Classic Windowsill Tzedakah Box
It’s that time of year again when I reflect on how very fortunate I am to live in this amazing country and on what I can do to make it better. For all the problems we’ve got, and they are daunting, we are so very blessed to be here.
For my first two blogging Thanksgivings, I did a post that focused on counting my own personal blessings, and I plan to do that again. But last year and this year, I’ve started with the second part of this holiday’s message, the giving part. And I’d like to give credit where it’s due, to a 2011 Facebook entry by Ron’s first cousin Barbara Wallace Schmidt of Washington State, for getting me focused on the giving part of this so American holiday.
Having grown up in an orthodox Jewish home (well, modern orthodox), I learned from a very young age that philanthropy (tzedakah) isn’t about extra credit. It’s an obligation. The window sill over our kitchen sink was the home of five or six tin boxes, called pushkas, into which my Dad deposited his pocket change each night after work. Periodically, a representative of one of the charities that distributed these pushkas would stop by to collect them, have a cup of tea and something sweet with the lady of the house (who rarely worked outside the home in those distant days), and leave a bright new empty box to be filled up again.
And then there were the naming opportunities. Maybe we Jews didn’t invent this concept, but we sure as hell perfected it. There’s not a tree in Israel or a toilet stall in a Jewish nursing home that doesn’t bear a plaque with the name of the donor whose funds paid for it. With my dimes, brought every week to Sunday school (Hebrew School was on weekdays, and then we wrapped up all that learning plus on Sunday mornings), I must have filled dozens of folded cards with enough slots for two dollars worth of dimes that could then be turned into my very own tree for Israel.
It’s been more than a half century since I saw my Dad empty his pockets into those pushkas and I put my dimes (which I would have preferred to spend on candy) into the “plant a tree” card, but I remember them like they were yesterday. The Hebrew term for philanthropy is tzedakah, literally fairness or justice, and we learned it young and continuously where I grew up. Not only am I writing this blog post today, I’m making a number of year-end donations. 2013 has been a good year for Bloom & Wallace, and this is how we celebrate.
And lest you think that all philanthropy is equal, Maimonides offers a hierarchy of giving, with the first item listed being the most worthy form, and the last being the least worthy. I find it interesting that the most worthy form is to help a person in need to become not only self-sufficient but also to join the circle of tzedakah in their own right, not unlike the later Christian notion of teaching a man to fish. Translated from Maimonides:
- Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
- Giving tzedakah anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
- Giving tzedakah anonymously to a known recipient.
- Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient.
- Giving tzedakah before being asked.
- Giving adequately after being asked.
- Giving willingly, but inadequately.
- Giving in sadness (it is thought that Maimonides was referring to giving because of the sad feelings one might have in seeing people in need as opposed to giving because it is a religious obligation; giving out of pity).
Although the term tzedakah was never mentioned, the first hour of Marc Benioff’s keynote at this year’s Dreamforce was a paean to the power of tzedakah. And his 1-1-1 approach to corporate philanthropy should be the mantra of every business, especially those run by folks who would like to shrink our government sector. If everyone and every business put tzedakah at the top of their priorities, then much more of what the right hates about government could be done by the private sector. So yes, this is a call to everyone, but especially to my Republican friends and family members, to give until it hurts — of your time, your capital and your annual profits — in the spirit of Marc’s 1-1-1 philanthropic mantra. I don’t know Marc personally, but I’ve often wondered if his Jewish upbringing shows in his views on philanthropy.
I think that this view of giving, of philanthropy, of tzedakah is the flip side of the Jewish notion of success. We believe (at least those of us who haven’t gone so far off the rails as to believe their own press releases — but that’s another story) that your successes are not solely of your own making and that one should not take too much credit for them. As it happens, we are all either blessed or cursed by the good fortune of our birth and by the good fortune, the mazel, that has accompanied our journey through life. Born in the US? Mazel. Born healthy, intelligent, and loved? Mazel. Wanted and raised by two reasonably together and prepared parents? More mazel. Managed to get through school, university, life-to-date without dread diseases, terrible accidents, loss of your freedom or life in civil unrest? Pure mazel.
What you build on top of all that good luck through your own hard work and perseverance is absolutely yours for which to take credit, but it’s important to remember just how much of what we become, of who we are, and of what we have is just plain dumb good luck. Thinking about life this way, as a three-legged stool (the good fortune of our birth, the good fortune of our lives, and what we ourselves accomplish through our own efforts) of which we only control one leg, makes clear why tzedakah is an obligation for those of us whose stools have three good legs. Knowing that so many such stools have two wobbly legs explains why I’m on the progressive side of the political divide.
And now for the thanks part of this post. My list doesn’t change much over time, but my appreciation for these blessings has grown so much over the years. For those of you who haven’t started your list, here’s mine for Thanksgiving 2013:
- Ron Wallace — if you haven’t met The Wallace, you’re in for a treat. He’s smart (and never flaunts his far greater intellect than mine), beyond funny (especially when doing those imitations of all the satellite systems he helped design), kind to everyone even when they’re not, 150% behind me in everything I do, an enthusiastic dancer (even though my best dancing days are in the rearview mirror of life), able to design/fix anything electronic/mechanical/plumbing/etc., infinitely patient, very slow to get anywhere close to angry, doesn’t complain no matter how ill/uncomfortable he is, shares my love of travel/adventure/British mystery DVDs/boating/theater/the list of shared interests is very long, understands my need to “fly” solo at times, never asks me what anything costs (knowing I won’t go overboard even when we’re buying me great jewelry), likes many of my friends and is happy to have them travel with us, provides full infrastructure support so that I can pursue my dream career and other interests, still a hunk after all these years (Ron went through college on gymnastics scholarships), and thinks I’m the best thing that ever happened to him. What more could any woman want?
- Friends and family who are also friends — I value friendship above diamonds, and those who know me realize that’s high value indeed. No one gets through life unscathed, no one! And it’s your friends who not only share your triumphs but will also see you through the really tough times. You know who you are.
- Good health, great health insurance, and the smarts to manage my own healthcare – Ron and I have watched the whole health care reform discussion with just one point of view: everyone should be as free from worry about their health care costs as we have been, even as we’ve battled a number of expensive health issues. I can’t even imagine having to fight with an insurance company in order to get what Ron needed when he was diagnosed nearly ten year ago with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The bills were enormous and would have broken even our generous budget if not for great coverage. And I’ve had so many joint repairs that the staff at the surgical center know me on sight, and that’s only the beginning of what aging has done to my lambada. But thanks to Ron’s NASA career, we’ve got the same kind of private insurance our Congressmen have, converted now to our supplemental plan while Medicare is primary. We’d like to see everyone have this level of financial protection and peace of mind, but what do we know about health care? For the record, Medicare is income adjusted so I’m paying a ton for it, and that’s entirely fair, but I’d love to know that they had added a few higher brackets so that Mr. Ellison was paying even more.
- My career, clients and colleagues — I’ve had an amazing run, and the best is yet to come. Imagine being in on the very ground floor of the use of computers in business and still being able to contribute? For those of you worried about your career, and who isn’t in these trying times, please take heart. There’s always opportunity for those who are willing to work their butts off, invest in their KSAOCs, and do the heavy lifting. To all the colleagues and clients from whom I’ve learned so much, and those yet to come, I’m very grateful for the opportunities and hope I’ve given as good as I’ve gotten. And I’d like to say a special thank you to my much younger colleagues who have welcomed this digital immigrant with open minds.
