I’m exhausted but energized, if it’s actually possible to be in both states at once. I’ll leave it to others to do both the play by play and color commentary, neither of which is my forte. But I do want to summarize my key learnings in case they’re useful for others.
I also want to call attention — very positive attention — to the hard work that our impressario Bill Kutik and the entire LRP team put into this production. While you and I are still recovering from the 2011 show, these folks, along with the vendor community, are already hard at work on #HRTechConf (that’s the approved Twitter hashtag for the three of you who are not yet on Twitter) 2012.
In twitterspeak, the hashtags for my learning topics from this conference (about which I’ve been writing for some time) are: #social #mobile #consumerization #gamification #global #analytics #embedded intelligence #KSAOCs (did you think I’d really leave this out?) #objects #architecture #socialmarketing #infographics and #ripandreplace. While I could write a book as could many others on any one of these topics, for now I just want to open up the discussion. My hope is that, through your comments, we’ll sort out who’s doing what to whom on each of these topics (whose order below is completely random) in the vendor and end-user communities:
- Social — there are many opportunities for unleashing collaboration (the grown-up business term for many aspects of social), but we appear to be approaching this in two very different ways. There is the “add social and they will use it” school of thought and the “unleash social by use case” folks. I’m of the opinion that social/collaboration tools must be deeply embedded in HRM software platforms but then revealed through specific use cases. We may well reach the point, and perhaps very quickly, where end-users organizations can handle this unleashing for themselves, but I think they still need help from the vendor/consulting community to select specific (for them) high pay-off use cases and then deploy the correct collaboration tools for them.
- Mobile — this is closely related to social because so much collaboration of the right kind depends on reaching customers where they are rather than where it’s convenient, from a systems perspective, for them to be. Here too — but perhaps this is true of everything when it’s very new — vendors are approaching mobile capabilities in two quite different ways. Some vendors are mobilizing their existing capabilities, reconfiguring them for the specific capabilities of various mobile devices. Others are rethinking HRM for a mobile world and creating entirely new mobile capabilities, albeit with some plain vanilla HRM transations, primarily administrative transactions, included. Here I’m of the opinion that mobile opens up the possibility of reaching entirely new audiences directly, like CEOs, with entirely new HRM capabilities. For example, we can deliver advanced workforce analytics on an iPad designed for the CEO with all of the drill down/poke around capabilities that I believe they’ll use in the “privacy of their boudoir” once they’re comfortable with the reliability and usefulness of the data.
- Consumerization — this isn’t just about the user experience but includes, when done well, attention to what works best on what devices, our desire to conduct HRM business when and where it’s convenient, the expectation that the “system” has enough information to guide our actions, and the realization that the real competition for mind share when it comes to technology is not other HR technology products/services but rather the products/services we choose to use daily from such firms as Amazon and Facebook. And if we ever were ready to accept the “no training” mandate for whatever we’ll now call self service, it’s now. The last generation of those willing to read user manuals or go to training classes has long since been converted to discovery as the new software training paradigm or disappeared.
- Gamification — remember the suggestion box and the contests for great business improvement ideas with prizes for the best of them? Remember when, under the general heading of recognition programs, the employee of the month was given a primo parking space and you got a plaque for great attendance? Well, gamification is all of that and more. Using the same collaboration infrastructure noted above, gamification capabilities let us record publicly kudos to co-workers, earn badges for everything from good attendance to delivering great customer service, run sales contests to push older merchandise, and recognize every type of desireable behavior — and by exception call attention to those who aren’t behaving/producing/attending/etc. Although many of us still care about the kaching of compensation, there’s a lot of potential motivation and even fun when HRM processes are rethought in these terms, so it’s important to have the right platforms in place to make this easy and pervasive when turned on by use case.
- Global — can you even believe that there are still HRM software products that insist upon first name, middle name, last name? That insist that there’s no house name in street address? That don’t recognize the possibility that a worker is paid in two different currencies in the course of a single payroll cycle? That impose a US-centric mindset on the cultural aspects of HRM around the world, for example, by presuming that equal opportunity and valuing diversity are universal rather than country-specific? Even when organizations are primarily domestic, they are competing for specific KSAOCs on a global basis and must accommodate the very diverse US workforce, so their HRM software must be global at its core.
- Analytics — the holy grail here is predictive analytics, which helps us determine the impact on the future of some HRM or business process or outcome if we take a specific action now. For example, what will be the flight risk of our high potential employees if we take a particular compensation action now? Or what will be the probability of achieving our revenue targets at various levels of time to productivity in the hiring of sales professionals? While the simple metrics of headcount reports and compensation/benefit cost forecasts are useful, and the more impressve analytics of workforce KSAOC gap analysis are even more so, understanding the impact of today’s decisions on tomorrow’s business outcomes is what every HR leader is trying to achieve — and there has been a burst of activity from the vendor community that addresses exactly this need with varying degrees of success. I might add here that the best analytics are only as good as the underlying data (accurate? complete? sufficiently granular? etc.), so great analytics depend heavily on having the right object model (see below) implemented properly.
