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    Intelligent Technology

    Because my life is much, much less interesting than yours, I am spending my Sunday night doing two things: Watching NBA basketball and reading this - The Accenture Technology Vision 2016 report. 

    There is some really interesting information, research, and conclusions about the most important tech trends for the coming 3 - 5 years in the Accenture report, as well as a (probably unintentional) nod to my friends over at Ultimate Software as their slogan 'People First', is literally all over the Accenture report.

    Accenture identifies 5 big themes in their technology vision for organizations, and there is one in particular, actually Trend #1, 'Intelligent Automation', that I was most interested in, and wanted to explore a little bit. A few weeks ago I posted my 'What HR should be talking about in 2016' piece, and in that piece, (written over the holidays and before I became aware of the Accenture report), I had this to say about 'Intelligent Technology' - pretty much the same thing as 'Intelligent Automation':

    But this year, I hope that HR and HR tech expands not just the capability but the conversation in this area just a bit further, into something more akin to a kind of 'intelligent' set of tools and workflows that will help HR, managers, and employees complete processes, tasks, and hopefully allow them to make better decisions. This technology would not just predict the likelihood of a potential outcome, but would 'learn' from usage patterns, history, preferences, and more about what you (the employee) should do next, given a set of data and process conditions. That could mean surfacing the 'right' learning content when you get assigned to a new project, suggesting you make an internal connection with a specific colleague when you run a search in the corporate knowledge base for a specific topic, or if you are a manger, provide you intelligent recommendations about how to handle coaching conversations with your team members, adapted to their individual profiles and preferences. 

    Pretty heady stuff, right? I spent at least 20 minutes on that post. For real.

    Now let's take a look at the above-mentioned Accenture Technology Vision 2016 report and take a look at a bit of what they have to say about 'Intelligent Automation':

    On the surface it may appear to be a simple transfer of tasks from man to machine. But look a little closer. The real power of intelligent automation lies in its ability to fundamentally change traditional ways of operating, for businesses and individuals. These machines offer strengths and capabilities (scale, speed, and the ability to cut through complexity) that are different from—but crucially complementary to—human skills. And their increasing sophistication is invigorating the workplace, changing the rules of what’s possible so that people and their new digital co-workers can together do things differently. And do different things. 

    Machines and artificial intelligence will be the newest recruits to the workforce, bringing new skills to help people do new jobs, and reinventing what’s possible. 

    Although the two pull quotes are not exactly the same, mine is kind of narrow, and talks about some HR tech-specific use cases while Accenture is talking really big picture kinds of things, at their core they are really talking about the same things. Technology, automation, and intelligent solutions that will do what machines can do best, (collect, analyze, and synthesize large data sets), and which will in the most effective organizations combine with human intelligence, experience, and social understanding to lead to the most effective outcomes.

    I have to admit is was pretty cool to see the Accenture report this weekend and read that Intelligent Automation/Technology was featured so prominently in their take on 2016 as it was on my, HR-centric take from the beginning of the year. It feels kind of validating in a way. Now both Accenture and I could be wrong about this I suppose, but at least I don't feel crazy for positing the idea.

    Ok, enough, the Knicks are about to start. Check out the Accenture Technology Vision 2016 report for more information on this, and after you have checked it out, send a note to your HR Tech provider to see what, if anything they are working on towards a future of 'Intelligent Technology'.

    Have a great week! 


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 232 - Culture and Technology at Ultimate Software

    HR Happy Hour 232 - Culture and Technology at Ultimate Software

    Recorded Monday January 25, 2016 at Ultimate Software HQ, Weston, Fl

    Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

    Guest: Adam Rogers, CTO, Ultimate Software

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, while Trish McFarlane was on assignment, Steve Boese welcomed Adam Rogers, CTO from Ultimate Software to the show. Ultimate is a leading provider of HCM technology that has grown over the years from a few people sharing office space in a law office, to an almost 3,000 person-strong organization supporting thousands of customers in the US and around the world.

    But perhaps more important than Ultimate's technology innovation is their unique culture, which reinforces their commitment to their employees, their families, the Ultimate customers, and finally, their shareholders. Ultimate has a slogan, 'People First', and once you spend some time with Ultimate people, and hear them talk about what Ultimate represents, reinforces, and values, you will walk away understanding why and how they have won so many 'Best Places to Work' awards - with the signifying banners adorning the rafters of the basketball court that is in the lobby of the Ultimate HQ.