- The accident of my birth — I come from pioneer stock. My grandparents were refugees (aren’t all Jews?) from a shtetl in Lithuania. They came to the USA at the turn of the 20th century to avoid conscription into the Czar’s non-kosher army as well as to escape the pogroms. Like every American except our native Americans, we’re all refugees of one sort or another, even those who think they’re special because they came first or brought some wealth with them. Were it not for my grandparents having the courage to leave the familiar behind, to make what was then quite literally a trek across Europe to get bilge (they thought steerage was first class) passage to the USA, to arrive with no English and just the bundles they carried to a gentile America which was still quite hostile to Jews, I would never have had the opportunities that so many of us take for granted. Were the founders of our country legal immigrants? Hell no! They were conquerors who killed off the indigenous population after having only survived that first awful winter because of the kindness of those very natives. Were your ancestors legal immigrants? Probably not. Were my grandparents legal immigrants? I haven’t a clue. Perhaps that explains my own support for addressing our current immigration issues with humanity and a real respect for those who are following in the same path as our collective ancestors, seeking refuge from poverty and/or repressive governments, seeking a better life for their children, seeking a chance to work and live free from religious/political/economic/ethnic persecution.
- Our military and first responders along with their families — Freedom isn’t free, and democracy isn’t a birthright, so count your blessings that you’re here. And thank those who never rest so that we can, those who work the midnight shifts in emergency rooms, those who keep your power on and your news reported. There are so many who won’t be having as peaceful or comfortable a Thanksgiving as you and I will have. My thanks to every one of them.
Although Thanksgiving isn’t really a religious holiday, I think it’s prayer-worthy. So here’s mine for all of us. Life is short, fragile and amazing, so live large and purposefully while you can. G-d willing (now we’re back to mazel) we’ll live long and prosper and be the life of the party at the old farts home.
[After a really terrific discussion of this post's original version, along with a zillion surrounding/closely related topics, over on LinkedIn, I've updated the terminology in this post as of 12-3-2013 to replace "true SaaS" with "Blooming SaaS." This change is not intended to be facetious but rather to ensure that using value-laden adjectives, like true or pure or real SaaS, doesn't obscure my efforts to develop or the importance of having agreed definitions for critical concepts in HR technology. In the future, when you hear/read me using the term "Blooming SaaS," you'll know exactly what I mean.]
I’ve been accused, primarily by those who would prefer a less than fully educated consumer, of obsessing over HRM enterprise software object models and architecture. On the other hand, I would say that I’ve been paying close attention to what really matters, to the foundations upon which durably profitable and customer-serving software is based — and with good reason.
Software’s core object models and architectural foundations are rarely changed except when there’s a generational shift in our industry. Getting them right determines whether or not a vendor will be able to deliver needed functionality at the right combination of cost, quality and time-to-market, not just once, but over and over again for the life of that architecture.
This is very much like the basic layout, structure and foundations of our home. Even as many ongoing enhancements and extensions are quite feasible and expected over the course of a lifetime’s use, tearing up the foundations (in our case a cement slab on which our home is built because the water table in south Florida is very close to the surface) because we never plumbed for a fourth bathroom or didn’t anticipate wanting a much bigger central living area just isn’t feasible without essentially starting over. When your family makeup/lifestyle/circumstances etc. have changed so much that you begin to contemplate ripping up that foundation in order to overhaul your home, it’s absolutely time to look for another house (in SaaS terms, to look for a vendor with no legacy baggage) or to knock this one down and start over (in SaaS terms, to stick with a legacy vendor but bet on their own efforts to start over in a new product line).
Given this context, it won’t surprise you that I’m very precise in my definition of SaaS and frequently call out the incorrect use of this term to mean nearly anything that’s subscribed and hosted by the vendor. And we won’t even get started on what loose lips are doing to the meaning of ”cloud.” Having been an English major (after realizing that I’d never become a great nuclear physicist in spite of my best efforts), I can’t help myself from going nuts when words are used to mean whatever the marketing teams decides they have to mean. So I’ve selected, as my background music for this post: We’re Painting The Roses Red!
SaaS isn’t just anything that vendors without it want it to mean. When we were going from mainframe apps to client server, as soon as client server became the momentum player (so as soon as PeopleSoft began gaining traction in the market) around 1990, every vendor of outdated mainframe software put a screen-scraping GUI face on their old crap and called it client server. How I wish I had had Twitter and a blog then to denounce the scoundrels. The good news is that they have all passed into oblivion even though a few poor customers are still running an ancient implementation of Cyborg, Genesys, Tesseract, Integral, MSA etc. The bad news is that the latest batch of legacy vendors/application will have a much longer denouement because the much larger size of their installed base maintenance revenue will keep some of them going for longer than I’m likely to survive.
In my view, any vendor which offers so-called choice — licensed/on-premise, subscribed/on-premise, licensed/single tenant hosted, subscribed/single tenant hosted, and every variation of non-cloud cloud — is not a “Blooming SaaS” vendor. They may offer good products, they may provide an option that’s absolutely correct for a specific customer, and they be your favorite vendor with which to do business. But they are not a Blooming Saas vendor, and it matters for reasons cited here and here . No shame in selling/buying/using something other than Blooming SaaS if that’s the right answer for you, whether vendor or end-user, but there is great shame in not knowing or naming the difference — or worse, knowing the difference, and trying to fool the public about it.
For the record, here’s my definition of Blooming SaaS as it relates to HRM enterprise software:
- Software is subscribed to customers, usually on a multi-year basis, ranging from 3-5 years, but some do monthly, annual, more frequently adjusted subscriptions. Smaller, less critical and more easily replaced applications may be available very appropriately on a truly pay-as-you-go basis without a more substantial contract and even on a freemium basis with charges only for add-on capabilities or services. These subscriptions are usually on a usage basis, e.g. number of serviced employees or workers, and there may also be, especially for broader and more complex applications, some up-front payment for implementation support and, perhaps, a subscription prepayment for a portion of the term. Of interest to me is the preference of larger/more complex organizations, especially when they’re rebuilding their HRMS/TM foundations, for longer term subscriptions that “lock in” as much as possible their expected subscription rates even as their actual payments may increase or decrease along with the contractual units of usage.
- Software is hosted by the vendor. The vendor owns the entire responsibility for operating the code base and providing customer/tenant access to it. The software may be hosted at one or more 3rd party, industrial data centers or even in a truly elastic commercial cloud, although getting the right SLAs for security, backup and recovery, not to mention privacy protection in a true commercial cloud may still be a work in process for HRM enterprise software. Of course buyers should consider every possible test of operational capability before subscribing Blooming SaaS, but many (most?) buyers find that reputable Blooming SaaS vendors maintain much higher SLAs (service level agreements) than do their in-house IT organizations.
- Blooming SaaS software is designed and built from the ground up to be not only multi-tenant but also to be operated in this fashion. And all customers, even when there are multiple instances for different geographies/target markets/load balancing/etc., use the same code base. Vendors own the entire responsibility for delivering frequent, non-disruptive and entirely automated upgrades to that code base, and for doing so either at precisely the same time or over a short (weeks not months) period of feathered upgrades.
- With major upgrades coming multiple times per year and very frequent upgrades coming as needed to support regulatory developments, keep up with mobile device changes, and fix any bugs, Blooming SaaS vendors must invest substantially in the infrastructure for managing these upgrades across their entire business. Keeping customers informed, agile handling of the entire lifecycle of their products, supporting cross customer collaboration, and so much more go into running a SaaS business successfully. Yes, it’s about the software, but it’s about so much more than the software.
- There are no customizations allowed in Blooming SaaS, but there are extensive configuration, including extension, capabilities delivered by the vendor, with each customer/tenant’s configurations protected automatically during the vendor-delivered and entirely automated upgrades. From tuning the customer experience (UX) to each customer’s corporate look and feel, to adding customer-unique objects/relationships/methods/attributes/valid values as well as processes and workflows, and on to all of the inquiry/reporting/analysis/visualization functionality that’s specific to a customer, good SaaS supports all of this through vendor-delivered tools whose intended user is a business analyst (a real one) rather than a programmer.
