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    Entries in ERP (10)


    Workday 12 - Working for you

    If you have any interest at all in Human Capital Management software then by now you are familiar with Workday, a provider of Enterprise Resource Planning solutions to mid-size and large organizations.  Founded in 2005, by industry legend and pioneer Dave Duffield, and former PeopleSoft Vice Chairman Aneel Bhusri, Workday has experienced early success and remarkable growth, leveraging the Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model to push innovation and new capability to market and in the hands of its customer base faster than it’s traditional on-premise deployed competitors (SAP and Oracle/PeopleSoft) can match.

    I don’t need to repeat the Workday story again here, but the general narrative is this: by building a modern, next generation ERP/HCM solution from scratch, taking advantage of SaaS deployment to rapidly iterate and deploy new features and capabilities, and lastly (but perhaps most importantly), by giving mid-size and large global customers a real choice outside of the ERP trinity of SAP, Oracle E-Business Suite, or Oracle PeopleSoft), Workday has become the most interesting company in enterprise technology in the last 5 years.

    Recently Workday released the latest version of the suite, Workday 12.  The team at Workday was nice enough to give me a briefing and demonstration of a few of the new features in this latest release.  And there are lots of new features in the HCM and Talent Management areas.  But during the demonstration one new feature in particular, called ‘Faceted Search’, stood out for me, and I think provides some insight on what has been one of the traditional failures of big, enterprisey technology solutions, and perhaps gives us a glimpse at what a better and more flexible enterprise solution landscape might look like.

    With Faceted Search, Workday provides the ability for line managers, project managers, HR leaders, talent planners - pretty much anyone with the responsibility for finding, assessing, and deploying the ‘right’ people to the ‘right’ roles, projects, and assignments; to flexibly and with a high degree of personalization locate, tag, and take relevant actions on a group of resources. These groups can be created on the fly, in real-time, and shared as needed and desired across the organization.

    One use case might be for an HR Talent Planner to run an advanced search for all Director level employees that are high performers, but have compensation below the average for their peer group.  

    Screen 1 - Search results with corresponding user-defined tag

    The talent planner can immediately create a custom ‘tag’ or grouping of the selected employees, e.g., ‘Retention Risk - Directors’, and from there with one-click a number of actions can be launched for the new talent pool’  - start a development plan, initiate a one-time bonus, or add to a project resource list, etc.  

    Screen 2 - Launching a targeted action on behalf of newly defined Talent Pool

    This is cool and noteworthy not just because of the slick user interface and the powerful functionality, but because it allows the talent planner to make the system adapt to the way he/she needs it to work, and not the other way around. Identifying the target population, creating the search, modifying the search results, augmenting the results with descriptive meta-data (the tag), and finally taking specific and targeted actions based on this brand new construct (the Retention Risk - Directors group), supports the talent professional in their needs and the needs of most organizations to better understand their talent, to deploy that talent faster and more efficiently, and to adapt to changing conditions and requirements.

    Look, I am not so naive to know that for many organizations the exceedingly hard work of performance management, compensation planning, and talent assessment would all (or mostly) need to be in place before they could fully leverage this kind of powerful capability to turn the information into action.  But, I do think that by allowing more user control of the experience, the definitional data, and with the ability to rapidly and broadly share and socialize these user-created constructs, that organizations will have more opportunity to take advantage of these kinds of advanced and powerful capabilities.

    There are numerous reasons why (for most users) traditional enterprise systems suck.  Having to change the way you want to work to adapt to an inflexible, rigid process and structure is certainly chief among said reasons. Rigiditiy and repeatability is great when the process is paying bills or calculating quarterly taxes; it isn’t so great when the question to be answered is how to find, deploy, and reward the ‘right’ people to the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time.  The answer to that question changes every day, and tools like Workday’s Faceted Search are a step towards providing solutions that can help talent professionals come up with the right answers.

    Thanks very much to Leighanne Levensaler and the team at Workday for the briefing last week.



