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    « HR Happy Hour - Episode 4 - SHRM Special Edition | Main | Guest Post - Leveraging the Age Difference in HR »

    HR and IT - Part 2: Does HR need IT?

    Last week the Creative Chaos Consultant guest blogged on the importance of the relationship between HR and IT, arguing that an effective partnership between the two departments is critical for long-term success and effectiveness.  And traditionally HR Technology projects have relied on this inter-departmental collaboration for many, many initiatives.Flickr- Bigarnex

    Historically, HR Technology implementations followed a fairly common or consistent process. The HR leadership identified a business process or function it wanted to automate or enhance, the IT department was engaged and consulted in the RFP and vendor evaluation process, and once software was selected the IT staff would be responsible for installing and maintaining the new software. This installed software would then become just another part of the corporate systems portfolio that IT was called upon to support and manage.

    But today HR Technology solutions that support traditional 'Talent Management' processes are primarily deployed in the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, (Taleo, Halogen, SuccessFactors , etc.). And there is a seemingly endless supply of either free or relatively low cost solutions available for internal collaboration and communication, that organizations and HR departments are increasingly evaluating and implementing. These platforms ranging from internal micro-blogging (Yammer), to wikis (like PbWorks or Socialtext), and activity steams (Socialcast) and almost always deployed in the SaaS model.  And on the surface, software solutions deployed in this manner, do not require significant IT involvement.

    For example, I wonder how many organizations that have experimented with Yammer, have actually involved the IT department at all?  Signing up for Yammer is free, no specific software is needed, the solution is hosted by the vendor, and no integration is necessarily needed between Yammer and any other legacy enterprise systems. Similar arguments could be made for numerous other collaboration platforms, as well as some of the Talent Management systems that support functions like Performance Management or Compensation Planning.

    Many organizations like to test these solutions in a 'pilot' manner, with a small group or department as kind of a proof-of-concept focus group.  Testing with pilot groups normally avoids internal IT involvement. User accounts, log in information, and 'core' HR data can often be manually created (or re-created) in the new solution, as the number of pilot users is typically kept to a manageable level. The lack of technical requirements for integrating or interfacing data to these new solutions can lead to IT being left out of at least the initial planning and testing of the new software.

    So with the increasing ease and ability of HR departments to select, test, and deploy important new functionalities without significant involvement of corporate IT, does this mean that HR does not truly 'need' IT as much as in the past? 

    Certainly in larger organizations, even solutions offered via SaaS and hosted by the vendor typically need some integration with enterprise directories for user authentication and possibly with the core HRMS system to pass important information like the organizational and supervisory hierarchy. These efforts by definition are the domain of IT.  HR departments certainly will continue to rely on them for these important activities.

    But the changing nature of software licensing and delivery itself is naturally changing the ways that the internal dynamic between HR and IT will function. I expect that IT will be confronted with more and more instances of HR (and certainly other business groups) experimenting and deploying software solutions without IT's knowledge. The key question for HR will be just how early and to what extent to involve IT in these activities. 

    I agreee with the Creative Chaos Consultant in that HR and IT need an effective partnership, but the changing nature of software deployment and the sheer speed that most organizations need to see positive results from new projects are forever changing the dynamic between the two groups.

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Great post Steve, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to post some of my thoughts on your blog.

    You make a lot of good points. The strategic importance of an organization's IT department is changing fast. For me, IT is an important partner due to the size of our operations. That's certainly not going to be the case everywhere. They need to reposition themselves so that they continue offering their internal customers the greatest value. Sounds like HR, huh?

    Thanks again Steve!

    Does HR still 'need' IT? Absolutely. In your post you said "And on the surface, software solutions deployed in this manner, do not require significant IT involvement". Unfortunately the problems usually lie beneath the surface and often times HR does not have the skillset to evaluate the capabilities of the Vendor that lie beneath the surface. Vendors do not always have the same definition of SaaS. HR needs IT to determine if the SaaS model is single tenant, multi tenet or really just a hosted application. Does the vendor have a documented development methodology? Are they using source code control? Do they monitor their application environment? Vendor selection should be partnership between HR and IT to make sure the application meets the business needs of HR and technical needs of the company.

    June 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Krupa

    Chaos - Thanks again for the initial post and your excellent comments.

    Michael - Of course you are correct. HR and IT still so need each other, and in the past maybe IT and 'core' IT decisions played too important a role in software selection and implementation, today, as you so rightly point out, the pendulum could switch too far in the other direction. Thanks very much for pointing out some of the real issues in SaaS deployments and educating us all on some of the important questions that need to be asked.

    June 25, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Great post Steve. Too often organizations are finding ways to work around IT and IT becomes the gatekeeper that people fear to go to to assist with helping drive business process improvements. As Michael points out is is important to keep IT involved with the deployment of these SAAS applications. Groups or individuals that work around IT will generally have problems in the long term. IT , on the other hand, must be open to the fact that everything does not need to exist within the sacred walls of the technology tower.

    There is a balance, of course. In financial companies, legal firms, and some other industries your data must be locked down, completely auditable, etc... However, in the majority of businesses this is not the case, yet IT loses sight of this fact and goes for complete control.

    Open communication, collaboration, and an understanding of business and technical needs will always be important to the success of your business. In some cases you may not need IT as much as before, but you're still better off pretending that you do. Both sides will learn from each other and the business will be the winner.


    June 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Moore

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