- To make this level of configuration possible, to enable the vendor to deliver tons of new functionality multiple times per year over many years without breaking the software’s foundations or running up cost/time-to-market/error rates, modern software (SaaS or otherwise) is developed mostly without writing a lot of code. In modern software, must of the functionality is abstracted to metadata (effective-dated metadata of course), and many types of configuration is achieved by making changes to that metadata in those areas to which customers are given access. Other functionality is delivered by means of tools driven by that metadata, e.g. a inquiry tool whose knowledge of the underlying object model is expressed as metadata to that tool. In Blooming SaaS, all cross-tenant (i.e. cross-customer) metadata (typically business rules, process flows, UX specifications, and similar) and reference data (typically the valid values for complex object attributes like tax rates or country codes) is managed by the vendor with a single physical instance shared across customer/tenants.
I’ve got a lot more to say about the object model and architectural foundations of not just Blooming SaaS but really good Blooming SaaS and about the design of a Blooming SaaS business, but I think I’ll stop here for the moment. This is a tremendously important discussion which raises another aspect of what I call SaaS InFullBloom (for lack of a better term that provides the precise definition I want to present with more thoughts here). If there’s one thought I’d like you to take away from this post, it’s that what you can’t see easily in the software and vendor you’re considering is what’s most important to evaluate. So, while waiting for my next installment on this, here’s a little homework.
I was on such a limited budget, working nearly full-time, as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, that I couldn’t buy all of my first semester books at the very start of the semester. So there I was, in the basement (textbook section) of the UPenn campus book store, during my lunch break on what I remember as a bright fall day that suddenly went all dark.
Standing on line to pay for my books, one minute there was the ubiquitous radio playing in the background and the next it crackled before switching from who knows what they had been playing to an all points announcement. And yes, it was the radio, the only mobile information distribution platform in that faraway time, which brought us the dreadful news.
I don’t remember the announcer or what station the book store played that day, but I remember vividly the near hysterical tone of that announcer’s voice as he just about shouted that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. And then he repeated himself, more calmly, and added what few details he had.
With that first sound of radio crackling, something we’d all been trained as children to recognize as the early warning signal of a disaster, the book store’s sound of a bee hive at maximum buzz gave way to absolute silence. We all listened to the announcer’s words, and then listened again to his calmer repetition. Then more silence. And then the tears, the grief, the wailing sound of a generation whose hopes and dreams for a better world had been assassinated along with President Kennedy.
I don’t remember where I went next, to my next class (but I’m sure that was cancelled), to a friend’s or back to the dorm. We cried for days, not continuously, but I never knew what would set me off. As the story unfolded, and the news coverage was wall to wall (not in today’s terms because no one had even considered 24/7 broadcasting yet), the grief became more profound, deeper, less amenable to explanation.
I lost my mother at 5 1/2, way too young to have understand the magnitude of that loss, but this was on some level much worse than losing a close family member or friend. For an eighteen-year-old, Kennedy represented the best of what America could be. He called on each of us to aim higher, do more, fight for what’s right. Being Massachusetts born and bred until I left for Penn, perhaps I can be forgiven for having rose-colored glasses when it came to the Kennedy family, but my classmates at Penn weren’t so parochial.
For me, Kennedy’s assassination was my political awakening. Civil rights, income inequality, equal opportunity, ending the war in Vietnam, these and many more of what we now call progressive issues (but which I thought of then as simply American issues), issues much bigger than my own needs, captured my attention. From singing protests songs of the era to my own incompetent guitar playing in local coffee houses to registering African-American voters, I found the time for political action even as earning my expenses took more and more time away from my studies.
I gradually came to grips with not having the smarts (really a very special type of smarts) to pursue my ambition of becoming a famous nuclear physicist, and I made peace with not having the money to pursue a full-time MBA at you know where. When my closest friend at Penn, a boy with whom I’d gone all through junior and senior high school, died as a result of a football practice accident at the beginning of our sophomore year, I coped with that very personal loss and the attendant loss of my own sense of immortality. But from that day in November until now, I’ve not been able to put aside my dreams, President Kennedy’s dreams, of a more just, free, and democratic America.
I know that many of my professional colleagues, especially my digital native colleagues, can’t imagine the world in which I grew up, let alone do they have direct memories of Kennedy’s assassination and all that followed. Those who only know me now, as a rather senior lady who moves a lot slower than one must move if you’re going to engage in civil disobedience to protest against your government, would be very surprised to meet the eighteen-year-old me. But however much my body has aged in the last fifty years, my passions for a better America and for doing what’s right even when it’s neither comfortable nor convenient, passions which were crafted in part by Kennedy’s Presidency, have not aged one bit — nor should yours.
Celebrating Our 2010 Anniversary Over Dinner In The Languedoc-Roussillon, France
I launched my blog about 4 years ago, 11-8-2009. In my wildest dreams, I never expected to attract so many loyal readers nor did I realize how much I would enjoy blogging. I so wish new readers could start at the beginning because I’ve been writing many posts that are best read in sequence if you want to understand (for better or for worse) my thinking about great HR technology and about strategic planning for both HRM and HR tech. And although this past year has been one of fewer posts than I had hoped, I have no intention of quitting until I’ve said everything that’s on my mind or until I’ve lost my mind entirely — whichever comes first.
But with the changes I’m making in my professional life (here, here and here), this blog will also change to reflect not only my evolving professional interests but also my personal ones. Hopefully, this changing mix of topics, along with my having more time to write, will provide enough coverage of HRM and HR technology to retain long-standing readers while more coverage of the many other aspects of my life (for which I’m hoping to have more time to enjoy as I reduce my workload) will interest those same readers as well as attract new ones.
And just as the scouts of yesteryear warned those pioneer wagon trains of the dangers ahead, I hope to share lessons learned about my own passage from total workaholic to whatever lies ahead. Aging is definitely not for the faint of heart, and I’ll be exploring that territory well before most of you. Stay tuned for my reports from the field on how to flourish in that potentially hostile territory, how to hang onto your health and your sense of humor.
One wonderful result of winding down my previously ecumenical consulting practice is that I can now focus on those vendors and initiatives which are in the forefront of achieving true HRMS/TM SaaS InFullBloom — and call out those who aren’t. And I also feel emboldened to SCREAM at organizations and their HR leaders which fail to learn the lessons of the past, fail to prepare for the future, and fail to rethink HRM even as they take advantage of the latest generation of HR tech. A pox on all their houses!
The Bottom Line: Even as I write more posts about our travels and boating, my forays into Bloom family genealogy and artistic and literary endeavors, our philanthropic adventures (can you really picture me on a committee of “ladies who lunch” planning a fundraiser?) and so much more that has absolutely nothing to do with my professional life, I will continue to push the HR technology community to deliver better software and services, at better prices, and with greater ease of implementation and adoption. I will continue to push the HR community to do the heavy lifting of understanding their businesses and how HRM should be shaped to drive improved business results. I will continue to push myself and my fellow “influencers” to be transparent, innovative, and focused on real thought leadership. You might say I’m an equal opportunity scold, but no one gets more flak from Naomi than I give myself. Thank you so much for coming this far with me on my blogging journey. I’m hoping that the best is yet to come.
Carnac the Magnificent
[ I published the original version of this post on 9-12-2011, just in time for the 2011 HR Technology Conference, and I did an updated edition for the 2012 conference. I had planned to do another updated version for the 2013 HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas and the 2013 HR Tech Europe Conference in Amsterdam (which by now you all know are not connected), but then I found myself wanting not only to update the questions but also to provide my thoughts on the answers -- and boy was that a dark hole from which I'm only beginning to extricate myself. So what you're getting here is a mix: lots of questions with my current thoughts on the answers to some of them.
As always, in the spirit of full disclosure, you should presume that I'm working or have worked with many of the major vendors in our space whether they are mentioned or not, that my thinking is certainly informed by the smart people with whom I work across the vendor/thought leader/influencer communities, and that I have strong biases (on full view across this blog) about what constitutes great HRM and great HRM enterprise software. Given my already stated plans to wind down my consulting practice -- but not the rest of my business, not by any means -- I thought I'd step over the "trying to be ecumenical line" and cast caution to the winds with my thoughts on some of these questions.]
