HR and IT - Part 2: Does HR need IT?
Monday, June 22, 2009 at 9:06PM
Steve in HR, IT HR, Organization

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.

Article originally appeared on Steve's HR Technology (
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