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    HRE Column: Succeeding with HR Tech - Part 2

    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 continue the topic of 'Success with HR Tech' that we covered first in February with a look at some of the external factors that impact HR Technology projects. In the March column, we pivot to examine a few of the internal issues, challenges, and opportunities that perhaps have even more of an impact and influence on success with HR tech.

    These are two of the major themes that we will be focusing on for the next HR Technology Conference - the nature of 'success' with your HR technology initiatives, and we will focus on the key issues, themes, and considerations for HR Tech projects, vendor relationships, and internal program/project best practices that are essential for success, and that will be covered in more detail at the Conference this year.

    In the piece, I take a look at some of the issues and considerations that HR leaders should keep in mind as they build a business case for HR tech projects, evaluate potential solution providers, organize and staff project teams, execute their implementations, and finally deal with the important topics of change management and user adoption.

    Here's an excerpt from this month's piece in HRE Online:

    Last month’s column focused on the “success” theme while looking at the considerations and questions you should ask of prospective HR tech solution providers prior to purchasing any HR technology solution. This time around, we will look at some of the internal factors that are vital to customer success in HR tech.

    The organizational elements of success with HR technology will be highlighted this September at the HR Technology Conference and Exposition® in Las Vegas, and the combination of information and best practices on these “outside” (or provider) elements—along with the “inside” (or organizational) elements—will provide HR and HRIT leaders with the foundation for overall HR tech success.

    Here are a few of the key internal elements that organizations must address when planning, executing, evaluating and achieving long-term success with HR technology.

    Creating the business case

    Almost every organization’s HR technology initiatives require internal justification, a budget and executive support, and the means to define and secure these commitments is usually the business case. But for many HR leaders, preparing a technology-centric business case meant to form the basis for HR technology investments is not always easy.

    Here are a few of the key questions that the HR technology program business case should answer.

    The purpose: What specific business problem needs to be solved?

    The importance: What is the negative impact or value of the missed opportunity by not solving this problem?

    The benefit: Stated in quantitative terms, what happens to the business if we do solve this problem?

    Potential approaches: What are some plausible ways to address the business problem?

    Recommendations for action: What are the specific recommendations for next steps? Give special attention to how HR technology will support/drive the business problem’s solution.

    Managing the vendor selection

    Once the organization’s business case has been approved, perhaps the most interesting and difficult process begins: making a technology and vendor selection.  Successful organizations process through and address many of the following considerations when making such selections:

    Identify “must-have” business requirements. Recognize the necessary business-critical capabilities—ones that directly impact the business problem your business case defines—so that you can ensure they can be supported by the selected technology solution.

    Be honest about “nice-to-have” requirements. Take care to understand the difference between critical system capability and other functionality that some users may love but are not fundamentally important to support business processes and solve business problems. No HR technology solution will meet 100 percent of a company’s requirements. The key is knowing that not all requirements are the same.

    Understand the internal factors for success. Who will be the users of this solution? What specifically are their needs? How is their ability and capacity to embrace and adopt new technology? Not all technology solutions are a “fit” with all organizations. Make sure your unique and specific organizational attributes are aligned with the technology provider.

    Gather your candidates. There are increasing sources for HR leaders to create lists of potential solution providers for their HR technology evaluations. From traditional research reports, crowd-sourced software review sites, recommendations from peers, to previous experience with specific solutions, there is plenty of market information available. At HR Tech, we will help you understand how to make sense of all this information to help you narrow down the list that gives your program the best chance for success.

    Assess the providers. Once the short list of technology providers has been created, HR leaders should approach assessment and evaluation in a thorough and consistent manner. Key considerations in this process include the ability of each provider to meet your prioritized requirements, how each solution matches or fits your organization’s user profiles and culture, how the provider aligns with your goals and vision, and finally, how you assess the provider’s willingness and ability to be a true business partner, not just a technology supplier...

    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 plant your spring garden, take your dog for a walk, or re-surface your driveway.

    Have a great day!


    n = 1

    1. Tariffs: I am not an economist, and I don't even play one on TV. But these blanket tariffs, (code for taxes), sort of feel wrong to me. It is super complicated for sure, but the idea that in 2018 we (America), wants to value one kind of industry over another, mostly based on some romanticized recollection of the past, is misguided. We will see how this pans out of course, and like lots of these kinds of things the impacts will likely be less dramatic in the real world than the current headlines suggest.