Unlike my good friend and fellow Enterprise Irregular Ray Wang, there are no Naomi clones. Just this solo consultant who’s been trying to save the world from bad HRM and bad HR software. And while I’ve been a pretty productive and hard worker, there were never enough hours to support every HR exec who called about their always interconnected, whack-a-mole HRM delivery systems issues. So I have referred a lot of business to capable colleagues, suggested useful reading/conferences/discussion groups/etc., and helped as many as I could directly. With the winding down of my consulting practice this year, there’ll be a lot more of those referrals. But knowing the questions is the first important step toward getting good answers regardless of whether you’re doing it yourself or getting (hopefully great) 3rd party advice
Carnac In Bloom
Toward that end, and presuming that you have studied my methodology for strategic HRM and HRMDS planning, I thought you might enjoy my list [updated as of 10/27/2013] of the HRMDS issues that have given rise to so many of these requests for assistance. Some combination of these issues almost always has been the impetus for that first call/email/DM/whatever from a global HR executive, and they also permeate the online HR technology conversations. Unfortunately, it usually takes a broader planning effort to make sure that sir/madam HR leader isn’t playing that loser’s game of whack-a-mole in resolving these types of issues. You know that game: no sooner do you put one issue to rest than two more rear their ugly heads, and soon you’re entangled, not unlike Gulliver, by a hairball of these issues.
So what are the issues? In no particular order, but now with some of my thoughts about the answers:
- Can we afford to/should we upgrade our licensed, on-premise ERP/HRMS? In most cases, IMO the answer is a resounding no. However, you might be the one in many for whom this is still a sensible course of action, at least until the newer true SaaS ERP/HRMS/TM (yes, with truly and deeply integrated talent management capabilities because core HRMS and TM are inextricably intertwined) have matured sufficiently for your industry/geography/business requirements. But if you do plan to wait, please keep an eye on the future because it’s racing toward you, and use this time wisely to rethink every aspect of your HRM policies/practices/data and coding structures/processes/business rules/etc. for the current era.
- Can we afford/manage the integration of separate talent management applications? Here too, in most cases, IMO the answer is a resounding no. But here too you might be the one in many for whom this is still a sensible course of action — and for the very same reasons and with many of the very same caveats as in #1 above. When you develop object models for talent management, the sheer number and complexity of the interconnections are revealed, and it is those interconnections which argue for more rather than less integration of the resulting applications and business processes. That said, some TM processes are less interconnected than others, so there are options here if — IF — you study carefully those interconnections.
- Are we better served by getting our talent management capabilities already integrated with our system of record’s (SOR’s) foundation from our SOR’s vendor than by piecing together/layering on a variety of separate talent management applications, no matter how supposedly integrated they may be? Yes, but only if that so-called integrated talent management software is really integrated rather than glued together with some complex set of “integrations” across disparate object models, architectures, and underlying assumptions about HRM. With so much M&A across the HR technology industry, not to mention separate development efforts at the same firm, many brands now own a hodge podge of HRM software, including talent management software. While many of these applications may be quite good on their own, most are not integrated in the deep, profound way that’s only achieved through organic development of an HRMS/TM suite based upon a shared set of object models, architecture and development environment. But, and it’s a huge BUT, organic development doesn’t necessarily produce great software. So we need both deeply integrated and great HRMS/TM. That’s the ideal, but all manner of approximations and combinations may work for you depending on your current HRMDS and your overall HRMS/TM strategy. Here too, modeling the domain leads to an understanding of what it is about core HRMS and TM which are inextricably intertwined and where there are less interconnected areas. But please note: if you plan to embed predictive analytics, calculated on the fly across a wide range of HRM processes, you’d better ensure that all of these are resting on a common object model, with a common approach to effective-dating etc. so that your analytics aren’t a house built on sand.
- Are the so-called integrated talent management capabilities from our SOR’s vendor truly integrated or are they in some stage of being interfaced and given a more or less common user experience? This is where those “killer” scenarios (and do search my blog on that phrase to find many posts covering the actual scenarios) come in along with your vendor’s own documentation. If there are integration processes/documentation/roadmaps etc., then you know a priori that you’re not dealing with the deepest level of integration only achieved during an organic build. Should you care? That depends entirely on where you need deep integration and where perhaps you don’t, and this is another great question best answered via using your own vision of HRM.
- Does our system of record’s (SOR’s) coding structures/data granularity/data accuracy/data-entry style self service/processes/business rules/etc. support talent management at the level we need? Let me say for the umpteenth time that you can’t do succession planning (executive or more broadly), position-based staffing, position-based organizational design (or even great org charts), workforce planning at any level of granularity, and so much more in TM if you don’t include a reasonable understanding and implementation of position in your coding structures. No pain, no gain. Organizations which continue to implement new software on top of outdated processes, data and coding structures, and business rules are fooling themselves. Yes, you’ll be able to deliver analytics of some flavor to mobile devices, but you won’t have valid analytics or know if you’re even asking the right questions.
- Are the right capabilities available in our SOR and/or have they been implemented properly? So many of the ERP/HRMSs implemented with the help of major SIs were customized within an inch of their lives, often at the customer’s insistence — “we’ve always done it this way” — thus becoming a nightmare to upgrade. And with that huge sunk cost, on-premise ERP/HRMSs are going to have a long tail. But there’s a potentially huge opportunity cost to not having up-to-date capabilities, of not being agile in the face of business change, of not being able to attract and engage workers with a consumer user experience, etc. That opportunity cost can and must be measured as part of making the business case for staying on or moving off of your current SOR; use TCO alone at your peril.
- How can we bring our data entry-style self service into the mobile and social world? The bad news is that if you don’t build it, they won’t come — or they’ll sidestep everything you provide in favor of the consumer apps they know and love. Today’s workforce, especially those special folks with scarce KSAOCs who fill the key roles driving business outcomes, expect high quality technology enablement of their business processes, to include a consumer grade (but industrial strength) user experience. And they vote with their feet.
- If we’re running on an ERP/HRMS, should we upgrade in place, implement that vendor’s next gen (when it’s ready, and whether or not it’s more or less next gen than we need), mix and match, or consider the options from other brands? I think I’ve already answered this, but let me say it one more time. Whatever else you consider, it’s absolutely necessary to take a hard look at all your options and not just those from your incumbent. This will be a new implementation even if you stay with your incumbent’s next generation, so you might as well take a look around before you make these decisions.
- Will our smaller/weaker but still independent core HRMS vendor(s) be able to make needed regulatory, architectural and functionality investments in their products? Will they be around long enough and with sufficient resources to deliver on mobile, social, global, analytics, gamification and so much more? This is an easy one because facts are facts. Just look at the track record of M&A in our industry, and you can see how many once independent players are now owned by aggregators, including private equity-funded aggregators. And while many of these products are still around, with some getting decent levels of maintenance investment, I believe it’s now clear that the weak are not going to inherit the software kingdom as we move aggressively to true SaaS.
- Lots of our vendors are describing their latest products as SaaS. How would we know if that’s true? Why should we care? Please, please read my posts on these points (just search for “true SaaS” to get them all) before concluding that if it’s hosted and subscribed you’ll be just fine.
- If our current vendors aren’t true SaaS as Naomi has defined it, are they likely to be viable long-term? Are there other workable definitions that make sense for some vendors? Sure. For example, one major vendor, Oracle, has a very different view of true SaaS than I do, and they have the long tail of their installed base plus almost unlimited resources to ensure that their point of view has legs. However, you should still educate yourself, if you’re a PeopleSoft or even EBS HCM customer, about the real compare and contrast between Fusion HCM and your other options. And that said, do read my posts on the business benefits of true SaaS as I define it to be sure that you’re going to get those benefits via someone else’s definition of same, no matter the size of their marketing budget.
