Post Chronology

September 2014
« Jun    


Speaking Engagements

HR Tech, Las Vegas, 10/8-10/2014
HR Tech Europe, Amsterdam, 10/23-24/2014

Workday Predict and Prepare Webinar, 12/10/2013
CXOTalk: Naomi Bloom, Nenshad Bardoliwalla, and Michael Krigsman, 3/15/2013
Drive Thru HR, 12/17/12
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #110, 8/12
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Business Value," 5/3/12 Audio/Whitepaper
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Predict and Prepare," 12/7/11
HR Happy Hour - Episode 118 - 'Work and the Future of Work', 9/23/11
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #87, 9/11
Keynote, Connections Ultimate Partner Forum, 3/9-12/11
"Convergence in Bloom" Webcast and accompanying white paper, sponsored by ADP, 9/21/10
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #63, 9/10
Keynote for Workforce Management's first ever virtual HR technology conference, 6/8/10
Knowledge Infusion Webinar, 6/3/10
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Predict and Prepare," 12/8/09
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Preparing to Lead the Recovery," 11/19/09 Audio/Powerpoint
"Enterprise unplugged: Riffing on failure and performance," a Michael Krigsman podcast 11/9/09
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #39, 10/09
Workday SOR Webinar, 8/25/09
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #15, 10/08

Keynote, HR Tech Europe, Amsterdam, 10/25-26/12
Master Panel, HR Technology, Chicago, 10/9/012
Keynote, Workforce Magazine HR Tech Week, 6/6/12
Webcast Sponsored by Workday: "Building a Solid Business Case for HR Technology Change," 5/31/12
Keynote, Saba Global Summit, Miami, 3/19-22/12
Workday Rising, Las Vegas, 10/24-27/11
HR Technology, Las Vegas 10/3-5/11
HR Florida, Orlando 8/29-31/11
Boussias Communications HR Effectiveness Forum, Athens, Greece 6/16-17/11
HR Demo Show, Las Vegas 5/24-26/11
Workday Rising, 10/11/10
HRO Summit, 10/22/09
HR Technology, Keynote and Panel, 10/2/09

Adventures of Bloom & Wallace

a work in progress

Reprise — #HRTechConf And #HRTechEurope 2014 Attendee Tips

Along With Some Water-Saving Tips!This comes to you from our Viking Longship, Forseti, tied up in the very heart of the City of Bordeaux on its completely renewed waterfront.  We’ve had a wonderful three weeks of travel in France, including a week’s wine tasting cruise through the rivers of Bordeaux, 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, 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 and restroom 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 will soon celebrate my 69th birthday (it’s 9/24, and yes, I’ll be turning 70 in 2015, a landmark birthday in so many respects) 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 dates for #HRTechConf and #HRTechEurope 2015 on your calendar and in your budget right now.  With Steve Boese’s inaugural HR Tech behind him, I’m sure he’ll be planning the 2015 show with an ever increasing feel for what changes he wants to make going forward.  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 even as he gives it the Boese  touch.  And Marc Coleman and Peter Russell will be one year further along, in 2015, with 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 up to me after my 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.  Having spent the last three weeks in France, I think their idea of shared restrooms — common sink area and a collection of stalls into which you slip as they become available — has real merit.  Why should women be waiting on line while stalls in a separate men’s room are free?  And sharing the sinks would also provide mixed gender ad hoc discussions of conference-related topics — or not.

#HRTechConf tip #6:  Attend as many sessions as possible.  I do because they’re excellent, and in Vegas there’s NO sales crap allowed.  Woe be it unto any vendor who tries to slip a sales pitch into their session because I’m sure the Kutik has bequeathed to Steve Boese his 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 a much younger show, are working hard to ensure that program content is as free as possible of overt selling from the stage, and you should be prepared to support them in this effort with suitable rude noises if a vendor goes into marketing/sales mode.

#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, rumor has it 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.

This is Steve Boese’s first year programming and co-chairing HR Technology in Las Vegas, and I’m sure he’s had his hands full with the enlarged program and sold-out exhibition hall.  Please join me not only in wishing Steve well but in cutting him some slack as we attend his first ever HR Technology Conference as our fearless leader.  I very much appreciate Steve’s including me in this year’s program and look forward to doing my part to continue the tradition of “better each year” conferences over which Bill Kutik presided for so long.

