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    Entries in Technology (367)


    The HR 101 Series

    The King of NYC Victorio Milian, at his Creative Chaos blog has organized and published an ongoing series titled 'HR 101'.

    The goal of the series of articles: to provide introductions and insights on many of the seemingly 'non-HR' subjects (Finance, Statistics, Law, etc.) to the many HR professionals that read his blog.

    There are some fantastic pieces in the 'HR 101' series, and I was honored to be asked to participate with an article on HR Technology.

    I highly recommend you check out the 'HR 101' project, you will find wonderful pieces from Jason Seiden on 'Statistics', Joan Ginsberg on 'Law', and Fran Melmed on 'Internal Communication' (and many more).

    Thanks very much Victorio for allowing me to participate in the project!


    Next Generation HR Technology

    Last week on the HR Happy Hour show we welcomed the Fistful of Talent crew to talk 'Next Generation HR'.

    Where are the next wave of HR leaders coming from, what do they need to know, and how will they drive change and superior business performance.  Heady stuff.

    Most of the guests on the show advocated for change; change in approach, change in education and training, and perhaps some re-assessment of the traditional role of HR.

    And just like the HR professional is faced with change, so are the technologies that are used to support Human Resources,  Talent Management, and workforce collaboration. Some of these changes are already in motion in full force, some are just beginning, and some are speculative, but at least to me, reasonably likely.

    What's Begun

    The move from enterprise systems being installed on company premises to being installed, maintained, and upgraded by the software vendor via the Software as a Service model (SaaS), is already firmly underway.

    The trend started with ATS, progressed to Talent Management, has started in ERP, and was always in place for collaboration platforms. And many mid-sized to large organizations that are stuck with aging, expensive, and difficult to manage premises installed ERP systems will begin in earnest to evaluate SaaS-based alternatives that by design are more flexible, cheaper, and typically much more user friendly.

    For the HR pro, this means less reliance on the IT organization than ever before.  When HR applications are deployed via SaaS, only a fast internet connection is needed. Also, since SaaS licences are usually priced on a per-user monthly subscription, they are not Capital Expenditures, but rather funded out of Operating Expenses, and therefore typically much easier to fund from internal HR budgets.

    What's Beginning

    Increasingly Human Resources enterprise systems will connect with and in some cases integrate with external or consumer oriented networks or platforms. Whether it is a company like Sage Software entering into a strategic partnership with consumer portal tool Netvibes, SumTotalSystems integrating Learning and Development applications with Facebook, ATS vendors like JobVite connecting with LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. or SAP building ties with the Jive Software platform for to integrate business intelligence data with wikis, the trend of the enterprise connecting with the external environments has started.

    For the HR pro this presents a number of challenges.  First, if your organization is one the actively block access to external social networks and platforms, soon you will really need to re-assess that position. Look, I won't repeat the same old arguments about loss of productivity, risk of company secrets being leaked, or employees posting inappropriate content on social networks.

    Let's face it, employees are already losing productivity, leaking secrets, and acting inappropriately.

    Either you, as an HR professional either believe this will be important for future organizational success or you don't.  If you do, you probably need to do more than whine and complain about it, and develop and present a cogent business case where loosening of restrictions and application or integration of social tools can derive positive business outcomes. More and more of the leading HR Technology solutions will embrace this trend, and you can either get out in front, or watch it roll by and maybe, if you are lucky jump on later.

    What's to Come

    Speculating on the future is dicey at best, but what the heck let's give it a shot.

    Social emedded into process

    Enterprise systems will continue to add and emphasize 'social' features, further blurring the lines between business process support, external social networks, and collaboration and expertise locator technologies.  More solutions will focus on how end users in HR and employees in the enterprise actually interact with the application and that interaction will more strongly influence functionality and design. Examples might be a performance management process with dynamic ability to connect with subject matter experts on a particular competency or a workforce planning application integrated with external demographic data and content.

    Mass Personalization

    Just like many consumer sites 'remember' you and present content and functions according to your demonstrated prior interactions or stated preferences, more HR Technology solutions will move to simple and flexible personalization.  Why do services like Amazon and Twitter have such tremendous uptake and growth? Part of the reason is that the experience to some extent is user-determined.  Amazon can present recommendations based on your prior activity, and the activity of other users with similar behavior patterns.  Twitter allows a user total control of the experience. In enterprise systems we will see much more extensive, simple, and adaptive personalization so that the systems fit individual desired interaction methods and preferred uses.


