September 16th’s edition of Human Resources Executive Online includes a couple of features on HR technology in the run up to their HR Tech conference in Chicago (I’m going to have to miss it again, but will get there one year soon…).
According to the conference chairman, Bill Kutik, talking on his Radio Show, attendance is down this year, but not substantially.
One article in HRE supports this ongoing interest, quoting Towers Perrin's annual survey on HR service delivery as explaining that only one third of companies have been expecting to decrease spending on HR technology this year - and one fifth have expected to increase it. It’s good news for HR technology providers / managers, but potentially for the whole of HR as well:
“The results of the survey underscore the value that companies continue to attach to the HR function as an integrated and complementary support system for achieving business goals and priorities. This view has prevailed despite the pressures on companies to search hard for cost savings throughout the organization.
Increasingly, companies view their budgets for HR technologies and systems as necessary expenses to support both long-term objectives and short-term needs. This marks a shift from a few years ago, when companies tended to view spending on HR technology more as a discretionary cost item.”
Much of this investment in HR technology is aimed at improving HR's basic "blocking and tackling": making better use of existing HR systems to “cut costs, find efficiencies and support worker productivity during the current economic mess”.
To an extent, I think that’s fine. It’s been clear for a long time that many organisations have needed to make better use of their existing technologies. In one sense, the recession has provided a useful breather for these organisations, allowing them to put more emphasis on maximising benefits from their existing investments, rather than continuing to acquire new systems.
In many cases the existing systems will include unused, higher functionality, HCM modules of big HR administrative systems and it’s often going to make sense to use these rather than look for slightly better functionality or an enhanced user experience from best of breed systems. Particularly when large budgets are still in short supply.
But I also think it’s a shame, and potentially a real, significant disadvantage if this is all that companies are doing right now. Technology is still moving on a pace, and becoming more and more important to managing people effectively. So even if, as HRE suggests, companies have to focus, postpone, shrink and standardise, I’d also encourage them to ensure they do have a plan of where they need to go.
Top Five Tips
In fact, here are my five recommendations for planning HR technology investments (HRE includes a list of recommendations provided by Mercer, but mine are better!):
1. Have a plan for the next 3 to 5 years ahead. This plan should fall out of developing an HCM strategy (see my post for more details on this – HR technology is part of the ‘HR function capability / transformation’ box).
2. Ensure an effective base system of record is in place (a basic HR admin system – although I’d suggest this should really be called a Personnel system as it deals with the bottom, value-for-money, or Personnel level in the HCM value triangle).
3. Invest in / plan for appropriate HCM / talent management systems to help managers meet specific business needs (HCM systems are really ‘HR’ systems as they deal with adding value to a business).
4. Investigate opportunities to use systems which can directly improve peoples’ productivity, ability to innovate etc (these are what I would call real HCM systems as they help organisations create value through people rather than just helping them manage people – listen to my interview on HRchitct’s Happy Hour earlier this year for more information on this. I’d suggest that social media is going to be a good example of this level of technology in many organisations).
5. Take advantage of one obvious opportunity to create value that is available for most organisations – give all your knowledge workers a work iphone (the best productivity tool that anyone can get!).
HR Tech bloggers
HRE Online also includes a list of blogs / bloggers offering expert commentary specifically on HR technology:
- Jim Holincheck – BlogERP
- Vinnie Mirchandani - deal architect
- Jason Corsello - The Human Capitalist
- ***** Jon Ingham's Strategic HCM Blog *****
- Brian Sommer - Software and Services Safari
- Wes Wu – systematicHR
- Thomas Otter – Vendorprisey.
It’s great to be included in this list - particularly as I don’t post on HR technology that often. I must try to do so more, and Bill, I will get to the conference one year, I promise!.