2014 Edition: Do You Know How To Answer These HR Technology Questions?

[ It's HR technology conference season, and we'd better get our shit together if we're going to get the maximum value from our time spent at Carnac In Bloomthese conferences.  That means knowing what questions we're trying to answer before we're bombarded with vendors telling us that whatever they're selling is the answer to our not-yet-formulated-clearly questions.  That's why 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 it took weeks to extricate myself.   For 2014, writing this while our river boat is docked at Libourne, France, I've done a thorough update and added a few more of my own thoughts on the answers to these questions.  So what you're getting here is a mix: lots of questions with my current thoughts on the answers to some of them.  But please note that this is really intended as a "starter kit" of possible questions rather than a definitive list.  Please feel free to use my questions as a starting point, but your own questions should be much more specific and complete.  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, I've clearly stepped 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 for more years than most of you have been alive.  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 over the last two years, there have been 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.   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 9/9/2014] 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 marketing-speak “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.
  4. Are the so-called integrated talent management capabilities from our SOR’s (system of record’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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 only TCO (total cost of ownership) at your peril.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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?  Forget integration if you go down this path as the best you can do is a great job of two-way interfaces.  But if you must stay where you are for core HRMS — see above for potential reasons — then by all means figure out how to fill the gaps with interfaced talent management applications.  The key to making this work is to really understand the limitations of and maintenance workload associated with these interfaces so that your expectations are in line with the reality delivered.
  14. What types of social technology capabilities should we consider for HRM? Across our organization?  Unleashed within what processes?  I’m a big believer in use case-based unleashing of a rich assortment of collaboration tools rather than just providing those collaboration tools and expecting customers to do the unleashing.  One reason I feel this way is that results-oriented collaboration can degrade quite easily into time-wasting social noise.  Another is that to achieve meaningful collaboration requires a full rethink of all the incentives and barriers to human collaboration, e.g. job descriptions, performance goals, and organizational designs.
  15. 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?  Not to sound like a weasel consultant, but the correct answer is both.  Fundamental collaboration tools — embedded, user-created video content; discussion forums and threads; LinkedIn deeply connected to all worker/applicant KSAOC profiles and so much more — don’t all need to be built because many either open source or commercial capabilities can be made a part of the HRMS/TM foundations.  But whether built or bought and deeply embedded, there are considerable use cases for embedding a wide range of collaboration tools into the foundations of all HRMS/TM software.
  16. 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?  See comments on 14-15 above.
  17. What policies are needed to balance the value of social technology with protecting our intellectual property, personal data privacy, and organizational productivity?
  18. 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?
  19. 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?
  20. 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?
  21. 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.  I’ve long thought that background checking and US tax filing were obvious candidates for outsourcing to specialist providers.  Other great candidates include KSAOC assessment development and administration, US benefits administration, and those other regulatory processes, like garnishment management, which aren’t deeply interconnected with core HRMS/TM and which do benefit mightily from economies of scale.
  22. 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.  See above.
  23. What impact would outsourcing specific HRMDS components have on our ability to present an integrated view of organizational HRM data?
  24. What impact would outsourcing specific HRMDS components have on our ability to provide embedded, actionable analytics?
  25. 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.
  26. 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?
  27. What impact would using best-of-breed solutions for specific HRMDS components have on our ability to provide embedded, actionable analytics?
  28. What are the characteristics of an HRM process that lend themselves to either tight or loose coupling with our core SOR?
  29. 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?
  30. 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?
  31. 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?
  32. Will our talent management software vendor(s) survive and prosper?  What’s at risk if we’ve bet on a vendor that gets acquired?
  33. 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?
  34. 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?
  35. 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?
  36. 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?
  37. 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?
  38. Are there truly global payroll providers whose capabilities are integrated and priced well?
  39. 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?
  40. 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.?
  41. 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?
  42. 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?
  43. 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?
  44. 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?
  45. How can we keep all the pieces well playing together?  How much bailing wire and chewing gum does it take to keep everything running?
  46. 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.
  47. 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?
  48. Cloud/smoud — my CIO is deadset against it but all the hot new software is built for it.  What do I do?  I could be flippant and say just wait for your CIO to be replaced, but that’s not very helpful.  Perhaps you could provide your CIO with selected readings?  Show him/her what true SaaS already in use — and yes, you’ve already got some, perhaps a lot, of SaaS in your organization — is delivering for the business.
  49. 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?  One of my favorite metrics for linking what HRM does to organizational outcomes is to calculate the average contributions to revenues and profits of each FTE workers (so both employees and contingent workers).  In a for profit organization, increasing revenues and profitability are central to both survival and success, so why not start there?  Going deeper, you want to highlight those aspects of HRM which drive revenue and profitability per FTE.
  50. Social sourcing sounds wonderful, and everyone’s doing it, but is it really applicable to our need for [place your scarce KSAOC list here]?  I’m a big believer in social sourcing, using public services like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to broadcast opportunities and research potential candidates.  But, and it’s a big BUT, the power of such broadly-based communities works best for those who have built up considerable street cred within these communities.  If I tweet a link about job opportunities in the HR technology industry, there’s a huge probability that likely candidates are among my followers.  But if I tweet the need for a nuclear physicist for a faculty position at MIT, there’s a much lower probability that my followers will include likely candidates.  Building a positive and useful presence online, for yourself and for your organization, takes time and a ton of effort.  If you intend to use such presence as a sourcing mechanism, there’s no time to lose because it will take considerable elapsed time before you’re ready to source effectively.