- Is it the right time to make the leap to a newer, SaaS generation of integrated HRMS/TM which are building out talent management functionality very quickly as well as their global capabilities? It’s clearly no longer a question of whether but of when. All the major vendors of licensed on-premise HRMS/TM are moving as fast as their legs can carry them to take themselves to the cloud as well as to build out their cloud offerings, so they clearly are betting on a SaaS future (whatever their definitions). And there could be substantial $$ savings which would argue persuasively for a sooner rather than later leap. But our timing may be linked to an energizing event, e.g. the arrival of a new CIO who’s experienced with true SaaS and was brought in to move us there faster and/or the arrival of a giant bill from our vendor for extended support of an aged HRMS. Okay, enough with the opinions or this will be longer than anyone will read. You’re on your own from here folks.
- Should we stick to our older on-premise ERP/HRMS and add one or more talent management applications on top? With what approach to interfacing and/or integration?
- What types of social technology capabilities should we consider for HRM? Across our organization? Unleashed within what processes?
- Should we be looking for social tech within the foundations of our HRMS/TM unleashed where we want them or looking at specific social apps?
- Is it better to provide social technology capabilities that are specific to an HRM process or to provide broad access to those capabilities across HRM with a build it and they will come approach?
- What policies are needed to balance the value of social technology with protecting our intellectual property, personal data privacy, and organizational productivity?
- Should we be looking for mobile capabilities within the foundations of our HRMS/TM unleashed where we want them or looking at specific mobile apps?
- Is it better to provide mobile technology capabilities that are specific to an HRM process or to provide broad access to those capabilities across HRM? What’s this I hear about “mobile first” design, and why is that better?
- What policies are needed to balance the value of mobile technology, including “Bring Your Own Device” (so BYOD) with protecting our intellectual property, personal data privacy, and organizational productivity?
- Are there obvious HRMDS targets for outsourcing? Of course there are, so are we doing as much of this as makes sense for us? Subscribing true SaaS is a form of outsourcing but here we’re referring to outsourcing an entire HRM process where the provider delivers the results so an agreed service level.
- Are there areas within the HRMDS that just don’t make sense to do any way other than via outsourcing? Background checking, tax filing, payroll in countries where we have small populations, development of generic learning content and/or KSAOC assessments come immediately to mind.
- What impact would outsourcing specific HRMDS components have on our ability to present an integrated view of organizational HRM data?
- What impact would outsourcing specific HRMDS components have on our ability to provide embedded, actionable analytics?
- Are there areas within the HRMDS that just don’t make sense to do any way other than via tightly integrated components? Here core HRMS comes immediately to mind.
- What impact would using best-of-breed solutions for specific HRMDS components have on our ability to present an integrated view of organizational HRM data?
- What impact would using best-of-breed solutions for specific HRMDS components have on our ability to provide embedded, actionable analytics?
- What are the characteristics of an HRM process that lend themselves to either tight or loose coupling with our core SOR?
- Our ERP/HRMS is described as licensed/on-premise, and we’re paying 22% of retail in annual maintenance. Are we getting enough value to justify those annual payments?
- Will our vendor’s next generation be free to us because of those annual maintenance payments? Are they essentially giving away their cloud software, at least for a time, or providing major discounts in order to keep us in the family?
- Are there alternatives to making those on-premise maintenance payments? Are their other sources for basic maintenance, especially if we’re on an older release?
- Will our talent management software vendor(s) survive and prosper? What’s at risk if we’ve bet on a vendor that gets acquired?
- With all the consolidation going on in talent management, how can we determine if our vendors will be acquirers or be acquired? Does it matter?
- Is it more important for us to get talent management right than to invest further in our administrative HRM foundations or will poor administrative foundations cripple our talent management efforts?
- Do we really have to build/maintain the whole data warehouse apparatus just to get obvious analytics? To support actionable analytics at the “point of sale?” So embedded in employee and manager self service?
- Why can’t our payroll provider (yes, we outsourced that years ago) support the variety of workers, work roles, work schedules, total compensation plans, and other practices that we’re now using or need to use? What are our options here?
- What about our global payroll requirements? We’ve got large populations in a few countries and very small populations scattered everywhere else? Should we handle this ourselves?
- Are there truly global payroll providers whose capabilities are integrated and priced well?
- And what impact will the coming changes in health care, talent management, social learning, globalization, HR technology, workforce diversity, executive compensation caps, government austerity programs, [you name the issue] have on our aging, too many moving parts, never implemented well and/or too expensive to maintain HRM delivery system — and on our ability to deliver the HRM outcomes our organization expects?
- We seem to have a disconnect between our administration and strategic HRM data — could that be the result of disconnected systems, data definitions, organizational responsibilities, HRM business rules, etc.?
- What changes should we be making in our HRM policies and practices to support a more social, mobile and global workforce? Won’t our software vendors provide these?
- I keep hearing about social/mobile/global/embedded analytics/the importance of integrated talent management/[you name the hot topic here], but these capabilities seem to be add-ons at added cost etc. from our primary vendors. Is that right?
- How do I push more and more responsibility for HRM to managers and to the workforce without having a whole range of compliance/productivity/decision-making problems? How do I provide these users with enough embedded intelligence to enable effective decision-making? To enable correct and timely HRM transactions?
- Every time I ask for a briefing on the current state of our HRMDS, my eyes glaze over from the complexity and detail. How do I know if we have more moving pieces than we need? If we have the right pieces? If we’re spending the right amount to achieve our needed outcomes?
- How can we keep all the pieces well playing together? How much bailing wire and chewing gum does it take to keep everything running?
- Our CEO asked me if we have the HRM capabilities we need to help the organization deliver improved business outcomes. Frankly, I haven’t got a clue.
- How can I find enough resources to invest in strategic HRMDS components when everything’s being starved because of the black holes of administrative HRM, including compliance, which really don’t drive business outcomes no matter how well-done they are?
- Cloud/smoud — my CIO is deadset against it but all the hot new software is built for it. What do I do?
- I know we need analytics, but which ones? My team has proposed 217, all of which sound interesting and potentially relevant, but what I really need are the half dozen that would tell me how we’re really doing?
- Social sourcing sounds wonderful, and everyone’s doing it, but is it really applicable to our need for [place your scarce KSAOC list here]?
And now for a few of my personal favorites, those calls for help that I can no longer provide, just for laughs.
- We bought the software, signed up for maintenance, and have it loaded on our computer. But it seems to sit there waiting for us to tell it what to do. Is that right? Doesn’t it come loaded with “best practices?” We budgeted for a “vanilla” implementation on that expectation.
- My global head of talent is telling me that we must get all of our talent applications from the same vendor in order to get the deep process and data integration that he tells me integrated TM requires. If we do that, buy everything from a single vendor, will it really truly scouts’ honor be fully integrated?
- The last guy who’s able to maintain the extensive COBOL code we used to create our highly customized Cyborg/Genesys/Tesseract/Integral/MSA/[put your favorite truly over-the-hill essentially payroll but now doing everything imaginable application brand here, and with full knowledge on my part that all of these brands are getting some level of quite sincere regulatory support and other updates from their current owners] has gone out on emergency long term disability, and we never did get him to document that code. Help!
- My predecessor insisted that we needed an enterprise-level ERP/HRMS. Four years and millions of $$ later, we’re not implemented, the SI (systems integration) leader (the new one, his precessor was promoted) tells me that we don’t have either our organizational structure nor our jobs defined right to meet the analytical requests I’ve made of the system, the release we’ve been implementing seems to have been overtaken by the vendor’s newest release (and that’s the one that has the improved user experience that we really need), and now my new golfing buddy (who’s a partner at another SI) suggests that what we’ve selected is gross overkill for our 500 person, entirely US-based call center business for which our financials are moving “into the cloud,” whatever that means. When I told a trusted HR exec colleague about all of this, she said don’t make another move until you talk to Naomi.
All laughs aside, these are really tough questions, all of them. And you know that I’ve got a bunch more, along with my thoughts on how to answer them, across my blog. When you put these questions into the context of a specific organization, of your organization, answering them is worthy of your best efforts. So “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” then delve into the details to develope their own answers. If you are facing any of these questions, please do your homework and don’t be flimflammed. I’ll look forward to adding your questions to my collection above, so do send them to me.