    On the show, Ultimate's CTO Adam Rogers shares his perspective and insights on the unique and refreshing Ultimate culture, how that culture informs hiring decisions, customer service and support, and even the way they approach building new and innovative HR technology solutions. Additionally, Adam shared some thoughts about the next evolution of predictive analytics technology for HR as well as some opportunities to innovate in 'commodity' solutions like payroll and employee self-service.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widget player below (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through).


    This was an enormously fun show to do, and many thanks to Adam and the team at Ultimate for hosting the HR Happy Hour show this week.

    Reminder: you can subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or using your favorite podcast app for Android or iOS. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your subscriptions and you'll never miss a show.


    Dunbar strikes again

    This recent piece on CNET, You can only really count on 4 of your 150 Facebook friends, study says, a recap of some recently published research by none other than Robin Dunbar, (of Dunbar's number), reminded me of a piece I posted here almost 5 years ago. Long story short, once again Dunbar's essential observation and conclusion about the number and strength of personal relationships that a person can have and maintain, (around 150 in total), continues to be validated even in the age of constant connectivity and ubiquitous use of social networking platforms. 

    You can check out the CNET piece, and the link to the related research paper from Dunbar, and just for fun, I am going to re-run my almost 5 year old piece below as well. That Dunbar, he never stops being right it seems...

    In the Jungle, or on Twitter, Dunbar Still Has You Beat

    June 2011

    You might be familiar with Dunbar's number - the theoretical limit on the number of meaningful and stable social relationships that one can successfully maintain. First proposed by the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it asserts that the actual number of social relationships one can maintain ranges from 100 to about 230, with 150 as the commonly accepted value.Should I 'unfriend' Steve?

    Dunbar's original studies that led to the development of the concept of the 'number', were conducted on studies of the social activity of non-human primates, that as far as we can tell, did not have many Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Why do I toss in the social networking bit? Well, in this modern age of social networking, hyper-connectivity, and the ability to make some kind of connection, (meaningful or otherwise), with thousands upon thousands of people is now quite possible and fairly simple.

    Naturally the technological and social revolutions have led many to question or even claim that modern social networking technology can indeed finally enable individuals to effectively expand the actual number of social relationships they can successfully maintain, that in the age of Facebook and Twitter and the ease with which these tools allow essentially limitless connections to be made, that Dunbar's number might no longer apply.

    Recently Bruno Goncalves and a team of researchers from Indiana University set out to determine if indeed this was the case. They studies the actions and interactions and the networks of connections of over 3 million Twitter users over a period of 4 years, examining a grand total of over 380 million tweets. The researchers wanted to see if indeed among these 3 million users, they could discern patterns and evidence, (replies, conversations, sustained connections, etc.), that could prove that the long-accepted Dunbar limitation of 150 would indeed be more easily overcame, aided by the ease and speed and facilitated connection engine that is Twitter.

    Their findings? (below quote lifted directly from their paper's conclusion)

    Social networks have changed they way we use to communicate. It is now easy to be connected with a huge number of other individuals. In this paper we show that social networks did not change human social capabilities. We analyze a large dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving millions of individuals to test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar's number. We found that even in the online world cognitive and biological constraints holds as predicted by Dunbar's theory limiting users social activities.

    I follow about 6,000 people on Twitter. I probably interact regularly with maybe 100 or 150 of them. Which is altogether normal and expected and not at all unexpected according to our friend Dunbar, the primates he studied, and the results seen from the recent research from Indiana University.

    The larger point in all this?

    I suppose keeping in mind that no matter how large and diverse and important seeming these giant networks of contacts, connections, followers, and friends we build online are to us, to our businesses and our personal lives, the technology itself has yet to do much to overcome some of the apparent laws of nature and biology.

    What do you think? Can you really have more than 150 'friends'?


    HRE Column: What's in store for HR tech in 2016

    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 and that archives of which can be found here.

    As usual, the Inside HR Tech column is about, well, HR Tech, (sort of like I used to write about all the time on this blog), and it was inspired by the many calls and conversations I have been having at the start of the new year.  For me, the planning process for the October HR Technology Conference really gets going in January with plenty of speaking inquiries and submissions coming in, and lots of HR tech industry companies sharing with me what they think are the important HR, technology, and workplace issues and trends for the coming year.

    Since the primary question I get this time of year is some version of 'What do you think will be the big themes for the Conference this year?', I thought I would share some thoughts about what I am hearing and thinking about for HR and HR technology as the year gets underway on the latest Inside HR Tech column.

    I once again kind of liked this month's column, (I suppose I like all of them, after all I wrote them), but felt like sharing this one on the blog because it touches upon what has been in the past a pretty popular topic with HR leaders today - how to understand UX and how to evaluate UX to make the most of their HR technology investments.

