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    Entries in innovation (26)

    Tuesday
    May162017

    The half-life of technology-based advantage

    ... keeps getting shorter and shorter.

    Take a look at the chart below which tracks the daily active users of the most recent 'next big thing', Snapchat, against the DAUs for a slightly older 'next big thing', Instagram - specifically Instagram's "Stories" feature, one designed as a pretty blatant copy of Snapchat's core use case.

    Here's the data then three quick points about what it reminds us about technology-driven competitive advantage.

    The chart is a couple of months old, especially for the Snapchat data, but the trends are holding up. Instagram essentially was able to surpass the DAUs of Snapchat's primary feature in less than one year. It is kind of hard to say what this means for Snapchat in the longer term, I imagine they will try and continue to innovate, (and I confess to not being a user of Snapchat, I tried two or three times and could never understand it), and perhaps reverse or at least slow these trends.

    But bigger picture, what does this 'story' (pun intended), remind us of?

    1. Almost every technological advantage can be copied by competitors, and sometimes copied very quickly. Snapchat had a 5-year or so head start and within months that advantage or distinction has disappeared. Technology, consumer or enterprise, is moving, adapting, innovating faster than ever.

    2. When considering/selecting/implementing enterprise tech, (like a new HR Tech solution), "features" or capability probably should not be the most important differentiating criteria. The HR solution providers across a wide range of domains are developing similar capabilities and features and even user experiences. I probably saw demos of four or five new enterprise learning management solutions in the last 18 months and they all look, feel, and act really similarly. In fact, if I had to do a 'blind' test, like the old Pepsi Challenge, I am not sure I would be able to tell them apart. 

    3. So if technological advantage, i.e. features should not be the most important criteria when evaluating technology then what should it be? Well, I know I have opined on this before, but I still submit HR leaders should be carefully evaluating the things that can't be as easily copied across providers. Elements like the implementation experience, customer service and support, the provider's vision of the future, and the extent to which the solution provider sees you as a true partner - in innovation and in business success. These are all critical elements, hard for competitors to copy, and admittedly, harder to assess on an RFP than a list of feature/functions.

    Ok, that's it - I'm out. Going to fire up Instagram. I heard today they copied the 'koala ears' filter from Snapchat. 

    That's what my selfies have been needing.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Feb202017

    HRE Column: What is Driving Innovation in Workplace Technology

    Once again, I offer my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, I take a look at the emerging consumer and personal technology trends that are driving and shaping next generation HR and workplace technologies.  While some of these themes or trends are just extensions and evolutions of ideas and concepts we have been talking about for a while, (mobile, real-time, personalized), it still can take time, even years, for these consumer tech trends to manifest in HR technologies.

    I like to think that we are entering (or maybe have already entered), an amazing era of innovation and transformation in HR and workplace tech, much of it being driven by evolving and demanding user expectations, and the changing of the what we think about when we think about HR tech.

    In this month's HR Executive column I examine a a few of the themes or trends that I am seeing in HR, HR Tech, and the workplace, and how these trends will help inform and shape the design, development, and deployment of HR and workplace technologies in 2017, and beyond.  This was a fun exercise for me, and I hope you get some ideas and insights from this review as you plan out your year and make your HR technology decisions. 

    From the HRE piece:

    I've been working on a couple of new talks that I will be giving this year centered around one key idea that has been talked about for some time in HR-tech circles but is now -- finally -- becoming more prevalent in the design, deployment and impact of HR-technology solutions.

    The idea is a simple one. Namely, that the traditional way HR and other workplace technologies have been designed -- by programmers, then marketed and sold to CIOs or IT managers, and finally deployed and configured primarily for the needs of the power users in the payroll and HR departments -- is no longer that useful.

    The continuing series of tech-driven advances in our personal and consumer lives -- such as e-commerce sites that learn our preferences and make personal product recommendations; smartphones and the emergence of app stores that let us design our own preferred toolsets; "intelligent," crowd-sourced platforms that help us beat traffic jams; and ubiquitous and constant Internet connections -- have combined to create heightened expectations of workplace technologies that look, feel and function like the best consumer technologies we have come to love.