This comes to you from the Hilton at Heathrow Airport. We’ve had a wonderful sojourn in England — such a civilized country, especially when you’re far away from any large cities — but it’s time to get back to work. And since I know I won’t have wifi on the flight across the pond tomorrow, please excuse my attempt to get this done before we leave.
If you’re anything like me, from the time you arrive in Las Vegas and/or Amsterdam (and yes, The Wallace will be with me in both places), it will be:
- non-stop vendor/industry meetings,
- exhibition hall booth visiting (I make a valiant effort each year to stop at everything single booth, but especially the US show (with no connection to the Amsterdam one) has gotten so large that many of these visits are flybys – no disrespect intended),
- session attending,
- session delivery,
- intense but wonderful hallway exchanges,
- time with valued colleagues and long-standing industry friends,
- an occasional meal and more than an occasional drink,
- tweetups and meetups,
- our annual Brazen Hussies gatherings, and more.
I have just celebrated my 68th birthday (it was 9/24 in case you want to plan now for next year) and am basking in the afterglow of another year well-lived. Living large, personally and professionally, honors those who never got this far, and the number of loved ones who didn’t grows longer with each passing year. One of the byproducts of aging that’s rarely discussed is how many friends and family members you outlive, and each one of those losses really hurts.
As I’m finalizing my own preparations for these conferences, I thought you might enjoy a few tips from my personal list. And like all good twitterstreams, please read from the bottom up:
#HRTechConf bonus tip: This is where I had planned to suggest that you read my entire blog, from 11/9/2009 forward, but that seemed really pushy. Instead, just read those posts that are relevant to your purpose in Las Vegas and/or Amsterdam. I can’t help but encourage you to focus on the posts that discuss what’s happening in HRM software that’s just out of sight, what you should be looking for “derriere le mirroir.” What you don’t know can cost you dearly!
#HRTechConf tip #10: Get #HRTechConf and #HRTechEurope 2014 on your calendar and in your budget now. With Steve Boese taking over Bill Kutik’s impresario role for the US show, I’m sure we’re in for some surprises. But I’m counting on Steve doing a bang-up job of continuing the tradition of great session topics and presenters which has made the US show the absolute best in class. And Marc Coleman and Peter Russell will be one year further along, in 2014, their own show’s growth and learning curve. Ron and I are already planning for next year, and I hope you will do so ASAP.
#HRTechConf tip #9: Talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen because sharing questions, ideas and experiences with colleagues is the point. Bring your list of the folks you follow most on Twitter and make it a point to meet them. Come to my “ask the expert” sessions and hit me with your questions. And do feel quite comfortable approaching almost anyone about anything reasonable; it takes a village, and that’s HR Tech all over.
#HRTechConf tip #8: Bring a swag carrier if you’re flying in or plan to carry your #Monster home in your lap. Ron can’t imagine coming home from #HRTechConf in Las Vegas without a new monster, and who’s going to tell him that we’re overrun with them here at HQ? And if you’re a vendor doing some swag planning, we love: umbrellas (the rainy season is on right now, and you can never have too many), interesting stress reduction toys, cuddly creatures (why doesn’t anyone ever give away big stuffed alligators), shoe bags (those soft ones in which you pack your shoes when traveling), towels (all sizes appreciated), t-shirts (medium for Ron, XL for me — embarrassing but true), but please no more vendor-branded iPad covers. The risk of meeting with Vendor A with your iPad wrapped in Vendor B is too high.
#HRTechConf tip #7: Leave room in your schedule for serendipity and for nature breaks — well at least nature breaks. I’ve met some amazing women during those nature breaks; I can’t speak for what goes on in the men’s room.
#HRTechConf tip #6: Attend as many sessions as possible. I do because they’re excellent, and at Bill’s show there’s NO sales crap allowed. Woe be it unto any vendor who tries to slip a sales pitch into their session because the Kutik has both a loud gong and one of those long sticks with the curved ends they used in vaudeville to pull bad acts off the stage. Organizers of the Amsterdam conference, which is really still a startup, are working hard to ensure that program content is as free as possible of overt selling from the stage, and I’m quite prepared to support them in this effort with my collection of noisemakers.
#HRTechConf tip #5: Don’t try to attend > 3 vendor parties after a long first day of sessions. I hate missing all those great parties, but my party all night and work all day years are behind me — and behind many to most of you. Save at least a few brain cells for the second day of sessions; you’ll thank me if you do.
#HRTechConf tip #4: Plan your conference in advance. With what vendors do you want to schedule extended and/or private demos? Make those appointments now. What attendees with whom you share specific issues/vendors/industry concerns/etc. do you want to meet? And if you’re all on the same true SaaS product, you won’t have to waste a minute asking each other what release you’re on! Do that outreach and arrange those meetings now. Pick your sessions and, because there are too many good ones for just one person, find a buddy with whom you can divide and conquer. Better yet, bring a whole team to these conferences and cover the ground.
#HRTechConf tip #3: Carry a water bottle and refill it every chance you get. Convention center climates are designed to dessicate, and they never have enough refreshment stations. I could suggest that you bring a flask, but we HR people would never make such a suggestion.
#HRTechConf tip #2A: Assume that the convention center will be too cold/too hot/too drafty/too whatever, and dress accordingly. We’ll be overrun with executives from across the industry, buyers and sellers, so you may want to lose the flipflops, cutoffs, and anything that reveals parts of you that I’d rather not see. Here I’m showing my personal biases, but business casual does not translate in my book into anything lower down the sartorial scale than clean pressed jeans, a similarly clean ironed t-shirt with at least short sleeves, most of your tattoos tactfully covered, and shoes. Of course, these suggestions only apply to the granddaddy of HR technology shows, the big Kahuna, in Las Vegas. Our Continental colleagues lean toward business formal, as in dark suit and tie. Hmm….
#HRTechConf tip #2: Wear your most comfortable walking shoes. There will be few places to sit except in sessions and long convention center distances. Yes, I know that my younger female colleagues will want to show off those Manolo platform spikes — the latest in fashionista circles — and I don’t blame you, but be sure you’ve got a suitably designed male colleague at the ready to carry you after the first hour. Having done my fair share of spike heel time, I’m convinced that there’s a direct connection to my now arthritic joints. It doesn’t matter what shoes I’ll be wearing as I flash by on my magic carpet. And speaking of that magic carpet, we finally found, in an English antique shop, a suitable horn.
#HRTechConf tip #1: For vendors of greatest interest, do your homework in advance, preparing the mental scenarios that you’d like to see, so that booth time is hands-on demo time. And be sure to spend time on the floor checking out some of the newer/smaller vendors. There’s a ton of innovation going on in our industry, and it isn’t always on offer at the flashiest booths. In spite of the heavy industry consolidation, The Kutik tells me that there will be more booths this year in Vegas than last, and I for one am not very familiar with some of the smaller European vendors for whom Amsterdam is their chance to shine.
Before I post this, I wanted to mention one other great suggestion that’s not entirely mine. In Las Vegas, be sure and tell Bill Kutik how much you value all he’s done for our industry by organizing these fantastic town meetings. He’s worked his butt off to make sure that our time at these conferences is the highlight of our professional year, and it shows. You should also follow my lead in wishing Steve Boese well and pledging our support as he picks up the maestro’s baton for 2014.
As the years in front are increasingly outnumbered by the years behind, it’s a wise person who takes stock of what they’d like to do/see/experience/learn/etc. during those years in front and how and with whom they would like to spend their precious time. And today, we begin the Days of Awe, that time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we Jews are commanded to take stock, to address our own shortcomings, and to rededicate our lives to higher purpose. We are also commanded, during this period, to resolve outstanding earthly issues before we seek atonement during Yom Kippur for our spiritual ones.
