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    Guest Post - Head in the Cloud? The move to On-demand

    NOTE : This Guest Post is from Denis Tournesac, Executive Vice-President OnDemand at NorthgateArinso, a global provider of HR software and service.

    In the article, Denis examines the impact of the economic climate on HR’s technology.Denis Tournesac


    The global economic downturn has brought about interesting times for the HR team. We only need to open a newspaper to see stories of job cuts, recruitment freezes and absent bonuses. Employees are worried about the future and the fate of their company, which doesn’t lead to a happy working environment. All this leaves HR dealing with staff cuts, while managing the needs of those people left behind.

    When CEOs are looking to cut overheads, justifying the HR team’s time and resources is more important than ever. Reporting is crucial and technology can have an important role to play in helping the HR team operate as efficiently as possible.

    However, at a time when budgets are stretched, how can HR choose between the myriad of technology delivery models on offer? The average HR manager wants a global view of HR, as well as in-depth local knowledge and expertise that’s not bogged down in admin. But is it possible to have your cake and eat it too?

    Sign of the times

    The recession brings with it fewer opportunities for extensive capital expenditure. The initial layout for a big software project can be huge and updating existing systems is seen as a ‘non-urgent’ task that can wait until more secure financial times.

    As a result, now is a good time for managers to be looking at alternative models of software delivery, including software delivered ‘on demand’, which can be well suited to recessionary times.

    Monthly bills rather than a large initial payout are an attractive proposition for the finance team. OnDemand HR applications are rapidly maturing with multi-tenant systems that leverage scale and the increased acceptance of standardized approaches to HR processes. This combination, in conjunction with faster employee adoption thanks to improved user interfaces, mean that HR managers should be taking a serious look at the OnDemand delivery model to support administrative and value-adding HR processes.

    Going on demand

    OnDemand technology is nothing new. It comes under several different names – cloud computing, utility computing, software as a service – but all have the same basic attributes. Thanks to companies like salesforce.com, it has already proved it can work for applications like CRM and marketing. However, there’s no reason why HR shouldn’t enjoy the same benefits.

    Users are much more demanding of workplace technology than they were a few years ago. As a result, it’s no longer acceptable to go into work the next day and use non-integrated technology and information that is locked away in non-connected systems. Most HR professionals aren’t IT experts, and don’t expect to be bogged down in complex procedures. A good OnDemand system has got to have a good user interface to be successful.

    We also expect applications to ‘just work’ – it should be clear how to access information, and how to save and store details. An intuitive system rather than one that requires detailed training is no longer a nice to have, it’s crucial to the success of any IT system used by non-IT people.

    Weighing it up

    However, it’s important to remember that when it comes to HR support, one size certainly doesn’t fit all. The benefits of an OnDemand system are clear, but a business considering an investment should be careful to look at all available HR service delivery models, and weigh up the right choice for them. Technology has evolved to such a state that OnDemand solutions can seamlessly co-exist with systems which have been in place for years, creating a promising hybrid environment.

    A factor to consider when implementing IT to support HR is what it’s actually going to be used for. It’s often assumed that IT will support the processes and admin that so often weigh the HR team down. Traditionally, the biggest benefits for HR have been felt when admin like absence requests, tax forms and employee information have been automated.

    This is still the case, but HR directors also need to look at how integrated systems can support the more strategic part of HR. As we’ve already said, talent management is very important to the business during recession, and there’s no reason why this can’t be supported with the right IT platform.

    A good example of managing talent adequately can be found in succession planning. Over the next five years, the post-war ‘baby boomer’ generation will retire, and unless companies are prepared, they’ll take with them a huge amount of knowledge and experience. The ‘knowledge crunch’ when baby boomers retire could well hit businesses just as they’re recovering from the recession, and managers need to be preparing whoever will take the place of these managers.

    Having it all?

    Just because the economy is in a bad way doesn’t mean investment in new solutions to improve efficiency should stop. In fact, it’s more important than ever for reporting to be transparent, in order to improve talent management and competence management processes.

    Ultimately, the Company only talks in numbers, and if they can see the direct financial results of the work HR is putting in, the team can justify its role a lot more easily.

    The HR director looking to do this should carefully weigh up all the options available. OnDemand technology can help manage costs, and is more easily scalable than some other delivery models. However, different models suit different companies, and OnPremise software has moved a long way from the expensive dinosaur it once was, to become an integral part of hybrid landscapes. What is important is that when the right system is up and running, it helps prove HR’s value to the rest of the business at a time when the team is needed more than ever.