    Most importantly, the next generation of the workforce has never known a time when these personalized, highly adaptable, intelligent and easy-to-use types of technologies did not exist.

    Indeed, before walking into your organization for their first day of work, these new employees might have dressed in clothes that were personally selected for them and shipped directly to their houses by StitchFix; have prepared to meet their colleagues by perusing their LinkedIn, Twitter or GitHub profiles; learned about your industry and their new job functions by watching YouTube videos and reading Quora threads; and traveled to the office by summoning a car to their house via Uber or Lyft, or dodging the traffic using Waze. And they did all this on their smartphones. It is no surprise, then, that these new workers are expecting the same kinds of capabilities, flexibility and ease of use from the technology they will use at work.

    Both HR-technology providers and HR leaders are being spurred on to adapt to these new challenges by creating and deploying modern HR technologies that incorporate these kinds of consumer elements and expectations of personalization, beautiful design and ease of use into the next generation of HR tech tools. The evolution of HR and workplace technologies has begun, and the most effective organizations will look to modernize their workplace tools to meet this new, demanding and tech-savvy employee.

    Let's highlight five current manifestations of how modern HR technologies are adapting to meet these these new requirements, and share some thoughts on how HR leaders can better assess, select and deploy HR-technology solutions to meet these demands.

    Mobile

    The Internet traffic and measurement firm StatCounter recently released a report showing worldwide Internet usage from mobile and tablet devices has surpassed internet usage from traditional PCs and laptops, with 51 percent of all Internet usage via mobile. This is a trend that is showing no signs of abating anytime soon. When broken down generationally, it reveals that younger generations prefer mobile over desktops and laptops even more prominently. Three or four years ago, it was common for organizations and HR-technology-solution providers to have a "mobile strategy." Now it seems almost behind the times to explicitly discuss "mobile" tools as something distinct from traditional workplace applications.

    Connected

    I thought about calling this example "Social" to represent how the growth of social networks in the last decade and their popularity with the younger demographic has influenced almost every type of HR and workplace technology, but I think "connected" is a better term to describe how social will continue to influence HR and workplace technology moving forward. "Social" feels a little superficial to me, and besides, I don't think it adequately represents the importance of community and younger workers feeling like they are a part of something larger that is considerably important to them. They want to be connected at work similar to the ways they are connected in their personal lives -- not chasing "likes" on their latest selfie, but coming together with their peers, sharing their knowledge and ideas, helping and supporting each other, and finally "belonging" to something important.

    A great example of this new trend is in the learning-technology realm, where newer systems provide the capability for all end users to share their expertise and upload their own video tutorials, and for other users to build upon this content with comments, addendum and upvotes, indicating that the content was particularly helpful and useful. Communities end up self-forming around subjects and content that are important for the organization, and people feel more connected and supported by their colleagues as well.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and clean out your gutters, take your dog for a walk, or help you plan your summer vacation.

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Oct272016

    HRE Column: How to choose which disruptive HR tech solutions to chase

    Here is my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, in the aftermath of the HR Technology Conference and still thinking about all the innovative and potentially disruptive HR tech solutions that continue to appear in the market, I thought about how much more difficult it must be getting for HR and business leaders to assess and evaluate and decide which types of disruptive technology to pursue.

    Note, I am not really talking or thinking about specific technology evaluations like, "Which ATS should we license?", but rather larger questions of "Which types of potentially disruptive HR technology would benefit our organization, given our needs and our circumstances?", and "What should be the impact of these technologies on the organization and our people?"

    I came up with three general categories or impacts that potentially disruptive HR tech can (and perhaps should) have on the organization, and some thoughts on how HR leaders can better evaluate new HR tech in this model. I tried to describe what this kind of categorized impact assessment looks like in my HR Executive column. From the HRE piece:

    One of the highlights of the recently concluded HR Technology Conference and Exposition® was the record-breaking Expo Hall, which featured nearly 400 technology solution providers offering an almost dizzying array of tools, technologies and innovative approaches to help organizations with HR, talent-management, employee-engagement and other workplace challenges.