So, with Rosh Hashanah starting today at sundown, amid a dismal set of global and American challenges, it seems like as good a time as ever to do a little extra reflection, analysis, list-making and rededication. Have we done as much as possible during the last year to serve mankind? Have we used our capabilities to the max in benefit of not only ourselves but humanity? Have we dealt honestly with our family, friends and colleagues in both our personal and business dealings? Are there acts of kindness which we should have committed but whose moment we let pass without action? The list is long of all the ways in which we may or may not have lived up to our potential, and so is the list of commitments to improvement that we should be making for the New Year.
To my Jewish friends, family and colleagues, “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem,” may you and yours be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet year. And to all the gentiles in my life, I wish you exactly the same, even if you’re working off a different calendar. We can but pray that 5774 will be the year when mankind grows up.
As I get ready to host Brazen Hussies events, speak at and attend the 2013 HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas and the (not related) European HR Technology Conference in Amsterdam, I’ve got some surprises up my sleeves, to include announcing my latest professional resolutions. There’s nothing more motivating when you really want to keep resolutions than announcing them to a few thousand colleagues, many of whom will tweet/blog/chat/generally call out your accomplishments or lack thereof. Since I plan to report just before the 2014 conferences about how well (or not) I’ve done with my 68th Bday professional resolutions, I thought I’d build momentum for their accomplishment by committing to them publicly — right here and now:
1. Spend as much time as possible, online and IRL, with the Enterprise Irregulars – when I was honored with membership in this group in 2009, little did I realize at the time what a powerfully smart, knowledgeable and generous group I would be joining. I’ve learned a ton from the @irregulars this past four years, so much so that at times my aging brain goes into overload. We’ve celebrated each other’s triumphs and tribulations, dissected each other’s thinking (and I do mean dissected),and plotted how to improve enterprise organizational performance through best practices in all things tech. But I’ve never been more proud of this group or honored by my membership in it than in how they rallied to support my decision to wind down my consulting practice.
2. Blog more often — I had such good intentions when I began my blog 11/8/2009, but life has truly gotten in the way quite a bit over these four years. Since I can’t even consider retirement until I’ve said everthing I have to say about HRM, the HRM delivery system, HRM software and vendors, HRM outsourcing and providers, and many more professional topics of interest, I’ve just got to do a better job in 2014 of finding time and focus to blog.
3. Travel less on business – business travel, no matter how productively you use your time on the road, is a giant time waster, good eating habit destroyer, and exercise routine disruptor. After more than forty years on the road, I know the price paid by family and friends who don’t see you enough, community needs that you can’t meet, wardrobes that never get replenished except in crisis mode, and household responsibilities that get only barebones attention. While I love seeing clients, vendors, conference attendees in situ, and speaking face-to-face with as many in our profession as possible, I think it’s time to open up the conference room at Casa de Ranas for more such meetings and encourage everyone to consider southwest Florida as a choice locale for their conferences/meetings/etc.
4. Go deeper and push harder in support of HRM SaaS InFullBloom — I’ll write more about the sea change that’s picking up steam every month in HRM software, but what’s important about what’s happening is that, unless we educate everyone involved about the importance of great HRM SaaS (as opposed to old data/process design and architectural crap dressed up in new clothes, as happened all too often as we went from mainframe to client server HRM software), the opportunity of this moment will be lost. HR professionals must drive business outcomes by distinguishing between pretty UIs and profoundly important technology enablement to better HRM decisions by managers and workers. And HRM software professionals must know how and when to reinvent themselves and the software they create and support.
5. Take better care of myself — last but by no means least, this is truly the most important resolution. Now this might see an odd entry on a professional resolutions list, but there’s no way to get this far without a few scars, without a little slowing down of the machinery. Every time I read about colleagues doing triathlons or similar forced death marches, I cringe. But I also envy their energy and accomplishments. Swimming is my favorite exercise, and I used to be quite a good open water long distance swimmer. Now it’s laps in the pool, not just for the exercise but also because it’s where I do some of my best thinking. I don’t think I can get any taller, but I’m hoping that with more time to take better care of myself, I’ll improve my overall health.
Wow, just writing up those five resolutions was exhausting, so imagine what actually accomplishing them is going to take! Back to 2014 vacation planning, because I’m going to need them. And in case you were wondering, your gifts are due by September 24th.
Bill And Me And HRTechConf Makes Three!
I’m writing this as Ron and I are in New England visiting my family and both childhood and university friends. One of our visits is to North Haven Island, off the coast of Maine and only accessible by Ferry (assuming the seas aren’t running too high). I’m told we’ll have at least limited cellular service, and our B&B advertises wifi, so I’m sure I’ll be able to finish and post this wherever I am.
But it’s not all lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer at Bloom & Wallace (you might play the music while reading the rest of this post). A quick look at my calendar and todo list are enough to frighten anyone, but that’s what comes of trying to pack two years of living — professionally and personally — into every calendar year. The good news is that 2014 is going to be different.
Meanwhile, 2013 is already a record breaker. It does my heart good to see so many major HRM enterprise software vendors and outsourcing providers hot on the trail of bringing correct object models and Blooming architecture to their increasingly true SaaS platforms. Yes, metadata frameworks, proper multi-tenant architectures with inheritance and systemic effective-dating, and position-based and KSAOC-centric object models are just some of what’s taking root in our collective garden — although there continue to be far more weeds than I would like. And all of this will be a topic for discussion and “killer” scenario vendor demos in Vegas. These positive developments are just one of the reasons that I thought 2013 was the right year to make some big changes at Bloom & Wallace.
The 2013 HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas
is going to be terrific. It will be Bill Kutik’s last year as co-chairman of the show, and that is reason enough to get your butt to Vegas. But there’s so much more. As my farewell gift to Bill, I proposed and then helped Bill cook up a whole new format for our important Tuesday morning generation session. My real gift to him — and hopefully to you — is playing second banana to his hosting of the first ever HR Technology “Tonight Show.” We’ve got an amazing guest list, with (in strict alphabetical sequence so that you won’t be looking for hidden meanings in their order) Leighanne Levensaler, Pat Milligan, Brian Sommer, and John Sumser. These are four big, creative thinkers and articulate even amusing speakers about HRM and HR technology, and they were chosen for that reason alone. But rest assured that I’ll have a few thoughts of my own to contribute to the discussion, not to mention having a surprise or two for Bill up my sleeve.
If you read my post about big changes at Bloom & Wallace, then you know that 2013 is the last year I’ll be doing my very favorite “Ask the Expert” session at HR Tech (unless Steve Boese, our new conference co-chair, let’s me call it “Ask the Expert and a few of her favorite thought leaders who’ve come along to back her up”). The timing couldn’t be better for my topic: ”Should you spend one more dime on legacy vendors/products/data or process designs?” It’s absolutely time to revisit not just the terrific innovation going on at the periphery of our HRM processes and systems but also at the very core of those processes and systems — our foundational HRMS with integrated talent management platform along with their data and process designs. For many of us, it’s well past time that we took a fresh look at our business needs as they are now, with social, global, mobile, analytics, and so much more demanding our attention, and created an HRM delivery systems strategy for the future. So do bring your questions and your snark-o-meter to my session. Along with the business model changes at Bloom & Wallace has come a noticeable reduction in my never substantial inhibitions, so I’m sure we’ll bring down the house.
There are a ton of other great sessions scheduled (you can download the entire program here), and the exhibit hall will be crammed. I’m making as much time available as possible to attend those sessions and, as I do every year, to try and do at least a flyby at every vendor booth — although Bill tells me that, with more exhibitors than ever, there’s no way, even with The Wallace’s help, I’m going to get to every booth. I won’t even try to summarize the program because our impresario, Bill Kutik, writes the best marketing copy ever for this show, and you can find all of it at the conference Web site right here. But hot topics for me this year are all things analytics, Lexy Martin’s survey results, and getting real about enabling HRM processes with collaboration (aka social tech), and robotics — yes, robotics. Just as we’ve wiped out a ton of jobs with information technology, many more will be eliminated via the increased use of robotics, and all those robots must be spec’d (requisitioned?), acquired, onboarded, deployed, upgraded (developed?), and eventually retired/replaced/terminated.