    Tomoye Community Software in the Class

    For the current edition of the HR Technology class we were fortunate enough to use the Tomoye Ecco Community platform as a basis for many class activities, and all class discussions.

    The Tomoye Community platform is a basis for sharing and collaborating on content (documents, images, video), asking and answering questions, and finding and accessing organization expertise. Content can can be organized by main topic, then further identified and described with user-defined tags. Users can comment on or ask a question about any piece of content in the Community.

    In class, we took advantage of these capabilities in several ways:


    The Course content was organized into Topics, one per week, and all readings, assignments, discussion questions were placed in the Week's Topic, as well as being tagged as a 'reading', 'project', etc. This way students could easily see all content in a chronological manner, or by type (by doing an easy tag search, or using the tag cloud).  This made content more accessible and consumable for students, and did not necessarily 'force' them to access content in only one prescribed manner.


    All class assigned readings were uploaded to the community as 'Documnents', but beyond simply loading a file, I was able to introduce the reading, set some context, and even offer some of my observations on the content. Sometimes I asked a specific question or two, and other times simply asked the students to share their comments and observations about the reading.  Here again the ability to post comments or ask questions directly tied to the content item was very valuable, and a great feature for the class.

    I also used the Documents feature to load images, usually diagrams or charts taken from presentation material from the 'in-person' version of the class.  This worked well, as the ability to set context and describe the material in the image was key to ensure better student understanding.


    Each week there was at least one 'required' class discussion topic that I entered as a 'Question' in that

    week's topic.

    Students were asked to provide their views on the question, and to comment and discuss their answers with each other.  Here the class utilized one of the powerful features of Tomoye, the ability to mark an answer as 'Helpful'. This is a simple, yet effective mechanism for bubbling good content to the top, and for building the reputation of community members.  In a short class, community ratings and recommended members have fairly limited utility, as really more time needs to pass and more discussions created for this feature to be really powerful.

    Overall Thoughts

    First, the Tomoye Community was vastly superior to the course management system that is available through my school in the areas of content management, discussions, and organization and locating information. While all these are possible in a traditional CMS, the features of Tomoye like tagging, commenting, asking questions, and rating are a major improvement and enhancement.  The visibility in comments and discussions to all student contributions is also far superior in Tomoye to the 'classic' threaded forum style in the CMS.

    Certainly Tomoye, or any other community not designed for course management can't completely replace functions like online grading, online live quizzing, and perhaps even private exchanges between and individual student and the instructor. 

    But going forward I see huge potential for using a platform like Tomoye not just for an individual course as I did this quarter, but as an overall community platform for the entire program. I can envision a community that is set up for all enrolled students, faculty, staff, and even alumni.  There could be separate content areas or topics for each individual course containing overview material, sample course content, reviews from students, faculty bios, and areas where prospective, current, and past students could ask questions and have discussions. Additionally, topics can be created for overview information, coming events, and perhaps job opportunities posted by alumni or friends of the program.  What I am thinking about is sort of a hybrid between traditional 'alumni' networks and an active student network.

    To close, we had a great experience using Tomoye in class, and many thanks to the great folks at Tomoye, especially Eric Sauve and Kathleen Brault, I am truly appreciative of the fantastic support in this initiative.



    HR Tech Chat - Integrated Talent Management

    The monthly HR Tech Twitter Chat is set for tonight, Wednesday August 5th at 9:00 PM EDT.

    A quick review of how these Twitter 'theme' chats work:

    At 9:00 Bryon Abramowitz of Knowledge Infusion or myself will officially start the chat with a quick welcome message. Folks who are participating are asked to Tweet out their name and role so that we can all get better acquainted. 

    An example would be 'Hi, I am Steve Boese, HR Technology Instructor at RIT in New York - #HR_Tech'

    We will then get the discussion going around this month's topic - Integrated Talent Management.

    Some questions that could be explored:

    1. What's driving organizations to pursue these projects?

    2. Are they succeeding?  Why or why not?

    3. What vendors and solutions seem to offer the most interesting and compelling solutions right now?

    4. Where is the market heading?

    5. What should HR practitioners be thinking about in the planning and execution of these projects?

    These are just a few ideas, in reality the conversation will go where the group takes it and that is most of the fun of the chats.

