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The iTrent Serenity Prayer

Serenity and iTrent may present something of an oxymoron for you. I’d like to use that “prayer”, in its secular version, to convince you that with acceptance, courage and wisdom, serenity and your HRIS project sit happily with you at your desk.

Most of us are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. Written, it is now widely agreed, by the American Protestant theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, in the 1930’s it is since best known for its adoption by the Alcoholics Anonymous association. I can find a good number of variants (and do search for “funny serenity prayer” for some great results!). For me, however, the message makes for a great philosophy by which to approach working life – and getting to grips with leading on an iTrent or HRIS project.

Here is my favourite and the working premise for this article, presented to those of our Phase 3 Consulting clients who we were pleased to welcome at our annual seminar yesterday:

I will strive to accept the things I cannot change

Change the things I can and should

And find the wisdom to know the difference

The key point is that it is within our gift to be pragmatic, to accept. We can take a bold approach to change and – the really critical bit – you don’t need to be an iTrent expert to find out the answers as to how to get optimum results out of your iTrent investment.
The Serenity Prayer emphasises these values: acceptance, courage and wisdom. I will take you through a layered approach to project-thinking in our context and therefore how to use a choice to accept, to be courageous and to be wise to do something perhaps less profound than the prayer intended, but usefully positive and pragmatic if you’d like to get your iTrent job right.

My layers, and you may well have your own to add, start with configuration and process, which can appear to be all there is to it. Build on this using the enablers of expertise, perspective and (hopefully) a project management method and you are a layer deeper into sound systems planning. Deeper still, look for the strategic impact.
Firstly, on configuration and process.

My sub-title to this article could quite well be “The iTrent Serenity Prayer: and why UDF’s are not always the answer”. iTrent is a configurable system, and for sure UDF’s (user-defined fields) have their place. iTrent is not by design a customisable system . If your organisation is looking at heavy customisation or you have received the advice that what you need your process to do cannot be done, then this may give you a clue to look more closely at that process.

To my mind, the Serenity Prayer values actually need to be looked at in reverse order. Start with wisdom. Your wise questions on configuration and process might be, respectively, “Do I understand the impact of the build I am making? (Have I asked?!)” and “Why do I have this process the way that I do?”. Have the courage to use the system differently if you need to. For example, there are inventive uses of web views beyond the straight-forward web application facility and it’s a close option to a fully configurable portal for an online form. Take a bold process move and allow iTrent to take the strain on data validation and a trust policy on expense claims or sickness absence entry. Ditch the supporting paper and duplication of admin processes that make you feel just slightly happier about the small proportion of workflows that “go wrong”.

However, there will be times when acceptance is a good option. When you pick up on the clue that you’re looking at customisation options or asking for something apparently difficult, I hope that you will take the opportunity to decide if it is your organisation that is ahead of the game, or if there is a system limitation that you need to live with. Commonly, for example, the leaver process just can’t quite be worked out. Leaving date is a real, and almost un-doable date, and yet we all wish it to trigger stuff without such a degree of constraint. Acceptance in the context of configuration and process is the business of the work-around!
Secondly, there are those enabling factors of the expertise, the methods and the perspectives that you bring to your iTrent project:
Your wise questions are “How much do I need to know about this?” Build your understanding with the networking opportunities available to you and triangulate those sources. We at Phase 3 Consulting believe that an informed client has the best chances of success and of making the most therefore of their project partnerships. Find a user group, get in touch. On method, my question is admittedly a challenging one: “Where is my control? How will I find it?” A project management methodology doesn’t need to be heavy duty, but for sure something is required. [Plenty of ideas from me about how to tailor to a very small-scale project another time.]

The courage at this level might come from looking outside of your sector, it might come from forming your own project techniques, rather than accepting an off-the-shelf package and it should certainly come from making the most of your consultancy services. All of our clients I would advise to get hands-on to the degree that they can. Quiz us and understand the impact. Accept that you may need to hear expert opinions and take your choices. The iTrent favourite is perhaps the choice between the “flat” (cliff-face) or the “hierarchical” structure. You will hear firm advocates from the experts on both sides of this debate and your organisation will have to make a choice. Accept this but understand the impact and you might feel a bit braver in taking that choice!

Note that the same can be said for the question of holiday schemes in hours or days, how to tackle working patterns and other similar issues. I’d like to write soon about the difference between expert opinion and client choice.
Finally, I hope that you make it to that which we are all aiming for in our serenity – the strategic impact. Here we are rooted in some realities to accept. Clearly these are contextual, but perhaps for you this is a simple as accepting that with every HR system there comes compromise. Perhaps you’d like to be operating with a full ERP system, but it’s not affordable. Most often, there is the reality of accepting limitations without “sinking” the investments made.

There is a balance to be struck between bringing such realities into focus in order to enable brave decision-making and a pragmatism which allows the organisation to maximise on investment and keep a positive focus on great potential with a powerfully integrative HRIS product.

Take a courageous step and revisit the benefits. It is never too late to do so. Engaging in an ROI exercise cannot in itself impact those returns, or lack of returns, but it can allow you, your consultants and your teams, to tweak plans in time to see results. Compare the real impact of costs, savings and value-add at different levels, in different volumes and with different mitigation of risk and you could see surprising results. Looking at the weather forecast will not actually bring on the rain!
I would like to have a rather more sophisticated wise question on impact and strategic, but for this, let’s keep it simple: “Do I have one? A strategy? If not, am I at least thinking strategically? If I don’t, where am I going to get one from?”
To conclude, here is a suggestion for ensuring that iTrent and serenity remain comfortably at the same desk – an iTrent Serenity Prayer:

Take a deep breath

Be bold

Ask a ton of questions

Play around with the values of acceptance, courage and wisdom – what do you need to settle on and make the best of? What could you be brave to change? Should you do that, and how are you going to find out?

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