Since I know that all of you are HR Technology Conference enthusiasts, there’s no need for me to do a laundry list of all the reasons why everyone who is anyone in our industry will be there with flags flying. But to make it a little easier for any of you who haven’t yet registered and made your travel plans, have I got a deal for you! Just use the Promotion Code BLOOM13
(all caps) when you register online at http://www.HRTechConference.com/register.html
to get $550 off the rack rate of $1,795. This is the largest personal discount available from anyone (only fair since I have presented more times there than anyone) and it doesn’t expire until the conference ends on Oct. 10. That said, hotel rooms are already running out, so you have no time to lose. And with the money you’ve just saved, you should have no problem paying for a rock bottom airfare with a little left over to send me a birthday card (Sept 24th, so it’s coming right up) – or not.
The Kutik is beside himself with glee over the early registration numbers, the show floor will be bursting at the seams in spite of vendor consolidation (did you know that new HR tech companies are hatching as quickly or more so than older ones are disappearing?), and I’m sure that hotel rooms (at least the discounted ones) will be filled to overflowing. Come to celebrate Bill’s last show, to see me playing 2nd banana (yeah right!), to attend my last solo “Expert Discussion Session” (always fun because it’s all about your questions — that’s the entire agenda), and to say hello to The Wallace as he conducts his usual swag patrol looking for more stuffed toys and stress reducers. Do say hello to Ron; we’ve got him convinced that everyone knows The Wallace. So please do join me and everyone else in Las Vegas – it’s an absolute MUST. Use the discount code yourself and share it with your colleagues, but use it quickly to have any hope of getting a hotel room.
Auntie Mame — My Heroine
Wrapping Up My Consulting Practice, Starting My Next Career Chapter
[For those of who got an early draft, please do read the final as I've updated it considerably based on your feedback and some late-breaking next chapter developments.]
One of my absolute favorite actresses of all time was Rosalind Russell. She died of breast cancer in 1976, so many of you may never have seen her during her career. She was amazing. Battling a number of health issues, including very painful arthritis, she achieved a body of work that makes the portfolio of most actresses, including the big names of today, pale by comparison. Drama or comedy, on stage or on screen, there was no one else like her — and no actress since has so captured my heart.
When she played the lead role in Patrick Dennis’ “Auntie Mame,” a movie I’ve watched at least a dozen times, she inspired me to be an Auntie Mame to now two generations of nieces and nephews rather than to emulate the more conventional women of the era, the women of my mother’s generation. And when her autobiography was published the year after she died, its title, one of the most memorable lines from “Auntie Mame,” became my words to live by: “life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving.”
Those words, and what they really mean, have guided many of my life’s choices, including those of my professional life. Aim high, take a chance, be passionate about what you’re doing, work your butt off, savor the opportunities, and appreciate just how fortunate you are to have more options than most people will ever enjoy. All this and more are wrapped up for me not only in her autobiography’s title, but also in the story of her life. Here was a woman who stayed married to someone she really loved, managed a substantial career, lived with serious health issues, and knew when to adapt, when to let go, and when to move on. I’m no Rosalind Russell, but I’ve learned a lesson or two from her life. And I’m still learning.
I’ve been on the road pretty much since I began my professional career mid-1967. I’ve tried hard to stay current, to generate fresh ideas, to figure out where we’re going rather than just dwelling on where we’ve been, and to make sure that every hour committed to a client was the very best hour I could deliver. I’ve had an amazing run, accomplished much of what I set out to do when I founded my solo practice in 1987, and I’m pretty optimistic for at least some parts of our industry. But making every client hour your best hour requires staying on top of everything that’s happening globally across HRM and IT, and at their intersection. It means being on point from early AM to late PM. There’s simply no way to digest, analyze, develop a point of view and explain all of this as quickly as our always on/always commenting culture expects of anyone who holds themselves to my impossible standards. At least not without working and traveling at a truly killer pace. As for what we euphemistically call “thought leadership,” that takes large amounts of quiet time as well as lots of time spent learning. And “thought leadership” is central to the type of consulting that I have enjoyed most.
While all of this has been going on, I’ve been trying to have a life. Traveling for pleasure, sailing (now trawlering) with Ron, investing as much time as possible in relationships with family and friends, actively supporting the causes and philanthropies that are important to us, reading voraciously, loving live theater, and so much more — but with my work life always taking priority. Always! Like so many of you, my life’s journey is littered with missed family gatherings and important life events, as well as far too many “worcations” (my own invented term for vacations which were overtaken by work). And like you, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel torn among competing priorities or when I didn’t wish for longer days/weeks/months/years. But in the real world, we do not get longer years, or as many years of youthful invincibility as we would like.
Life’s Banquet Awaits Me!
And that brings me to “Naomi’s Next Career Chapter!” I always said that, when I no longer wanted to keep up that “killer” pace, to do what it takes to deliver every consulting hour to my own neurotically high standards, I would do something else — and so I am. With a huge thank you to all my clients and client teams, and to the many colleagues who have supported not only my consulting work but also my lifelong learning efforts, this consultant is ready to shift her priorities from flat-out, hands-on, workaholic consultant to industry observer, commentator, writer, speaker, mentor, moderator, facilitator, advocate, agent provocateur, strategic advisor and Board member.
Surely you didn’t expect me to walk away from the industry I’ve helped shape and the 24/7 career I’ve loved? Au contraire! But I do want to give myself the gift — and what a luxury that is – of entering 2014 (not to mention 2015) without having every minute booked a year in advance and a mile long todo list which will never get done. So while I’m keeping an open mind, here are some preliminary thoughts on the next chapter, on the types of opportunities that will fit:
- On the pro bono side, I’m honored to be a Fellow of the Human Resources Policy Institute at Boston University, and I have just agreed to take on a similar role for the Candidate Experience Awards. Closer to home, I’m working on an initiative to build a non-profit organization to deliver shared administrative services, and not just HR-related services, to our local non-profits so that more of their limited resources can be focused on their missions.
- I love writing and may well continue my blog, but if so it’s focus and mix of posts will likely broaden over time. Many would say that’s been happening almost from the beginning, and no one seems to mind, but I’d love to apply my growing interest in watercolors to illustrating some of those posts.
- Once I have time to breathe, and assuming I keep writing posts of interest, I’ll probably review the whole subject of blog sponsorships. While I was consulting across the industry, I didn’t feel comfortable taking sponsorships, but without those potential conflicts of interest, this deserves revisiting. If that’s something in which you’re interested, November would be a great time to contact me.
- As for compensated speaking/thought leadership engagements, I’ve done a fair number of keynote addresses in my time, along with a wide variety of panels/podcasts/Webinars/videocasts and whitepapers. I’m sure I’ll be just as selective in the future as I’ve been in the past, but I may well have the luxury of accepting more international opportunities. One type of compensated session that I won’t be doing, after this year’s HR Technology Conference and the European HR Technology Conference (please note that these are in no way related), has been a personal favorite: the open-ended, bring any question you want, “ask the expert” session, unless of course I’m allowed to bring some “expert” buddies along to help out the old broad.
- Perhaps most exciting are the opportunities to support directly vendors and products which I think are best-in-class. I’ve always been comfortable promoting ideas in which I believed and citing vendors and products which met or didn’t meet my take on these ideas. Now freed of the ecumenical responsibilities of a consulting practice, I’ll be looking more closely at strategic advisor and Board roles. Maybe it’s even time to introduce an InFullBloom HR technology badge.
I owe so much of what’s been accomplished these many years to the clients who believed in me and the client teams with whom I have worked. I’d love to thank every one of you again personally; I hope I did so properly at the time. Some of you, especially in the early years, took a great leap of faith when I came around with my strategic planning methodologies and software design models and architectural preferences. Since I got hooked on all of this at my very first job out of UPenn, I’ve done my best to advance the practice of HRM via the enablement of great technology. On balance, it’s been well worth the effort, and that effort will continue.