Remember getting “brand new shoes” when you were a kid but you couldn’t wear them until your parent gave you the green light? Sometimes you had to wait until school started and other times they were bought for that “special occasion” that took forever to come. The excitement would build up right up until the day that you were finally able to sport your new look. And what a day that was. That is unless you were forced into getting something that you didn’t like. When that happened you looked upon the day with dread. Usually though, everything turned out alright. Sometimes it’s like that, isn’t it?
The business world revolves around “buying and selling”. Not only do businesses sell products and buy them, sometimes businesses buy other businesses. There are all sorts of reasons for buying a business. Often it’s to add product line, acquire a brand or expand the customer base. Other times it’s strictly for investment purposes. Whatever the reason mergers and acquisitions take place on a regular basis. One key consideration when this happens is deciding on automation.
Usually, when a company acquires another staffing company each firm is using a different type of staffing software. It is the job of the “buying company” to determine if the company being acquired will continue to use the software they have in place or if they will convert into the corporate staffing software. It is even possible that the company being acquired has better software so the conversion goes the other way. In any event, someone will usually be converting.
Conversions are a very delicate process because there is actually a lot of emotion involved. No one really wants to switch, even though another staffing solution may offer more and be a much better fit than what is in place. When you know a piece of software and even may consider yourself an “expert” at it, the thought of learning something new and losing your expertise status is a bit disheartening. Then there is the concern that data may somehow not get converted over and that you will experience a loss of information that is very critical to your job. At a time when you want to provide stellar performance, the thought of a software conversion is simply not that appealing.
Planning is critical with any data conversion. It is also important to involve a representative of each staffing software system so that expectations can be controlled from all viewpoints. You will have one system that contains developed data and another that will be converted into that database. The recipient does not want their system “messed up” with data coming from the other system. The other system’s concern is that their data will not flow properly into the new system. In order to eliminate both of these concerns it is best to involve representatives of each system in the planning. In that respect, both can participate in the mapping out of what is going to happen with the data and it will ease a lot of tension. The designated representatives will act as a “project manager” from each side and they will learn to work together.
Mapping the data is extremely critical. Each file and field should be addressed and decided upon. The information should be noted in a detailed document that describes exactly what is going to be converted and where it will go in the new system. It is also important to map data that is coded in the new system so that data transferred can be in compliance with any coding systems that are in place in the system that the data is being transferred to. With a document of this type, there are no surprises when the data is finally converted. It makes the process predictable. The document acts as a guide of where to look for data and ensures that the majority of important data will be converted into the new system. This eradicates any concerns that the data will be transferred improperly or in an incomplete fashion. Keep in mind that conversions should include only what is absolutely needed. Bringing old irrelevant data that is of a low quality is always a bad idea.
Training new users is a step that cannot be missed if a smooth transition is to occur. Training should be performed by the staffing software vendor and not the users of the system being converted to. Users do not have the expertise that a professional trainer possesses. A professional trainer has a formal class agenda, training exercises and a training database. They are also able to answer any key questions that the new users may want to ask. They are also a neutral resource that new users will feel comfortable with. This will give the new users the confidence that they need in order to proceed with the new system.
On the actual “live date” the users that had data converted should be assigned the immediate task of checking data. Data usually can be corrected without much interruption if issues are reported at the earliest possible time. If you wait a month or two, it is more difficult for the conversion expert to remedy data issues. By that time, much data has been added and modified and the task is simply more difficult. Take the approach that if something is not discovered within the first week the information could not have been that critical to begin with. The conversion has to end at some point and everyone has to move on. Provide the opportunity for corrections in the first week and make that clear to the users.
Last, users are familiar with certain reporting and they will miss and request reports that they had in their old system. Some may even go so far as to say they cannot function without a specific report that they had in their old system. This is what report writers are for. If the data is there, the report can be obtained. If the data is not there, the report is probably not as critical as the user was led to believe. Provide new and enhanced reporting to the new users and involve them in the creation of some new reports that everyone can benefit from.
To recap, conversions can and will go smoothly with the proper planning and involvement of key people. No conversion will be easy but the long-term benefits cannot be undermined. Allow a specific period for new users to get oriented and to accept the new system. If there is low acceptance after such an allowed period it is time to implement some mandatory processes and procedures. Basically, everyone must participate and use the automated system in order for the corporation to function. Calls, orders, assignments, interviews and more must be input into the system so that management can obtain the necessary information on performance. Forecasting, planning and long-term goals are all encompassed in the use of an automated solution.
Remember those brand new shoes? Everything turned out ok after all, didn’t it?
This article was featured in the March edition of staffdigest magazine. www.staffdigest.com
Terri Roeslmeier is President of Automated Business Designs, Inc., software developer of Ultra-Staff staffing software for the staffing and direct hire industry. Ultra-Staff is a staffing software business solution with components for front office, back office and the web. For more information on Ultra-Staff go to www.abd.net.