6 Keys to a Successful Cornerstone OnDemand Deployment

April 14, 2015 Appirio

By Brian Sabin


While working with clients on a daily basis implementing Cornerstone OnDemand, I’ve had many opportunities to see what worked well, and what might have worked better if we had the chance to do it over again. Clients that have taken steps to thoroughly plan their project, stick to their planned scope, and are open to suggestions tend to have the most successful deployments.

Putting in a Talent Management system like Cornerstone can often create more organizational challenges than technical ones. Finding an experienced implementation partner is a good start. Regardless, there are many things an organization can do to help their partner succeed. Here are six efforts I have found that correlate to success when implementing Cornerstone.

  1. Start thinking about organizational change… EARLY

Whether you are moving from a paper process to a new online system or replacing an existing online system, your software deployment will need some level of organizational change. You should begin thinking and planning for this before you even engage your new software vendor. You might not yet understand the full impact of the change without knowing the details of the new system, but you are likely familiar with your current process — who it impacts and why someone made the decision to move to a new vendor. If you don’t know these things, find out. By establishing a foundation for change, you can build on this foundation throughout your implementation and better plan for successful organizational adoption of your new system.

  1. STOP! Don’t nail down that go-live date just yet

It happens on almost every implementation project. The first time the client meets the vendor they already have a date that they MUST hit for go-live. Sometimes it is with good reason, such as fiscal budgets or an expiring contract with a prior vendor. Regardless of the reason, picking a hard go-live date before understanding the resources and effort needed for an implementation could set your team up for a highly stressful and ineffective deployment.

Instead, work with your vendor to determine what is typically required to complete an implementation of your size and how long it takes the vendor to complete the deliverables. Determine what resources you have available to support your deliverables and your ability to allocate those resources to support your project. This will drive a more realistic go-live date. If that date still doesn’t work, you might need to evaluate your scope or decide whether you need more resources to complete the work more quickly.

  1. Think about Scope vs Timeline

Does that realistic go-live still not work for you? Maybe you should think about a phased approach. Determine if you really need to deploy all included features, integrations, or see if you can limit the audience as of your go-live date. Reducing your scope for the initial go-live might reduce the time and/or resources needed to meet your go-live date. You can then address the additional features, integrations, and/or audiences in another phase.

  1. Include key decision-makers from the beginning

I’ve had clients that have left certain leaders in their organization out of the loop about their implementation for a variety reasons. In any case, once this leader becomes involved, it can majorly disrupt the implementation. Perhaps the person has knowledge that would have been key to making a decision earlier in the project, they have a different vision than the project team, or they are simply upset that they were not consulted. Be sure to determine all key stakeholders before the project begins. By doing so, the project team can be better informed on future decisions and there will be an opportunity to work out any differences before the project begins. This will save time and support a unified approach for accomplishing the project goals.

  1. Align your business process to the system’s capabilities

Some clients become married to a business process they have had for years just because that is the way it has always been done. Sometimes this loyalty is driven by the fear of having to change the behavior of so many people who are comfortable with the current process. But let’s face it — not all systems are built to mimic your existing process.

Take the time before you begin the project to define the processes that will be impacted by your new system. Do a thorough analysis of the system capabilities to determine whether changes to your process will be necessary in order to implement Cornerstone. Get recommendations from your consultant on how to best align your process with the use of the new system.

  1. Design a solid system governance structure

This is especially important if you are an organization with a decentralized talent management process. Cornerstone OnDemand is highly flexible, and can support decentralized organizations. To effectively manage one system with many admins will require a solid governance plan to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Even if you are not a decentralized organization, it is helpful to define your governance process for managing different levels of administration in the system. The Governance Workshop is another program successful clients typically take advantage of.


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