And now for a few of my personal favorites, those calls for help that I can no longer provide, just for laughs.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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!
  4. 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 predecessor 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.

Annual Reprise — Father’s Day Thoughts: Remembering Jack Samuel Bloom

Yahrzeit Candle

Yahrzeit Candle

[When I wrote the original version of this post for Father's Day 2010, I never planned to update and then reprise this post annually.  But as each Father's Day has approached, my sense of loss increases.  I so wish my Dad were still here to share with me and my sister the laughter and tears of everyday living.  And, now that I can afford to do it, with my time and not just money, I would so love to spend more time with him, hearing the stories of his childhood as well as of mine.  Ron and I have large paintings of our two fathers above a archway in our home built for this purpose, and they are very much with us in spirit.  They lived at opposite ends of the country, could not have come from more different backgrounds, and they only met a couple of times in their lives.  But I know they would be very happy playing pinochel with each other wherever they may be now.  ]

My father, Jack Samuel Bloom, was in many respects quite an ordinary man.  But from my Dad I inherited:

  • his ability to tell a good story, to make a point while making you laugh;
  • his commitment to active friendship, the kind of friendship that does what you need even when you don’t know you need it;
  • his belief that any day on which you wake up is already a good day, that the gift of life is too precious to waste; and
  • his habits of meticulous book-keeping, calendar-keeping, and commitment-keeping.

From my Dad I also inherited his love of reading and the sheer joy of opening a new book.  Later I discovered that for me, being rich meant being able to buy any book I wanted to read and never having to browse in second-hand bookshops unless I was looking for treasure.  Jewish families like ours, in the early 50′s, bought their children a copy of the World Book Encyclopedia, one volume at a time on a payment plan that they could scarcely afford, so that their children would be better educated than they were.  I remember my Dad reading that encyclopedia cover to cover, Aardvark to Zebra, even the boring bits (and there were many such), and perhaps that’s where I also learned that reading some books was about more than having the pleasure of meeting their words.

My Dad taught me to swim almost before I could walk by carrying me on his back as he swam from the gentle shores of White Sands Beach, in Old Lyme, Connecticut to the floating raft in the waters of Long Island Sound.  I’ve loved swimming and being in/around the water ever since.  I have no fear of the ocean’s waves and can still feel his support whenever I’m over my head.  But I can also remember his advice when it came to swimming in open, choppy water:  “keep your mouth closed.”  Words to live by in many of life’s “choppy water” situations.

We buried my Dad on my 50th birthday.  He spent just a few days in hospital, having not been ill before his unexpected collapse just as I was about to deliver a presentation at the 1995 SAPPHIRE conference in Phoenix.  To my Dad’s funeral came many hundreds of people we didn’t know whom he had helped, quietly, without ever being asked.  In his retirement, he had “adopted” older members of our synagogue who needed rides to doctors’ appointments, help paying their bills, or just an hour’s companionship.  Without the financial means of major philanthopy, he found the means for active philanthropy, through the gift of his own time and caring.