    HR Technology will go more and more mobile. Access to information, notifications, the ability to progress workflows for recruiting, performance, or training and development will become the norm. Need to connect with a colleague, post a quick status update to the team, seek out the company's top expert on a particular topic, access some learning content, perhaps a podcast or video?  All of these will be increasingly performed on smart phones and other mobile devices.  Interaction with enterprise systems will be more flexible, available from a multitude of sources, and optimized for each. Systems that are flexible enough to be easily adapted to a variety of mobile platforms will have a tremendous competitive advantage.


    What do you think?  Where is HR Technology going? What will be the true 'Next Gen' solution?



    BYOT - Bring Your own Technology

    Spent some time Sunday morning (the extra hour of 'sleep' we got in the US), reading some excerpts from a book titled 'The Tower and the Cloud',  Chapter One : 'The Gathering Cloud: Is this the End of the Middle' by Richard Katz.

    The book is an examination of the technological changes and forces at work that will dramatically impact and inevitably alter the structure and delivery of higher education in the US and worldwide. One of the Flickr - prestamost interesting observations from the first chapter concerns the how the academic institution will be effected by the increasingly technical acumen demonstrated by its incoming students:

    As the explosion of content continues along with the increasing maturity and availability of web-based academic services and applications, tomorrow’s students will arrive on campus with their own IT architectures and service arrangements. These students—and tomorrow’s faculty—will have little use for or patience with college or university offerings that under perform or force them to lose precious connections to people and processes that they have accumulated since childhood.

    This idea has certainly been discussed and observed in the workplace or professional context as well. How does the organization react when new employees (typically Millennial or Gen Y age) enter the workforce carrying with them (and expecting to leverage) different, and many times superior technical capabilities than the organization has deployed?

    Whether it is Gmail with its huge storage capacity, external social networks for connection and information sharing with their personal communities, cloud based file storage and collaboration services, or free web-conferencing and conference calling on demand, or event the latest in slick technology the new (and existing) employee has the ability, and perhaps the expectation that they can and should be able to leverage these capabilities in the workplace.

    In 'The Tower and the Cloud', Katz suggest these factors (and several others) will force a fundamental shift in the traditional role of the university as the 'center' of learning, research, and access to technology. Since information access, computing power, and ability for experts to connect directly with students (and potential students) without the need for the physical university as a kind of broker the university will be forced to adapt to this reality, and evolve in order to survive.

    In the corporate world, while it does seem that such dramatic changes are less likely (at least not as quickly), there are certainly some implications.  In an environment where employees (especially younger ones) move much more frequently from one firm to another, does it still make sense to spend the first 'X' days/weeks/months teaching these employees all about your unique and in many cases proprietary systems? Or would that time and effort be better spent building bridges from these internal systems to the ones that employees are already familiar with and have already adopted?

    Technical capability, access to information, employees understanding and leveraging of networks, cloud capability and new and better solutions for collaboration all are advancing faster than most organizations ability to keep up.  Finding the correct balance between forcing employees back inside the corporate 'technology box' and leveraging the tools and capabilities they bring with them is one of the most important challenges for organizations today.

    The ones that strike the correct mix will be in far stronger position than the ones that don't.



    Satisfaction Guaranteed

    Buyers of enterprise software have typically have had very few, and mostly unpalatable options available to them to remedy a systems implementation project gone awry.

    Let's say the company is seven months in to the project, the software is either not functioning properly, the project team is either understaffed, incapable, or dysfunctional, or funding has been withdrawn.

    What are the options?

    1. Cut bait - Scrap the project, send away the consultants, don't renew the software and maintenance licenses, and perhaps write-off the project costs to date, (and possibly look for a new job). The project was important but not important enough to cripple the organization.

    2. Vendor wrestling - Needed when the primary cause of the problems are software bugs. Hopefully you have enough juice to lean hard on the vendor to get some action on outstanding issues, and while you are at it maybe you can wring some free training credits or a couple of passes to the next user conference out of them.

    3. Clean the decks - Sack the consultants you are working with, install a new project manager, form a new 'core team', and re-launch the project.  Toss in a (second) big kick-off meeting and make a few stirring speeches about lessons learned, and a need to change processes, etc.  This might work. Maybe.