    Oil changes for life

    Quick show of hands - do you change the oil in your car yourself, or once every few months or so roll up to the local QuickJiffySuperFast Lube place and have someone else take care of it?

    I will bet most of you don't change your own oil any longer.  There are plenty of reasons why these lube places seem to be on every corner.  Changing the oil yourself is a hassle. It is a dirty, occasionally difficult job.  Engines have become increasingly complex over the years making even simple maintenance tasks beyond the skill level of the average motorist. On many new cars, 'oil changes for life' done by the dealer are part of the purchase discussion. Disposing of used oil is a real hassle, (I don't want to tell you what my Dad had me do with the used oil from his cars back in the day).

    For the vast majority of drivers, we need our cars to take us where we need to go, in relative comfort and safety, and really can't be bothered with the grease, spare parts, and complex systems that make the car 'work'.  We just need it to work.  And more and more, we want our cars to do more, embedded GPS, enhanced safety capability, better fuel efficiency (maybe no fuel at all), and able to provide backseat entertainment for the kids. Oh yeah, and also pop a warning light on the dash when it's time to change the oil.

    I have been sitting in sessions this week talking about the approach to another major ERP system upgrade.  It is just as you would expect, an old version of the suite, (and really showing its age), installed on-premise, loads of customizations, with application and database hardware probably not equal to the task.  Major, major cost and effort to effect this upgrade. Nothing (save the data) in the current deployment to remain.

    I even heard a random, 'this is going to take 18 months', comment tossed about.  And the thing is, the 'latest' version of the suite the organization would be upgrading to, is already a few years old. Tack on the time for planning, testing, re-training, and deploying and by the time the effort is complete, the organization will be the proud owners of a five year old system. 


    Lots of time and effort by dozens of smart people working hard to deliver a 'slightly pre-owned' system to a set of drivers/users that really just want all the best features of the newest models on the road. Systems that have the newest capabilities, features, updated interfaces, integration with internal and external social networking, mobile apps, and more.

    And oh yeah, toss in the 'oil changes for life' and we have a deal.



    I had yet another of what has become a semi-annual discussion with an HR Technology friend that runs all the HR Technology systems for his shop - Payroll, Benefits, etc. for a medium size organization.Flickr - guppiecat

    They run one of the major Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions for all their HR Technology, and the ERP also supports Finance and Logistics.  The solution has been in place for over 10 years, and has undergone 3 or 4 major upgrades in that time.

    Over the 10 years when considering license, maintenance, upgrades, hardware, and labor, this organization has easily $10 - $15 million into this platform. Normal processing works perfectly fine, the payroll runs, employees get enrolled in benefits plans, etc., some manual processes have been automated, but no real 'transformative' HR technology has been implemented.

    Why is this important? 

    My friend, the HR Tech person, has been advocating for the last few years the implementation of new technologies for two of the main organizational 'pain points' : Recruiting and Applicant Tracking, and Performance Management. He (correctly), has determined that there are numerous third party solutions available offering far superior functionality, user experience, and configurability that the related functions in the ERP suite.

    He has articulated a plan, documented his strategy, and prepared a solid business case for these projects. Sure, there are cash expenditures and internal labor costs for these projects, but they are reasonable, and since the solutions he has recommended are delivered in Software as a Service (SaaS) mode, there are not any massive, up front capital expenditures.

    Unfortunately for my friend, and for his organization he has been unable to proceed on these projects.  And the reason for the decision is not completely what you think, it is not purely financial.

    It is rather a more philosophical issue that can be summed up as follows:

    'We are millions of dollars in to this system, and it already has the functionality we need? No way we are bringing in another technology'.

    This organization, like many others, is in the ERP Trap.  So much time, money, and internal investment into a solution that it can paralyze the organization from moving forward on any 'non-ERP' related HR and workforce technologies. A technical decision made, in this case over 10 years ago, continues to have repercussions today.

