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Design Principles: The Elegant Addition to Project Governance

Most of us who have spent time in the HR systems space in our human resources career have been involved in a project of some sort.

Maybe it was a small project and didn’t need a Project Manager, but someone was the sponsor and decision maker. If you’ve been on a big project, you may have experienced a much more formal project team structure with a project sponsor, an executive sponsor, an operating committee, and a steering committee.

These governance structures are useful and indeed necessary for successful deployments, and you’re probably familiar with some governance structures from simple to complex. But how many times have you heard about Design Principles as part of the governance and decision-making process in a project?

If you’ve used Design Principles effectively in a project, then you know how elegant and effective they can be for aiding decisions and keeping the emotions and sometimes politics out of your project.

Getting Started

It works like this. Before the project kicks off, the project sponsor and key stakeholders should meet and discuss what things are non-negotiables, kind of like fence posts if you will, that will be referenced for all design decisions.

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • All configurations will comply with laws or regulations at any level (EU, Country, State, etc.)
  • Work-flows will be consistent globally. Exceptions across business units must have a business case and be approved by the steering committee
  • Employee experience will be considered a top priority when designing business processes or user interfaces

Design Principles can be almost anything but must be things the Executive Sponsor / Project Sponsor can and will enforce. The beauty of using Design Principles is best exemplified when there is a disagreement between internal business stakeholders about how the new system should work. Without Design Principles in place usually the most powerful person wins. With Design Principles in place, it’s easier to take the emotion out of the decision and ask, “Which option best fits with the Design Principles?”

If you haven’t used Design Principles before as part of the governance in your projects, give them a try. And don’t be afraid to add some along the way during an in-flight project with the approval of the Steering Committee.

For more information on choosing the right HR systems and structures, watch: Selecting and Implementing the Right HR Systems for Your Organization.