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    Diner Menus and Collaboration Platforms

    Being a native of New Jersey I have fond memories of the classic Jersey diner. The kind of place that had a 20 page book for a menu, that served everything from breakfast to burgers to seafood (generally a goodFlickr - wallyg idea to avoid diner shellfish) all the way to full roast turkey dinners.  Throw in a generous helping of Greek, Italian, and even Mexican selections, and the customer likely had about 500 different items to choose from.

    Someone not familiar with the New Jersey diner can get a bit overwhelmed and surprised with the sheer heft of the menu and almost dizzying array of choices. Page after page of choices, even at 3 AM.

    Lately it seems like the options to the Human Resources Technology professional in the area of internal collaboration platforms is starting to resemble a Jersey diner menu.  Every day I think another web-based solution to support employee collaboration, communication, improve productivity, and otherwise turn your organization into a high performing, 'social' organization. And while I generally agree that these kinds of solutions are really the future for collaboration for many organizations, the sheer number of solutions that are currently available have to be confusing and a bit daunting  to the average HR professional.

    A starting point for many investigating these solutions is the famous Gartner Magic Quadrant document. These documents attempt to give a relative ranking to a fairly large number of vendors in a given market, along with some basic information on the solution.  The current Magic Quadrant for Social Software can be found here. But the problem with the Magic Quadrant is that its inclusion criteria skews towards the larger vendors, and consequently the ones that tend to sell to the larger customers.

    The many, many start-ups and smaller vendors, (many offering fully functional collaboration platforms for very low costs, even free) are not included by Gartner, and are generally ignored by many other major analyst firms. So if you are an HR Pro at a company of say less than 500 employees, (which by the way outnumber firms larger than 500 employees by about  333-1), then you are pretty much on your own to navigate this complicated and ever expanding space.

    Just in the last few months alone I have checked out (among others) Brainpark, GroupSwim, Sosius, Central Desktop, Obayoo, Socialcast, Injoos, Spinscape, Conenza, and Neighborhood America.  All have interesting solutions, and all could be the right solution for a small business, but for the HR Pro, navigating this complex and crowded market has to seem kind of overwhelming. There are simply so many options and choices here that it can be difficult to determine just what solutions are best for a particular organization.

    If you find yourself at the diner in Jersey the recommendation is easy, order a Taylor Ham, egg, and Flickr - feralboycheese on a hard roll, you won't be disappointed. If you are a small business looking for a new collaboration solution, well, order a Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese on a hard roll, and be prepared for quite a bit of research and exploration.




    SHRM Counter Programming - Women's Pool

    Every year during the Super Bowl I take a quick look at the counter-programming that ESPN decides to run to 'compete' with the big game (which is typically on ABC or Fox). ESPN knows that pretty much every typical ESPN viewer is watching the Super Bowl, so they don't 'waste' any potentially interesting or popular shows in that time slot.

    They typically run something from the potpourri of Lumberjack contests, cheerleading competitions, or my favorite women's pool.  So while the big SHRM shindig is going on, any HR-related blogger not in attendance and providing daily updates of the goings on is likely to find it hard to get noticed this week,

    So in the spirit of ESPN's programming strategy, while SHRM is in full swing, I offer this gem: Women's Pool.  The video is actually pretty funny, check out the 'interesting' telestrator image about 30 seconds in, followed shortly after by what sounds like a huge fart and the commentator denying responsibility for said fart.

    Pretty funny, no?

    Anyway, later in the week I will resume my normally excellent HR Technology programming, and don't forget on Friday, July 3rd at 6 PM EDT the next Episode of HR Happy Hour, where Shauna and I will get the 'inside scoop' on SHRM from a panel of HR superstars.


    HR Happy Hour - Episode 4 - SHRM Special Edition

    Join the HR Minion, Shauna Moerke and I on Friday, July 3 at 6PM EDT for a special HR Happy Hour - SHRM '09 Edition. HR All-Stars Kris Dunn, Laurie Ruettimann, Lance Haun, Mark Stelzner (and maybe more) are our guests for a re-cap of SHRM 2009. We'll talk about the HR Blogger session, the conference in general, and who threw the best parties. It should be a great show.

    You can listen live here, and we plan on taking a few calls during the show as well.

    Thanks very, very much Shauna for coordinating the guests for this show and thanks in advance for the superstar panel for agreeing to come on.  Unlike SHRM, I do not have a 'no cursing' rule on the show!


    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.


    Guest Post - Leveraging the Age Difference in HR

    NOTE - This Guest Post is authored by Ben Eubanks, from the Upstart HR blog.  Ben is a young HR professional with lots of great ideas and boundless energy.  Have at it Ben!


    "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." –Ronald Reagan—

    I hate to be forced into speaking for new HR people here, but I don’t see many others stepping up to take on the issues facing us today. HR is a tough career nut to crack. Getting in requires experience, and the experience only comes after getting in. It boggles the mind. Want to hear something interesting? I think that HR needs to open its doors to younger candidates. We have some valuable gifts to offer that are not normally seen in an HR department.

    We are good with tech, but we don’t know the operations side of the business nearly as well as the veterans do. The veterans may know enough about technology to do their jobs, but the younger folks could probably teach them a trick or two. Both sides of the workforce have a specialty, and they also have an obligation to each other.

    The seasoned professionals must teach the business and be open to change.

    The newbies must be open to learning the business and propose change.

    We’re young, (partially) reckless, and willing to try anything. The employees at Google get 20% of their time to chase innovative ideas. Some of their best products and applications have come from that block of time provided by the company. Sure, giving people the freedom to work one day of every week on their personal projects seems like a risk, but with great risk comes the opportunity for great reward.

    We get the reputation of thinking we know everything. I don’t know who’s spreading that idea around, but it’s not true for most of us. Sure, we are great at lots of things, but if we’re going to go through the trouble to get into the HR field, we want someone to teach us how the business works from top to bottom. In recent weeks, I’ve had more than a handful of HR veterans tell me that one of the keys to being successful in HR is to get out of it. By that they mean that a truly successful HR professional will need to broaden his/her focus to see the company as a whole and adapt a human resources strategy to fit business needs.

    Young people, are you with me? Stand up and tell it to the veterans in your organization. And to you senior HR professionals out there, I have four words for you straight from my generation. Teach us. We’re waiting.