    But such a plethora of modern and innovative technologies also presents quite a challenge for HR and business leaders in that the growth of the HR-technology market and landscape has made the identification, research, assessment and eventual selection of the "right" technology solution all the more challenging. Probably the most frequent type of question I get from HR leaders over the course of the year is: "There are so many HR-tech solutions out there; how can I figure out which ones I should give my time and attention?"

    Note that this kind of question is different from "Which applicant-tracking (or learning-management system, or payroll solution) system is the best one?" I do get those questions too, of course, but probably less frequently than in the past, as most HR leaders today understand that there is never a universal "best" solution for anything, but rather a "best" solution for the individual organization, and its unique goals, requirements and circumstances. Lately the discussions and challenges I hear about from HR leaders seem more focused on trying to make sense of a complex and growing HR-tech market, and how to best take advantage of all this growth and innovation.

    One way for HR leaders to approach these kinds of challenges and determine how to spend their time and resources is to consider innovative and potentially disruptive HR technologies across a set of three criteria or broad categories of impact. I'd like to take a look at these three broad-impact categories and offer examples of how new HR-technology solutions fit into each.

    Category One: If the HR solutions reduce or eliminate organizational barriers for HR and employees

    There are a slew of HR technologies that are necessary and essential for organizations to either own or license for regulatory and compliance reasons. In other words, every organization that has regular employees has to, at a minimum, have a way to pay them, and to complete all the required tax filings and payments. This category is not really about those kinds of technologies. (If your organization has a critical need to solve such compulsory challenges, then you probably should take care of those before entertaining the idea of adopting new or disruptive HR technology.)

    This category is more about enabling organizational success via the elimination or reduction of the friction points that can hold people back from getting work done effectively and efficiently. You can get to the direct impact of implementing technologies in this category by asking questions such as, "Where does our employee's workflow get bogged down?" or "Where do we have data manually replicated in multiple systems?"; or simply by asking teams and leaders can simply be asked to talk about "What is it that makes my job more difficult than it needs to be?"

    Some real HR-technology solutions that help to solve problems in this category include learning systems that can surface content and assets in real-time and in context when employees need them the most or even more technical solutions that better integrate, validate and keep clean key HR-data elements and values across multiple systems. Almost every new HR-technology solution you introduce into the organization should solve at least one important "barrier" problem and eliminate a pain point for your targeted audience once it is adopted.

    Category Two: If the HR solutions help to elevate customer service -- for internal customers or external customers

    At the HR Tech Conference, one of the more interesting technology developments I remember seeing was an example of a deeper integration between an employee self-service type of portal and the company's HR-shared-service-center knowledge base and help-desk functionality. The idea here is that if employees were viewing their payslips or benefits enrollments and needed more information or had a question about the information they were viewing, they could, with one click, launch a "help" ticket or process to indicate to HR they needed assistance. HR practitioners would not only see that the request was made, they would automatically have all the needed context from the page or subset of information the employee was viewing...

    Read the rest of the HR Exec column here 

    Good stuff, right? Humor me...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and rake your leaves car or clean out your gutters or even help you pass out the candy on Halloween. 

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday
    Nov232015

    ANNOUNCEMENT: The Citi Smarter Worklife Challenge

    I had a call last week with some really cool folks from Citigroup, often shortened to just Citi, one of the world's largest banking and financial services organizations. Even for such a large, well-known global brand, the challenges facing Citi are not that different from the ones facing just about every size or type of organization - the need to innovate, to become more agile in a fast-moving and competitive marketplace, and perhaps most importantly, to find, engage with, develop, inspire, and achieve great business performance through people.

    Citi describes this last element of improving outcomes with and through people in the context of the 'Employee Journey' - the full life cycle of actions and interactions that people have with the organization, with their colleagues, and crucially, with the many technologies that help shape these experiences along the journey.

    And one of the ways Citi has identified that will be of primary importance in improving their employee's journeys is through innovative HR and workplace technologies, which after learning more about what they are working on in that area I was interested and glad to help Citi get the word out about their new initiative called the Citi Smarter Worklife Challenge.