By the time I launched my own business in 1987, the cost of long distance calls, so daunting when I first left home in ’63, were much more affordable, and I called him most days in the late afternoon even when I was onsite with clients (which was most of the time in those early days).  Those calls always started with:

  • Dad: How’s business?
  • Naomi: Business is great.
  • Dad: Are your clients paying their bills on time?
  • Naomi: Yes, they sure are.
  • Dad: Are their checks clearing the bank?
  • Naomi: Absolutely.

When you know that those early clients were firms like Bank of America, Hewlett Packard and International Paper, something my Dad certainly knew, this ritual opening to our calls goes from being merely odd to very odd, unless you also know that being a small retailer all his life shaped forever my Dad’s view of Accounts Receivable.

From there we’d go on to the events of his and my day, and to what was happening across the Bloom family and the larger Jewish community in which I grew up.  I don’t remember my Dad ever calling me — long distance calls were for emergencies only among his generation — but I know he loved my calls because he reported on them to the group of men with whom he ate breakfast every day at a local deli.

I’ve always said yahrzeit for my Dad at the appropriate times in our Jewish calendar, and I think of him every day, but I miss him especially on Father’s Day.  If you’re lucky enough to still have your Dad, don’t wait for Father’s Day to call him.  And if you are a Dad, the gift of your time, of your self, is so much more important than anything you could ever buy with your money.

Reprise 2014: SAP, SAP, Wherefore Art Thou SAP?

SAP Founders 1988 -- Klaus Tschira On The Left

SAP Founders 1988 — Klaus Tschira On The Left

[The first version of this post was published May 25th, 2013 during the run-up to SAPPHIRE NOW 2013 and very shortly after SAP announced Lars Dalgaard's departure and Vishal Sikka's increased responsibilities -- and very important responsibilities they were.  Now here we are, nearly one year later, with Vishal gone, Bill McDermott as solo CEO, Shawn Price gone, Mike Ettling now head of SaaS and on-premise HCM, and so many more organizational changes which you can read about by skimming a year's worth of SAP's press releases.  Unfortunately, on careful rereading, the post below seems just as relevant now as it was then.  So, with just a few corrections for clarity and clearly marked additions to reflect a year's passage, I bring you my continuing concerns about SAP.  In the spirit of full disclosure:  SAP has not been a client in many years, and then my work with them was quite limited.  However I have worked with many of their direct HCM competitors, including Workday, ADP, Ceridian, and Ultimate.]

I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for SAP.  When I published my first (and thus far only) 700+ page book in 1994 (“Human Resource Management and Information Technology: Achieving A Strategy Partnership”), Klaus Tschira, one of SAP’s founders, became a big fan of my work, and me of his.

Early on, Klaus understood and believed in the power of object models and object-oriented development as well as in the importance of strategic HRM (so going a lot further than making merely administrative improvements in HRM), and he translated those views into SAP’s HCM products over the many years that he led HCM product strategy and development.  Our friendship started because we were simpatico when it came to enterprise software.

But it was while I was in Phoenix in 1995 to speak at SAPPHIRE that I was the beneficiary of Klaus’ great humanity.  My father collapsed while I was at SAPPHIRE, and I raced home to be with him.  Klaus gave my presentation for me, making sure that I didn’t feel I was dropping the ball on him and SAP, for which I will always be grateful.  My Dad never regained consciousness, but I was with him and able to support my sister and Mom through the difficult end-of-life decisions facing us — and to do so without any professional guilt.  So, even when I’m being critical of some aspect of SAP’s products, leadership, business practices, etc., I’m rooting for their survival and success.

