, make sure you give them any forms, policies and procedures.

    And then if we jump to Section E, the key point there is make sure that you speak to the company, make sure you speak to references and make sure that you understand what the maintenance is. One thing Cascade does is that if I ring them up and I’m like ‘I can’t find where I need to change this in the back end of the system’ they either talk me through it or if I just want a guide they’ll let me know where the guide is or they’ll do a Log Me In session, so they’ll be able to do a remote log in, look at the system and have a little red dot which is great and they talk me through where I need to go. I learn visually so for me that’s the best way because next time I’m not going to have to give them a call and you can either email them or call them and they respond so for me that works if I need an immediate response I’ll give them a call.

    So, once you’ve chosen your system, be Cascade or another system, I would say set out a timeline. I use the gantt chart and I had multiple levels of detail. I would definitely say make sure you have your day to day activity in the chart and be mindful of appraisals, if you have a peak period of appraisals, be mindful of when payroll runs, be mindful of when there are major benefit changes because as soon as you say to a member of staff be it your manager or an employee that you can’t deliver on something because your integrating a new system, you’ve already lost the positivity that you hoped the system was going to bring because the likely hood is that your changing to make things better. So you don’t want people to not buy into the system because if you buy people to get into the system, you see the second point here is, it means you get there help. Now I was a demon when I was doing the migration and doing the implementation, I wasn’t a nice person to be around because I was so focused on the data and on reflection I need to learn to ask for help if I do a project like this.

    And the good thing about communicating to staff that you’ve got a new system and getting there buying is that you can say to them ‘ok, make sure that your data is up to date’ because you do not want to implement a new system with out of date data and I guarantee you and all you professionals here are going to sit here and say, yes the only things your staff will keep up to date are their bank details, their address can be two years out of date but bank details, as long as they get paid, will be up to date so do a data cleanse. If you take nothing away from today data cleanse before you move over to a new system it makes your life a lot easier. And like I said communicate to staff even if you plan to implement the system in a years’ time that’s fine, let them know that it’s coming. It means that they’re going to look forward to it coming, that you can keep the up to date and if there are any changes or how long they are going to continue to use the system they are better informed and they are also going to work with the change.

    So our reflections and learning – prepare, prepare, prepare. I think we covered that, so make sure that you’ve got all of your information, make sure that you really, really consider what your needs are, make sure that you get all your essential criteria covered. Prepare for the unexpected, I’d say in your timeline, in your plan, in your gantt chart, whatever you choose to use make sure that if you know Cascade have asked for something on a Friday that you’ve begun it by the Wednesday, because something will pop up. The self-service now we are still rolling out a little bit of the self-service, now don’t rush this because one thing that you need to remember is that the self-service means that all the information on there is live.

    You change someone’s annual leave, you change their date or you want to run a test, that person logs in they can see it so be mindful of that. Share the knowledge around the team. I’m the primary user so I make sure that I try and give that information, if I find out something new I try and get it to my colleagues to make sure that if they don’t come up against the same issues that I may have. And finally, we’ve put don’t trust anybody, anything described as a development opportunity but the fact that you’re here means you’ve already fallen for it, so welcome to my world! Where here to take any questions, were also on LinkedIn via Cascade if after you leave here today you’ve got any more questions, so hopefully we can help. Thank you very much.

SHARE THISShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Book a free demo

Call 0344 815 5566

Get a Free Info Pack


Cascade HR is a well-established, award-winning provider of fully-integrated HR and payroll software. The company is renowned as much for its quality of project management and ongoing customer service levels, as it is its dynamic technology. Over