    This part gets kind of gross

    You have all heard the old legend that a coyote that gets caught in a steel leg trap will eventually chew off their own leg in order to escape. But the coyote, when trapped, does not immediately begin gnawing on its own leg.  That is a crazy, and quite painful reaction.

    No, the coyote waits, and only after the leg has gone numb, and all other possible escape options have been evaluated and discarded, does it take extreme measures to free itself from the trap.

    Back to my friend's organization.  How long until it goes 'numb' before it makes the decision to break free from the ERP trap and stop letting a decade-old decision drive today's critical workforce technology decisions?

    How bad does it have to get before they are willing to do whatever it takes to get out of the trap?


    Time to Stop Digging

    This is what was said in the Enterprise Systems planning meeting:

    We have to expand the ERP system footprint, get more business processes integrated, really 'use' the system, and maybe we will start to see the return on investment that we've been waiting for.

    This is what is closer to the truth:

    We've sunk about $5M into this, we are in upgrade, maintenance, and crappy UI hell, so we better figure out a way to make this seem worth it to the executives or we're all in trouble.

    The exact amount of the sunk cost in the installed system is not really the issue, it's more the fact that whatever the (large) investment was, many organizations are at the crossroads.

    They've implemented big ERP systems for core HR, maybe payroll, tossed in a bit of self-service, perhaps dabbled in workforce management, but more or less have not really leveraged the capabilities of the massive system.

    To the left, upgrade the ERP, get on the latest release (a daunting proposition for many), and try to take advantage of the new capabilities and features that are available (that will never be backported to your release from 2002), and upgrade the UI to something that looks relatively modern.

    To the right, scrapping the upgrade, patching the legacy ERP together for employee tracking, payrFlickr - AidanBrooksoll, and benefits and looking to a modern SaaS-based platform for more strategic functions like Performance Management, Succession Planning, and Learning and Development.

    Now there is even a third option, tossing the ERP entirely and moving to a SaaS HR system that will over all of those processes like Workday.

    Obviously there isn't a blanket one size fits all solution for organizations in this predicament, and I won't offer any sweeping recommendations, but I will say this:

    When you have dug yourself into a deep hole, it's probably time to stop digging.


    ERP and the Ford Taurus

    Ah, 1997.

    Elton John's Candle in the Wind was on the charts, you saw Titanic two or three times,  and one of America's top selling cars was the Ford Taurus.  Maybe you bought one, or more likely had one as a rental car. I swear I drove a Ford Taurus something like 72 weeks in a row when I was still in ERP consulting. 

     Stylin' in the Taurus

    She's a beauty, no?

    You know what else you might have purchased in 1997? 

    Your ERP system. The same one that still runs your HR, Payroll, Accounting and Distribution processes.  In 1997, about $14B was spent by organizations on ERP.  By now you would have had to go through two or likely even three significant upgrades, each one getting progressively more complex, costly, and time consuming.  But underneath it all, the chances are the 'core' of the system is still largely the same as the 1997 model.  The data model you are using today, is probably largely unchanged from the original version of the system you implemented in 1997.

    What about your business? How many things have changed since 1997?  Would you still make the same ERP purchase decision today that you did in 1997, when chances are you were in a panic over Y2K and you were pretty sure your Cobol mainframe system was going to spontaneously combust?

    Is it really time for your organization to begin to let go of the loyalty to a system you bought over a decade ago? 

    Many organizations still feel the need to only look to their ERP solution and try to add-on Talent Management functionality, or the ATS module rather than do a comprehensive assessment of the market, the business issues, and make an informed decision about the right technology solution for the business. 

    You eventually sold (or junked) that '97 Taurus, didn't you?

    NOTE : I ran this post, more or less on my old Wordpress blog, but after an interesting Twitter chat with Byron Abramowitz and Michael Krupa about ERP, upgrades, and creaky data models, I decided to run it today.  Also, it was WAY easier than writing a whole new post.