    2. TECH: Yesterday I shared some data about the growth and marker share of the 'smart speaker' market - Echo, Google Home, etc. I am incredibly bullish on how these devices and voice assistants in general are going to impact workplace tech. In my down time I have been working on a little project for the Amazon Alexa platform that I hope to get launched in the next week or two. Stay tuned for that.

    3. Winter: it is still snowing here in Western NY. That is not surprising so it can't really be described as disappointing. It is sad though. A few items below there's another observation about Rochester, NY that will make more sense when considering how long and cold and miserable the winters can be here.

    4. HR Happy Hour: Lots of great stuff on the HR Happy Hour Show and the HHH family of shows. Go to the HR Happy Hour Show Page to get caught up, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. We started the HR Happy Hour way back in 2009. Amazing it is still going strong after all this time.

    5. Sports: I have never been less interested in my New York Knicks. Once franchise player (and hopefully savior), Kristaps Porzingis went down injured the team has become simply unwatchable. I think I can name more players on the US Olympic Curling Team than I can on the current Knicks. Dreadful.

    6. JOBS: Writing this over a coffee as the monthly US Employment report hit the news. Wow - 313,000 jobs added in February 2018. That's a huge number. Unemployment rate held at 4.1% due to lots more people re-entering the labor force - makes sense since the economy is adding so many jobs. Have fun recruiting for those 'hard to fill' positions. Maybe, just maybe it's time to raise wages?

    7. Location: On the same CNBC show that I caught the Jobs report update, one of the 'expert' analysts was discussing job and skills training, and the role of the private sector vs. the public sector with respect to re-skilling workers who are impacted by automation and shifting labor market needs. My ears perked up when explaining why companies need to 'own' training current and future workers he remarked, 'Let's say you own a company in Rochester, NY, (NOTE: Where I live). No one is relocating to Rochester, NY to take your open jobs. You have to re-train the people who are already there if you want to fill those jobs." Ouch. Probably more or less true. I am about 15 months from getting out of here myself.

    8. Oscars: Trish and I did pretty well on our Academy Awards Predictions on the Happy Hour. Sufjan Stevens was robbed in the Best Song category though. (Embed below, email and RSS subscribers click through)

    9. Social Media note of note: I have pared down my social media use to (mostly automated/scheduled) Twitter updates and (oddly enough) posting travel pics on the Chinese social media app WeChat. Over a decade on various social apps has me burned out from them. I have not logged in to Facebook in probably a year, (although links to the blog still post there) and stopped posting (and checking) Instagram last summer. Not that anyone cares. But once in a while someone tries to get in touch with me on one of those apps and I just wanted to let anyone who does care know that I don't see any those messages. I kind of feel like I'm not alone in drifting off in terms of social media use/addiction. Who knows, maybe blogs will stage a comeback!

    10. FOOD: Shamrock Shakes are back. Enough said.

    Have a great weekend!


    CHART OF THE DAY: The Rise of the Smart Speaker

    There is pretty good evidence that the rate of mainstream adoption of new technologies is significantly more rapid than it has been in the past. It took something like 60 or 70 years for the home-based, land line telephone to achieve over 90% penetration in US homes once the technology became generally available.

    Fast forward to more recent technology innovations like the personal computer or the mobile phone and time for widespread adoption has diminished to just a couple of decades (if not less for modern tools and solutions like social media/networking apps).

    New tech, when it 'hits', hits much faster than ever before and its adoption accelerates across mainstream users much faster as well. Today's Chart(s) of the Day, courtesy of some research done by Voicebot.ai show just how prevalent the smart speaker, a technology almost no one had in their homes even two years ago, have become.

    Chart 1 - Smart Speaker Market Penetration - US


    About 20% of US adults are in homes that have one of these smart speakers enabled. It may not sound like much, but think about it - how many times had you seen one of these say as recently as 2016?

    Chart 2 - Smart Speaker Market Share - US

    No surprise, to me at least, that Amazon has the dominant position in the US in terms of smart speakers. They beat their competitors to this market, and their platform, Alexa, has become pretty synonymous with the entire voice assistant technology. If I were a company looking to develop solutions for voice, I would start with Alexa for sure.