    Some Tips for Chat participants:

    • You participate by Tweeting with the hashtag '#HR_Tech' included in your update (usually at the end of the Tweet)
    • Follow the flow of the conversation by tracking all Tweets with '#HR_Tech' using one of the following
      • Tweetchat - http://tweetchat.com/room/HR_Tech, you will need to sign in using your Twitter credentials, but this gives a nice overlay to the chat and will automatically append the hashtag to your updates
      • Tweetgrid - www.tweetgrid.com. Allows you to not only monitor the chat, but also your 'normal' Twitter stream and/or other search terms.  Takes a few minutes to setup but it is pretty neat.
      • Tweetdeck - If you are already using Tweetdeck just set up a new search column for the #HR_Tech hashtag. 
      • Twubs - I have not used this site yet, but I have heard many folks say it is pretty nice for following a 'theme' chat in Twitter. http://twubs.com/hr_tech.

    These chats can be really interesting and informative, but honestly they would be greatly enhanced if we get some more 'non-Tech' HR folks interested and participating.  So if you are an HR pro and have some questions or comments about Talent Management technology, or quite honestly any HR Technology, it is a great opportunity to corner at least a dozen HR Technology professionals at one time.


    Hope to see your #HR_Tech Tweets tonight!


    Care to share?

    In thinking on the conditions necessary for a vibrant and valuable online knowledge sharing platform or enterprise social network, it seems that the following three components all need to exist for sustainable, meaningful, and reproducible success:

    One - Contributors

    People have to want to contribute, and they have to be given all the needed time, resourFlickr- clappstarces, technical training necessary to that end.  Some of the top barriers to individual team members from contributing have to be assessed, and strategies implemented to better enable contribution.

    Some of the most common barriers are technical ('I do not understand how this software works'), cultural ('Why would I want to share this information with anyone else?'), and fear-based, ('I am not comfortable posting content for the entire company to see').

    Two - Consumers

    Two - People have to be willing to ask the questions, usually in a public manner.  This is very different than the way they typically have sought information in the past, a face-to-face discussion,  a private phone call, or a personal email.  Publicly posting a question on a company forum or wiki page potentially exposes the employee to embarrassment, and some studies have suggested that the desire to avoid looking uninformed or incompetent to be a powerful inhibitor of both asking questions as well as providing content.

    But clearly if there are not enough 'seekers' of knowledge and information in the community, the platform becomes more a stagnant content repository and less an active community.  The simple asking of questions should generate helpful answers, and once people have seen that the community members do indeed provide

    Three - Comments (and ratings)

    People have to be willing to rate and evaluate contributions, and to have their own contributions also evaluated.  Great content needs a way to get 'surfaced'.  Users must have the ability to provide comments, vote up or down, and give ratings to the content that is contributed by the other members of the community.  The best content then becomes easier to find and those contributors get recognized by the community as experts, and sources of insight.

    When any of these are missing

    Think about what happens in absence of any of these requirements.  Obviously without a significant number of employees participating in generating content and sharing their expertise, the community will stagnate quickly, people seeking information and answer will quickly give up, and the entire project will be dispatched to the dustbin of IT or HR failures.

    If not enough employees go to the community to seek answers, then contributors will quickly lose interest and enthusiasm for creating content, and eventually the community will simply house some basic, static type information, and not much else.  The process of users asking questions of the community serves two purposes. One, to get the user the anwser he or she needs to their issue, and two, to serve to generate more discussion and collaboration that often leads users to actually create new sources of knowledge.

    Lastly, if consumers and contributors are not comfortable or honest about evaluating content on the community, then as the volume of contributions grows, it becomes difficult for information seekers to find the 'right' answers, the 'best' contributions, and the 'experts' in the community. Not all contributions and contributors provide equal value to the overall community. The community becomes a much more effective tool when the best content and expert members can be easily identified.

    In some future posts I will go into some detail on how some of the barriers and enablers for all three areas describes above.  It is important for organizations to think about these three requirements as they consider and deploy software for community building and collaboration.


    HR and the Mini

    Am I crazy or does it seems that there are way more Mini drivers (no not her)

    Minnie Driver

    I am talking about this Mini:

    Mini Cooper S

    among Human Resources professionals that anywhere else you look?

    From a series of Tweets last week, and from some talk on last Friday's HR Happy Hour, I'd say the percentage of Mini owners in HR to be way higher than the general public.

    Does this mean anything at all?  Why do you think Human Resources types seem to gravitate to this car?

    Do other discipines have their own preferred car?

    Was I out of ideas for a blog post?

    Let me know, do you drive a Mini and have you noticed that many of your HR colleagues do as well?