- Embedded intelligence — I’ve covered this in detail previously, but I want to emphasis here the importance of delivering actionable analytics along with guidance, context, business rules, compliance requirements, etc. “point of sale” — and the new mobile devices make this increasingly possible to the point of being expected.
- KSAOCs — if we really don’t know what human capabilities are needed to perform well in a key role, or if we really don’t know which roles drive business results, then talent management technology just isn’t going to deliver more than superficial improvements in the mechanics of worthless performance reviews etc. And determining which roles drive business results, “painting” a KSAOC profile of those roles, assessing the KSAOC profile of both incumbents and candidates for those roles, requires intellectual heavy lifting by HR professionals. But following the theory that, in the land of the blind the one-eyed woman is queen, we can use crowd-sourcing techniques and other forms of collaboration to ferret out socially the roles of greatest interest, the KSAOCs of greatest importance, and the workers of greatest potential, etc. This may be our last chance to raise talent management to more science than art.
- Objects — doing my own demonstration of shiny new vendor releases, I was struck immediately by how visible is their object model and how much of their delivered functionality rests on the manipulation of that model. If your talent management vendor never considered the multiple concurrent relationships to position — including incumbent, named successor, ready successor, on leave of absense with right to return, contractor backfilling for known and voluntary resignation, etc. — then you can’t possibly do an accurate headcount report without manual intervention, let alone more sophisticated workforce planning. And the state-of-the-art in software development, known as models-driven development, depends on having a correct, complete, sufficiently granular and rigorously-expressed object model as its foundation.
- Architecture — object models and architecture go hand in hand, and they must both be current and correct to achieve software that is very good to use now and sufficiently future-proofed to ensure that you have a non-disrupted and highly productive future with that software. What amazes me about both object models and architecture is the extent to which some vendors are delivering shiny new software that doesn’t have the best of these under the covers — and these are VERY hard to correct if you don’t get them right in the first place.
- Social Marketing — I am absolutely not a marketing expert, really the furthest thing from it, but I know that it’s useless to send me tons of physical conference mail just before HR Tech. It’s also useless to have a company twitter account if all you tweet is your own horn. If you want to have influence with me, to attract attention to your brand/products/services, then have your real thought leaders out there blogging useful content, tweeting their story, and generally acting like non-marketeers. In an increasingly social world, marketing is much more about individual influence than it is about company palaver.
- Infographics — I so wish that I had an ounce of graphic vision or drawing ability, because these are just the best way to convey a ton of information in an understandable and memorable format. Going many steps beyond mere graphical visualization of data, infographics combine text, graphics, and visualization, with every flavor of symbology to create immediate impact and comprehension. If this is a new topic for you, here’s a good place to start.
- Rip and replace — not quite a groundswell, but that’s coming as end-users decide that their current applications just aren’t the right foundation for the future. Painful? Yes? But lower costs, greater agility, better user experiences, modern object models and architectures that enable whole new ways of doing our business and much more are creating the winds of change for many licensed/on-premise core ERP/HRMSs. As more of these sunk cost ERP/HRMSs come up for expensive upgrades, more of their owners will look around and decide to make the big move. Of course their incumbent vendors, assuming they’re delivering an excellent next generation product, may have an edge here, but I think there’s a huge opportunity for newer players to catch these prospects when they begin to look at their options.
Apart from these specific topics, there were a number of big cross-cutting ideas that stood out for me. They’re not necessarily new ideas, but they are finally getting our collective full attention:
- It’s workforce technology, not HR technology, and the whole point is organizational success not just HR success.
- Your workforce, all of it, is using multiple devices, so your workforce technology must reach them where they live and support the right devices (as they see them) for the right tasks/processes/etc.
- Licensed/on-premise/legacy ERP/HRMS will be with us for a VERY long time, but the momentum is clearly toward next generation, true SaaS core HRMS as well as true SaaS for talent management add-ons to those legacy ERP/HRMSs. This includes some version of SaaS (true in the case of SAP, more on demand from Oracle) talent management add-ons aimed at holding their installed base as well as a lot of new, so-called SaaS products with VERY dated underpinnings. Caveat emptor.
- We’re all inherently social, and the best business-oriented use cases for social technology leverage/enable our individual and group productivity — increasingly with an element of fun.
- Great innovation learns from the past so as not to repeat old mistakes even as it blazes new trails. This is a polite reminder to both our vendor and end-user colleagues that they would be well-advised to do their homework before declaring their screwed up implementation of something important as being the latest and greatest innovation.
- If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how you get there. Without a strategic plan for HRM and the HRM delivery system which is aligned with and drives business results, you’re playing whack-a-mole with every HR technology-related decision. BAD mole!
Finally, getting an oogah horn for my “magic carpet” (aka scooter) was the best idea ever. I will forever associate gamification with coming up behind a crowd in the casino, giving them an “oooogah oooogah,” and watching them jump out of their skins.