    Once people, in their 'real lives' begin to adopt a technology solution in large numbers, they begin to seek, demand, and expect these same kinds of technologies will be available and tailored to their workplace needs as well. The data shows that smart speakers like the Echo and the Google Home device are gaining mainstream adoption really, really quickly.

    If your organization has not yet started to think about how to deploy services, information, and access to organizational information via these smart speakers and their platforms like Alexa I wouldn't say you are late, but you are getting close to being late.

    Better to be in front of a freight train rolling down the line than it is to get run over by it.

    Last note - stay tuned for an exciting announcement in this space from your pals at the HR Happy Hour Show.


    More from the 'Robots are making people obsolete' front lines

    I was fully prepared to write up a 'There's no way a robot could have done what I did this weekend' piece after having spent most of it painting some rooms in the house, building some furniture, and hanging about a million pictures and posters on the wall. The work was too imprecise, too unstructured, and required too much moving about in tight, crowded spaces for any robot (based on my current understanding of mainstream robotics capability), too manage.

    So after doing all that work over the weekend I felt pretty good about my ability to remain (reasonably) useful and relevant moving forward. I mean, between coming up with sort of interesting blogs, and general domestic tasks, (I am also very handy with a chainsaw), I had a hearty chuckle to myself, thinking about the doomsayers, (sometimes me too), fretting about the impending obsolescence of the human worker in the face of technological innovation.

    But these good feelings kind of dissapated a bit when I caught this piece on Fashionista (What, are you surprised I follow Fashionista?), on how some enterprising drones took the place of some fashion models at the recent Dolce & Gabbana show in Milan.

    Turns out drones can 'model' as well as (or better), than the human fashion models (at least in some instances). From the piece on Fashionista:

    It’s 2018, and as further proof that we’re already living in the future, what’s more fashionable than drones? Drones with handbags, according to Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabanna, which sent a bunch of flying drones down its runway during the house’s fashion show in Milan on Sunday.

    Here's a look at the drone runway models as seen on Twitter: (if you can't see the video, click through)

    Make progress against the robots in one area, (painting a room in bad lighting and full of odd angles and corners), and lose it in another, (looking glamorous while showing off the latest in designer handbags).

    All this reminds us that the path to workplace automation, and the more widespread loss of jobs for people, is going to progress in spurts, in fits and stops, will surprise us in some ways and shock us in others, and is, probably, still inevitable.

    Have a great day. Let me know if you buy one of the D & G handbags.


    Learn a new word: Conway's Law

    Have you ever noticed the tendency for large, complex, and difficult to navigate organizations to create to create large, complex, and difficult to navigate products, services, and policies?

    Alternatively, have you noticed, (I am sure you have), how many startup companies (especially tech companies), who lack size, complexity and bureaucracy in their organizations tend to create much simpler, easy to use and intuitive kinds of products and services? 

    It kind of makes sense, even if we never really consciously thought about the connection between the organization, its size, methods of working, and structure and the outputs of that organization. But it is a phenomenon, in technology certainly, that has been observed for at least 50 years, and it has a name - Conway's Law - today's Word of the Day.

    Mel Conway, a programmer, came up with concept in 1967, and by 1968 it was dubbed his 'law'. What does the law actually say? From Mr. Conway's website:

    Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.

    Later, the Law was expanded to encompass not just the idea that an organization's communication structure would influence (and mirror) the systems that the organization produces, but the broad 'culture' of the organization has a significant impact on its products and services.

    Think of a corporate website, which often has separate sections of information that copies the internal organizational makeup, not necessarily aligned and architected with how site visitors want to consume information. Or an enterprise technology product that offers complex and lengthy workflows for transaction entry, routing, and approval that tends to reflect the creating organization's own internal processes and hierarchies that do not always reflect what their customers want.

    These kinds of examples show Conway's Law in effect - the way the fundamental elements of how an organization operates internally show up in the products they build, the services they offer, and more broadly, how they 'see' the relationship between themselves and their customers, shareholders, and community.

    I have written in a few places that when making decisions around HR and other enterprise technologies that HR and business leaders should evaluate the culture and vision of any potential technology provider just as closely, (if not more closely), than they evaluate the capability and functionality of a particular piece of software.

    Capability and functionality can change over time, and in mature markets tends to run together amongst established providers. But organization culture changes much more slowly, if ever, and no matter what new elements of functionality are introduced to the solution, the essential nature of the provider (and the priduct too), is likely to be pretty well entrenched.

    Have a great day!