Why are workforce management (WFM) implementations susceptible to time and cost overruns?

Organisations that rely on rostering systems are increasingly looking at single enterprise, electronic rostering solutions to enable them to move away from paper-based rostering processes.

All too often, the expectation on the time it takes to migrate from offline, paper-based processes to electronic rostering is grossly underestimated, with many organisations expecting to have their new systems up and running within a year.

Quay has been involved in many workforce management (WFM) initiatives, and all too regularly the migration from offline to electronic rostering can take double the time and effort originally estimated by the business.

The obvious question is, why? What is it about WFM implementations that makes them so susceptible to time and cost overruns?

The Human Element & Systematisation

Like most projects, there are many reasons that project delays occur, however, for WFM initiatives there are two key issues that impact on-time delivery of a WFM project.

Rostering is a human-to-human relationship that is difficult to systematise and cannot be treated as a function in isolation, particularly when it relies heavily on integration with other systems. Both the ‘human element’ and systematisation pose unique challenges and impacts for WFM, which we explore below.

Roster is Not Just a Function, But a ‘Relationship’

Irrespective of the organisation, when a paper-based rostering process exists there are always significant variances in the approach to how a roster works and operates, such as how a roster is planned, produced and maintained throughout day-to-day operations. Often there are varying levels of experience and competence in the people who manage the roster as well.

It’s a reasonable statement that manual rostering processes not only vary in application across an organisation but tends also to be more staff-oriented than an electronic rostering process, which tend more towards being customer-centric.

Staff oriented rosters

By ‘staff-oriented’, we mean that the processes take into account tacit knowledge about employees, their likes and dislikes, personal circumstances and other needs. A relationship often exists between the rosterer and staff, which allows these types of insights to be gleaned from employee relationships and this information is then used to help build the roster. Manual rosters are typically used for smaller groups of people, which further enhances the relationship and the insights that are ultimately reflected in the roster.

Consumer-centric rosters

‘Consumer-centric’ rosters are based on algorithms and patterns, applying business rules to meet the expected customer or service demands of the business. This doesn’t allow for the ‘personal’ side of rostering.

One of the drivers of electronic rostering is scale, which often leads to fewer rosterers, which in turn reduces the ability for the personal touch or the gaining of value-add insights into the needs and wants of the workforce.

Change Management is Critical When Migrating from Paper to Electronic Rostering

When an organisation moves from paper-based systems to an electronic one, there is a significant amount of change that occurs within the organisation. Not only are rosterers learning a new process, but the nature of the relationship between rosterers and staff is fundamentally changed. An entire workforce is impacted.

It is an impact that most organisations underestimate. The new process may no longer cater to the needs and wants of the staff in the same way as a paper-based roster might. This risk can only be mitigated by starting with and maintaining a continued focus on change management throughout the implementation of new WFM initiatives.

Rostering is not a Function in Isolation

Rostering is fundamentally a resource planning activity, however it relies on inputs from a number of systems and in many instances, moves beyond workforce planning and into the payroll process.

The complexity of upstream vs downstream integration

In order to build a roster, the rosterer needs to have knowledge of:

  • the staff (an HR system)
  • the competencies required for the roster (patterns, compliance etc)
  • staff leave balances

Integration of these systems into the rostering process is very complex and is required for full automation.

In addition to upstream systems, the rostering system also need to integrate downstream to systems such as Time and Attendance, Timecard Management and Award Interpretation. This drives the need to define which functions are in which systems in the end-to-end ‘people to pay’ process, including the underlying data and information models that support them.

For example, the challenges associated with management of leave and allowances is an interesting one.

If the end-to-end ‘people to pay’ process is automated, at what point do allowances and leave enter the process to enable the calculation of pay? With many clients, we find that staff are paid off the roster, which is maintained and adjusted through the day of operations and any changes on the day are retrospectively adjusted.

For some clients, the leave and allowances are put into the roster at planning point, however allowances that are triggered on the day (e.g. distance travelled) then need to be entered somewhere and often can’t be automated into the roster or the pay area of the HR system. In some cases, they end up being added to more than one system.

Managing Interconnectivity of Multiple Systems

One approach that helps to manage the complexity of multiple interconnectivity of these systems is using a Rostering Capability Model that defines the end-to-end process. The model defines the core capabilities of each system and how they interact with the end-to-end process.  

Each of the above capabilities need to be mapped to business processes, systems and information models to ensure an efficient outcome for the organisation.

Be Mindful of All that Influences Success

There are many elements that influence success in rostering system implementations, however tackling the two challenges mentioned above at the planning phase of the project will dramatically increase the opportunity for a good project outcome. These approaches aim to define the context of the project from the people, process and technology perspectives and will help set your WFM project up for success.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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