    Here is an excerpt from the HRE column, 'What's in Store in 2016': (Note, the title of the column is a statement, not a question. Kind of like the classic Marvin Gaye song, 'What's going on'. Think about it..

    From HR Executive...

    I have started the planning process for the 19th Annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition® (Oct. 4 through 7, 2016, at McCormick Place in Chicago), and the most common question I get from people and organizations that have interest in the conference is: What will be the main themes of the event this year?

    It is a pretty sensible question, I think. Each year, the event covers such a wide range of technologies and topics and, over time, many of the primary challenges facing HR and business leaders have changed and evolved as well. So the main themes of an event focusing on HR and organizational success enabled and supported by modern technologies should naturally evolve along with these business challenges and opportunities.

    But let's get back to the question, the one I have literally been asked at least 20 times in the last few weeks. I am going to take an early shot at answering it, and, since the HR Tech conference is meant to reflect and track overall HR and business challenges, these are also the themes and issues that I think will dominate the general human-capital-management agenda in the coming year.

    Rethinking Performance Management

    In 2015, we saw a number of announcements from leading organizations such as Deloitte, Adobe and PwC suggesting a move away from "traditional" annual performance reviews and management and to more flexible, frequent and coaching-based approaches to employee-performance management. It seems likely that this trend will continue in 2016, with more organizations looking to revamp performance management processes and seeking to adapt existing technology solutions or acquire new ones that support this new direction.

    The Evolution of Employee Engagement

    Since 1879 (I am joking, but only a little), many organizations have struggled trying to improve persistent and consistent low levels of employee engagement. I expect this struggle to continue in 2016, but I think more organizations will move past focusing on the "end result," i.e., the engagement score, and look to more directly impact the key drivers of the employee experience that ultimately drive engagement...

    Read the rest over at HR Executive...

    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 take your dog out for a walk or dig your car out of the snow if you do sign up for the monthly email.

    Have a great dayand rest of the week!


    Why 'normals' are willing to adopt new technologies

    Quick shot for a busy Friday from a source that seems just about as far from HR and HR tech as possible, but I think offers a great reminder for anyone trying to effect a tech-driven change, HR or otherwise, on a group of people.

    If you follow the news at all then you will certainly be aware of the rapid technological advances and the seemingly profound changes on the horizon for the personal transportation industry, i.e., the car(s) that are likely at the end of your driveway, and your relationship with them.

    In short, the combination of the rapid improvement of self-driving auto technology (Google, Tesla, several other auto makers), an increase in the range, efficiency, and affordability in electric powered vehicles, (Tesla, GM), and the sudden but seemingly blanket coverage (at least in major cities), of 'ride-sharing' technology and services, (Uber, Lyft), has the potential to fundamentally change the methods and ownership of the means of personal transportation for millions, are changing the 'car' more than any time since the car replaced the horse. No one is sure exactly how all of these technological and sociological trends will collide and crash, and what the outcome will be, but most experts think that personal transportation will be markedly different in the next 20 years or so. 

    The reason I thought this was interesting today, and wanted to share on the blog, was a short observation about the user adoption of modern technology pulled from a recent essay on the changes in the personal transportation ecosystem and how these changes might play out on the stratechery blog titled Cars and the Future. Check the quote below, and think about what it suggests for ANY kind of change program that you or your team is trying to implement inside your organization. (emphasis mine)

    This generational pattern of adoption will, in the history books, look sudden, even as it seems to unfold ever so slowly for those of us in the here and now — especially those of us working in technology. The pace of change in the technology industry - which is young, hugely driven by Moore’s Law, and which has largely catered to change-embracing geeks - s likely the true aberration. After all, the biggest mistake consistently made by technologists is forgetting that for most people technology is a means to an end, and for all the benefits we can list when it comes to over-the-top video or a network of on-demand self-driving vehicles, change and the abandonment of long-held ideals like the open road and a bit of TV after supper is an end most would prefer to avoid.

    Only the most enthusiastic technophiles care at all about the technology itself and what that technology does.

    Everyone else cares only about what that technology can enable them to accomplish. It needs to help them do amazing new things, help them do the boring old things easier, faster, or cheaper, or otherwise leave them better off than they were before the introduction of the technology.

    Self-driving, on-demand, electric cars might be coming soon. But for people to adopt them en masse, they have to not just be a marvel of technology and engineering. They have to make people's lives better or they won't be adopted like the experts think.

    That same statement can be made for that new HR system you are thinking of implementing as well.

    Have a great weekend!