    The Citi Global Digital Acceleration team has created the Smarter Worklife Challenge, an open contest to help find and identify innovative human resources technologies designed to improve this Employee Journey. Citi is inviting both startup and established technology solution providers to submit their ideas and concepts, (submissions must be at least advanced, working prototypes), in the areas of recruiting, onboarding, career development, social/collaboration, analytics, executive management, and more, to compete for a prize of $50,000 in cash, and the opportunity to enter into commercial terms with Citi and be incubated and/or accelerated.

    For HR technology solution providers interested in applying for consideration for the Smarter Worklife Challenge, a few important dates you need to know: The deadline for submissions is December 4th, and finalists will be announced December 18th, and challenge finalists will be invited to demonstrate their solutions to Citi senior leadership in February 2016.

    Full details about the challenge, including submission timelines and contest rules can be found on the Smarter Worklife Challenge site. Also, a PDF version of the challenge process, timelines, and guidelines can be downloaded here

    I think this is a really neat and interesting challenge and thanks to the folks at Citi for bringing it to my attention and for supporting innovation in the HR tech marketplace. Please do share the information about the Smarter Worklife Challenge to any HR technology innovators that you think might be interested in participating.

     

    Disclaimer: I am sharing information about the Smarter Worklife Challenge because I like the idea, I am not being compensated in any way by Citi, and this challenge is not affiliated with the HR Technology Conference.

    Thursday
    Apr102014

    If you're thinking about crowdsourcing

    Crowdsourcing, while not a new phenomenon, continues to appear in new and different places all of the time. Just the other day the TV network NBC announced a new project to attempt to crowdsource new ideas for comedy shows. This NBC program, like most crowdsourcing efforts, is a nod to the (obvious) reality that no matter how many writers or producers or directors the network can employ, that there exists outside NBC thousands and thousands of talented people, and some of them probably have great ideas for comedy shows.

    The same logical argument could be made for almost any company trying to tackle any problem. Need some fresh ideas for branding campaign or to design a new logo? Ask the crowd. 

    Trying to decide what new features to add to an existing product or service offering? Ask all of your customers - a more targeted type of crowdsourcing.

    Heck, I have even seen bloggers from time to time pull off their (sad) version of crowdsourcing by asking readers, "What topics would you like me to write about?". Aside: Nothing says 'I have no ideas any more' than asking readers what they would like you to write about. A good blogger (or artist or designer or product developer) should not care too much about what 'the crowd' thinks.

    But regardless, crowdsourcing is here to stay and in reading about the NBC comedy contest I came across this excellent piece by Jeffrey Philips writing on the Innovate on Purpose blog that points out some specific potential problems with the NBC approach that also provide insights into the dangers with any crowdsourcing program.

    Here is a bit from the piece, (but you should definitely click over and read the entire thing)

    When companies that rarely innovate attempt "open innovation"  I often wonder:  is this a sign that they finally understand the number and range of excellent ideas in the broader world, or is this a desperate sign that they've recognized the idea well is dry internally, and are left with nothing but an external search for ideas.

    What NBC is doing is a high wire exercise, and I wonder if they are prepared for the results.  While they are asking for ideas from their audience, I doubt that they've done much to change how they evaluate ideas or the internal culture of the network.  If you read the article you'll see that the judge panel they are using to evaluate ideas and pilots consists of a range of comedic talent that they've featured in other shows, some successful and some that failed.  If NBC really wanted to understand what people want, they'd go further, allowing crowdsourced ideas to be evaluated and ranked by the crowd.  One wonders if they know who their audience is and what they want.

    Some great takes there and things to think about if you are chasing the crowdsourcing carrot. Are you genuinely seeking some new or fresh approaches to round out or to validate your existing thinking? Or are you flat out tapped out of ideas in total (in that case you probably have an internal talent and management issue that runs deeper than, "What color should this button be?' questions).

    And then once you get all of these crowdsourced ideas are you actually prepared to deal with them? Maybe your problem isn't a lack of ideas, it is an inability to evaluate, interpret, select, and implement the ideas that you already have. I mean how hard is it to come up with an idea? I came up with the idea for this post in about 2 minutes.

    Anyway, check out Innovate on Purpose and make sure if you are jumping in to the crowdsourcing pool you have at least some idea why.

    Happy Thursday.