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How to build a case for e-HR


Steve Foster, Practice Leader HR Solutions at RebusHR looks at how HR people can persuade senior management of the avantages of an e-HR system.

If the technology to implement e-HR is available and doesn’t involve major investment, why hasn’t every organisation already done it? The simplest answer is that e-HR involves a fundamental change in culture, and commitment needs to come from the top. In its 2002 research, Webster Buchanan found that 43.4% of the HR directors in multinational companies pointed to ‘board buy-in’ as the greatest barrier to adopting e-HR.

There is a lack of awareness of the benefits of e-HR, and organisations need to put a serious effort into preparing and presenting a business case for making the change. The challenge is to make a case that can stand up to competition from the many other high priority demands for investment in the organisation.

Building business cases for HR projects is notoriously difficult. It could even be argued that the existence of the HR function itself is very difficult to justify using standard accounting methods. However, a strong business case is essential for demonstrating clear, rational decision-making, for gaining support across an organisation, and to give management the basic objective information for moving forward. Delivering e-learning may well involve large cost-savings in itself, and other benefits for staff as a whole, but the argument will be far stronger if the project is part of a holistic package for the business.

In general terms, a good business case will fulfil the following:

  • Give a clear picture of the scale and nature of benefits, qualitative and quantitative, and any assumptions which have informed the analysis.

  • Set out implementation options and provide the information needed for relative assessments.

  • Indicate how impact will be analysed, and how specific targets can be used to demonstrate ‘quick wins’ by the implementation team.

  • Provide a guide to costs of implementation.

  • Be dynamic: encourage a sense of urgency and make clear the importance of the initiative to the business as a whole.

    The ‘make or break’ for the success of the case will be in demonstrating specific and reliable outcomes. Outcomes – not impacts – are the key. A business case needs to set out the links between the specific impacts and what they lead to; for example, the creation of new automated processes can lead to reduced headcount among administrative staff and therefore an operational cost-saving.

    The emphasis should not all be weighted towards costs. The most far-reaching and important benefits for the long-term future of the business are likely to be in the strategic / enabling areas: such as, in providing management information that leads to better planning and decision-making; better trained and informed staff; the areas that provide competitive advantage.

    Preparation is needed to ensure the case demonstrates a grasp of the big picture. What is the scope and full implications of the project? e-HR could be used for a large range of business processes, but which will be the most significant for the business? And as a result, who will be using the systems and what training will be needed? If the e-HR platform is to be used to to deliver learning then this is clearly going further than creating an efficient, low-cost information structure. How will content be organised, sourced and managed? What will be the extra costs involved and implications for resourcing?

    Stakeholders need to be identified: people within the organisation who can bring knowledge or an interest can act as invaluable ‘champions’ for the case. It is worth establishing the business case ‘culture’ of the organisation. Senior executives can have very different attitudes towards the level and types of information needed, and how the final case should be presented.

    To prepare a case for e-HR specifically, the following kinds of concrete evidence will be needed:

  • Details of all the administrative, paper-based, manual processes that are currently being carried out by the HR team or training staff;

  • An idea of time spent on these activities, and any additional expenditure on temporary support staff or overtime, a an estimate of tangible cost-savings;

  • Costs of any outside service providers and/or materials for training and development that could potentially be delivered online;

  • An outline of all key benefit processes;

  • An outline of the management information that is already, or could be, captured at source and its potential uses;

  • A proposal for the improved HR services that could be offered to managers and employees as a result of the additional time gained;

  • Suggestions for how e-HR could be used to support wider initiatives, such as work-life balance or performance management schemes.

    e-HR isn’t an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution. Every organisation will have its own challenges and advantages that make implementing a new system for all staff a completely different process than any other. But by rooting proposals in an understanding of concrete impacts and outcomes for the business and people at all levels, e-HR has a powerful case – and for the HR profession, should be an important stepping stone away from the admin and into its true strategic role.

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