    4. Re-open the vendor evaluation - This is the old 'it's not me it's you scenario'.  Maybe the organization did not take enough time in the vendor selection process and a 'fit' between the client's needs and the solutions capabilities did not materialize.  Starting all over again with a new solution might work.  Or it might not.

    5. Sue - Who can the organization sue?  The software vendor, the consulting partners, maybe both.  There are some celebrated and high-profile cases of organizations suing for damages over failed enterprise software implementations.

    6. Get a refund - What? Refund?  There are no refunds in enterprise software are there? Typically not.  But this week Halogen Software, a leading provider of Talent Managment software announced a new 'money-back guarantee'. According to the company:

    After using one of our assisted implementation programs to bring any one of our products into your organization, if you’re not happy with it, we will refund in full your unused subscription fees – as long as you let us know within 6 months of your purchase date

    Halogen is the only vendor in this class that offers such a program, and I think it's uniqueness is a testament to Halogen's faith and track record of excellent customer support. 

    But it is also telling that in projects that can be incredibly complex, expensive, lengthy, and risky that having a guarantee of any kind is extremely unusual. Full marks to Halogen for having the courage to offer such a guarantee, we will see if any other vendors follow suit.

    Does anyone have any knowledge of other enterprise software vendors that offer a comparable guarantee?

    While you contemplate the question, have a look at my favorite 'refund' scene, from 'Breaking Away'






    Nowhere to hide from technology

    Two weeks ago while driving through the countryside of Central Pennsylvania, USA  I happened to pull off the highway for a dinner stop in a sort of run-of-the-mill little town, the kind of little town that anyone that drives the major interstate highways in the US has seen hundreds of times.

    A gas station, a couple of fast food restaurants, and a hint that if I carried on just a bit further down the access road maybe some small houses or trailers, and beyond that I'd bet farms and the sort of vast nothingness typical of large sections of middle America. 

    Definitely the kind of place to stop, refuel, maybe grab a bite to eat, and put in the rearview and instantly forget.

    When I walked in to the McDonald's for the mandatory road tip junk food dinner, I ran smack into this:


    The only way for job seekers to apply for a job in this little McDonalds in the middle of nowhere was via this online kiosk system. Now it could be that this particular McDonalds has the pulse of the local candidate pool, and is well aware that their target applicant is tech savvy, and will have no problems navigating the online process so moving to an online method is an intelligent strategy.

    Or more likely the regional or corporate office has decided that an online process is more efficient, less expensive, and results in more actionable intelligence for those in McDonalds management.

    But to the job seeker who walks into that McDonalds in hopes of landing a job, the motivations behind the decision to go to an automated process don't really matter.  They are forced to accept this, and either comply with the process if they want to be considered, or head on down the road to the Arby's and try their luck there. 

    And for (mostly) part-time jobs filled by teenagers and students this is probably perfectly acceptable. The staff on duty when I walked in did not have much to say about the online application kiosk, I am sure they thought is was strange that someone was even asking about it.

    To me the lesson that I take from the online job application kiosk for a tiny McDonalds in a tiny town in Nowhereville, USA is this one:

    You can't hide anymore from technology if you want to particpate in the modern economy.  This has many levels:

    The job seeker in this McDonalds had better know how to type on a keyboard, and follow basic computer commands.

    The college grad trying to break in to finance, marketing, IT, or HR had better have a solid LinkedIn profile, familiarity and skills searching for jobs online, and the ability to demonstrate technical acumen once they join the workforce.

    The HR professional trying to find ways to reduce costs and improve administrative processes better be very familiar with the capabilities of their HRIS (if they have one) or with the latest developments in the HR Technology marketplace (if they don't).

    The recruiter that needs to find, engage, and ultimately hire the best talent for their positions better know how to source, and engage potential candidates with increasingly sophisticated multi-media tools, better be on social networks and adept on how to best leverage them to meet their recruiting objectives.

    And the HR leader in the position of having to continually justify expenditure and prove return on HR programs had better have access to and understand analytical tools to effectively measure the business outcomes of their efforts.

    These are just a few examples, I am sure there are many more, but the key point is, no matter where you find yourself on the scale, from entry level job-seeker in rural Pennsylvania, to VP of HR at a Fortune 500 firm, you can't get away from the technology.

    Heck, even your Mom is on Facebook.