Friday, December 31, 2010

A Dozen Things the HR Technology Market Needs in 2011

As another year goes -- by no means, quietly -- in the books, we are reminded of the very significant progress being made across the entire spectrum of HR technology solutions; e.g., the availability of much more configurable, integrated, usable if not engaging enterprise TMS and HRMS solutions; and in general, offerings which go far beyond process automation and extend toward enabling end-to-end, strategic talent management.

So, what’s left to be done ---- PLENTY!

Here’s a list of a dozen things that come to mind that would continue advancing the HR technology market in material ways, many of these ideas will be further explored in subsequent blog posts:

1. More end-customers embracing the fact that underlying HR data models are as important as any other, perhaps more “wow”-evoking component of an HR technology infrastructure. Yes, Naomi Bloom, you had me sold on the importance of HR data models long ago!

To illustrate this point --- As astute purveyors of simple headcount reports know, the report is not highly valuable without being accompanied by clear definitions and even training around which people are counted – and how. This data model issue gets much more interesting when you consider the notion of a “highly valued or excellent employee.” If someone is an excellent performer who consistently gets the highest performance ratings based on assigned objectives, than what should someone be labeled who achieves those same ratings – plus consistently refers candidates who become great employees, generates innovative ideas that translate into revenue streams, and has great potential to contribute in other roles that may have increasing importance to the organization over time?

One more important point on HR data models – perhaps a related phrase or concept that should be used going forward is “holistic information architecture” – thereby forcing “people data” to be integrated and viewed in conjunction with other types of business and organizational data.

2. Configurability toolsets that are not necessarily the exclusive domain of vendors’ consulting services organizations or end-customer power users.

3. More standardized and demarcated definitions of what the following terms mean in the context of HR technology: usability, inter-operability, scalability, adaptability and configurability.

4. Also related to the evolving lexicon of HR technology terms is the fact that more clarity is needed around these half marketing / half capability descriptions: “embedded analytics” and “embedded social collaboration.” It seems to this observer that excessive license is still being taken regarding the word “embedded.” Are these capabilities embedded at the transaction level, the business event / scenario level or the decision-making level? Do I need to know these capabilities exist to use them or will the system let me know they exist? How easy and accessible are they to use?

5. Better technology integration and a unified user experience between HCM modeling tools (e.g., for workforce planning, compensation modeling, succession modeling) and the TMS or HRMS platforms used to data-populate and record the results of those modeling scenarios.

6. More technology-enabled “business intelligence linkages” between on-the-job performance, or better yet, broad-based data on employee value ( see #1 above) … and the sourcing / screening / selection practices, learning and development practices, and total rewards and recognition practices that led to those levels of employee performance.

7. The recognition that only when end-customers focus sufficiently on change management, and solution providers deliver less complex/more intuitive/more engaging / “what’s in it for me?” user experiences -- will broad user adoption occur; and moreover, that the absence of these elements will almost always result in lower ROI, sub-optimal business value and unrealized business cases.

8. Solution capabilities that highlight HR business process bottlenecks and/or defects … along with their causes, associated data patterns and potential remediation steps.

9. Less focus -- by both solution providers and end-customers -- on HR technology features (‘what it does’) and functions (‘how it does it’) … and more emphasis on capabilities (a significant category or core theme of a set of features) … as it is capabilities that paint a much clearer picture of the strategic (= R&D funding) direction of an HR technology solution provider and their suite of products; e.g., social collaboration and mobile computing capabilities are feature category sets that typically represent an on-going R&D commitment to these areas.

10. Moving past the notion of “role-based” architecture and system design to “human factors-based” architecture / system design … as an individual’s role is only partially indicative of how they think about and approach the people management and people collaboration aspects of their job. Many people in the same type of role think about and approach the people management / people collaboration aspects of their role quite differently.

11. The recognition that successful HR technology implementations should never be principally measured or defined by “going live at (or close to) on-time and on-budget” … but by the incremental and measurable business value and impact it delivered to the organization.

12. More solution capabilities that are focused on human capital-related problem-solving and risk and opportunity identification / management --- and perhaps a little less emphasis on all the features and functions involved in HR process automation.

And in the spirit of the holiday season ---- a Baker’s Dozen 13th item I’d like to see in the HR technology domain:

13. More highlighting of the difference between “industry best practices for HR technology” and “company best practices for HR technology” --- the latter category are the ones that work best for YOUR organization!