Woo hoo! I recently celebrated a birthday. And, of course, birthdays make me think of cake, and that got me thinking about HCM implementation … no, really it did.

You see, many of us work in rather abstract professions. We really can’t point to a tall building and say, “Hey, we did that.” With computers and the mobile age, all our constructs are intangible…just the manipulation of bits. So, it’s probably natural that we gravitate toward analogies to try to explain what we do to those not in the profession or relate complex ideas and concepts to each other. I love analogies.

We all seem to have our own favorite analogies. Mine?

You guessed it: CAKE!

Having worked in HCM and WFM systems implementations for more than 20 years, I’ve realized there are key concepts and principles that can be drawn from the worlds of Julia Child and Betty Crocker. These concepts can be applied to HCM System implementations.

Following are some of these ingredients to ensure that your HCM implementation will be the abstract equivalent of a winner of the “blue ribbon” prize.


Assess Your Needs

Plan your project and gather what you need.

Plan your project and gather what you need.

We all know the basics of baking a cake even if we’re not a celebrity chef. First, you have to gather the ingredients. We may use some ingredients that we have in the fridge or pantry, but we might need to buy additional items.

Just as there are directions in baking a cake, an HCM implementation requires a project plan with project resource requirements. Your IT department may provide you with a description of their current infrastructure capabilities, but you need to know the right questions to ask:

  • Do they need hardware or Windows upgrades?
  • Is the current browser version adequate?
  • How’s their WAN communication?
  • Is the current strategy sufficient or do they need a different strategy around integration altogether?

So, making a list of your needs is important, as well as considering a budget. Your cake could be made from a boxed mix for just a few people or maybe from scratch with organic ingredients and large enough to feed a crowd.Knowing your communications, hardware and software ingredients and whether they fit all of your current and future needs is critical to a smooth rollout and success of your new and/or improved system.


Develop a Strategy

When implementing an HCM system, it’s important to have a strategy that includes all the right ingredients specific to your company along with estimated costs. Your “cake” will not turn out well if your budget doesn’t allow for certain ingredients or if you use a substitute product in place of the real thing. Looking at budget alone or a quick turnaround with an unknown supplier could be like leaving out the baking powder to cut costs and having the entire project turn out flat. 


Combine it all together and start creating an amazing HCM System.

Combine it all together and start creating an amazing HCM System.

Combine the Elements

The next step is to measure the ingredients and blend them together. Techniques used to combine the ingredients can be counterintuitive, but very important to the end result.

You want to have the precise combination of items combined in the correct sequence using the proper techniques so the cake will rise properly and taste delicious. Too lazy to run back to the store to get the sugar you forgot? You’ll have a lot of wasted effort and a disaster of a cake on your hands.

Like the cake, one incorrect measurement or misapplied critical element in an HCM system implementation can result in only one outcome: failure. Unfortunately, you won’t be just ruining a party – it’s an outcome you will live with for a long time.


Bake it

Finally, once we’ve accurately measured our ingredients, we’re ready to bake the cake at the right temperature for the correct amount of time. No one wants to eat a cake that’s not thoroughly cooked or dry and overdone.

Overcommitting your team is like baking your cake in an overly hot oven. Don’t expect them to perform their normal full-time job duties AND be a resource for the implementation. Their important job duty of getting payroll out the door will always trump implementation tasks, plus you run the risk of burning out your people.


What We’ve Learned

The right balance of ingredients is necessary for a successful HCM systems implementation. What’s we learned:

  • Take your time assessing your needs
  • Choose the proper elements
  • Blend those important elements together
  • Allow enough time and money for the systems to work

On the homefront here, I’m down to my last bite of cake. It was terrific…but don’t bother asking me for the recipe. Mine came from the store.

While you may think I’ve wrung the last drop of analogy from this exercise, I may have left out a few observations. Did I miss something important? Have a favorite cake recipe to share? Leave me a comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Do you need help baking your cake? Contact Sability.  Our team has the knowledge and experience to make your HCM/WFM implementations successful.

Scott Brown, Sability CEO and Founder

For more than 20 years, Scott Brown has been a well-known consultant, executive, and innovator in optimizing the deployment of Human Capital Management (HCM) and Workforce Management (WFM) systems. Early in his career, he became focused on finding a better way to create links between employees and management and between employees and technology; all while providing managers with tools and information which they can manage.

He founded Sability as a WFM consultant delivering end-to-end support — from planning to cutover — to insure maximum capture of ROI. This results-oriented approach has helped Sability grow substantially since it was initially launched. His firm has been providing tactical and strategic human capital consulting services to enterprise and mid-market firms across the US and Canada for the past 21 years.