Therefore, amidst all the discussion yesterday [added 5-31-2014: as well as over the last month] about the latest major organizational changes at SAP (and there have been many such over the years I’ve been following SAP), I kept looking for the silver lining.  No surprise that Lars decided to leave as many had predicted this.  And no surprise that SAP is betting on HANA; what else should they do?  Sad that their track record with HCM business leaders has been so poor, but it’s even sadder that there are so few highly visible women in SAP’s executive ranks [updated 6-1-2014 with many thanks to Jarret Pazahanick: there is now one, Ingrid-Helen Arnold].  But what really troubled me was that, not only via SAP’s own communications but also across the twitterverse and blogosphere, there was very little discussion of what SAP really needs to do in order to restore this giant of the last generation of business applications to being a successful competitor for the next generation.  And while I tweeted my thoughts on this yesterday, I felt they deserved a blog post of their own.

I believe that SAP needs a coherent, integrated and comprehensive next generation true SaaS applications strategy across all their product domains, and then to have delivered on this yesterday.  And since delivery yesterday isn’t possible, then they need to deliver on this at the earliest possible moment.  While innovative development platforms and databases are powerful and potentially disruptive, applications still run the world.  And with today’s expectations of embedded analytics, mobile delivery, built-in collaboration and social everything, the speed of in-memory applications as well as analytics is needed to unleash the predictive analytics which are our collective future requires.  So, as SAP’s huge installed base of on-premise customers, but more importantly customers lacking the needed applications foundations for success in the 21st century, make the move to “Blooming SaaS” in order to reap the significant business benefits of doing so, SAP must be ready to compete AGAIN for every single one of these customers.

Once upon a time, Business ByDesign was supposed to be that next generation, but that doesn’t seem to have panned out, and ByD has been relegated to the lower end of the market after much architectural reworking and without a very strong HRMS/TM capability.  And then, after buying the very expensive SuccessFactors, we were told that SAP’s next generation true SaaS offering would be some combination of SuccessFactors for TM, a greatly upgraded and rearchitected Employee Central (and the metadata framework thus introduced has been a very good start) for HRMS, a hosted rendition of SAP’s workhorse global payroll (now rebranded “cloud” payroll), some extrapolation of ByD’s financials and many more bits and pieces that lay well beyond my areas of expertise.  But in my opinion, that’s not good enough.  SAP’s customers, and SAP itself, deserve a lot more.

I think it’s [added 5-31-2014: long past] time for SAP to pick an architecture, development platform, database, object models and everything else that’s needed in the foundation and then to bring to market a whole new applications suite.  If HANA Cloud Platform is that architecture, development platform, database and more of the needed foundation, that would be terrific.  But even if that’s true, even if everything else we need as to effective-dating, inheritance, security, etc. etc. is contained within the HANA cloud platform, even if HANA provides a fully models-driven, metadata-rich, definitional development environment, there’s still a lot of heavy lifting needed to develop next generation object models across all the applications domains served by SAP.  And then those next generation applications must be reincarnated or built fresh on top of those object models on the HANA Cloud Platform.

That sounds like a ton of work, so I’m hoping that much of this is already done and just needs some pulling together.  [Added 5-31-2014: But my much more knowledgeable colleagues, who follow SAP more broadly and deeply than I do, don't appear to think that SAP is anywhere close to achieving what I believe they must.]  Wherever SAP is on the road to fulfilling the next generation dreams of their current customers and of the market, there’s not a moment to lose.  As for me, I’m hoping yesterday’s [added 5-31-2014: or all the latest SAP] organizational changes make this happen ASAP.

Hidden Talent

As some of you know from my tweets, I tap danced last night as part of a very special adaptation of a classic Fibber McGee and Blog -- Tap Dancing FeetMolly radio show at our annual fundraiser, Radio Daze: OnStage With Florida Rep.  It was quite a night, a successful and really fun evening, with many thanks to the Board members, staff and volunteers who made it happen.

There really wasn’t a rehearsal of my act as we ran out of time in a very busy pre-event scramble, so no one, including me, had a clue if I would make a total fool of myself, fall down go boom (although there were several doctors in the audience had I needed resuscitation), or put on a show.  Well, I survived my dance number by shortening it gracefully, and I’d like to think that my efforts helped inspired the spontaneous donations, but my 30 seconds of fame aren’t the subject of this post.  For that, we need to go back a few years.

At a Florida Rep Board retreat (I’ve been a proud Board member for many years), we did a team building exercise in which each member had to tell the others a few things about themselves that no one was likely to know.  In addition to getting to know each other a little better, those stories revealed a lot of hidden talents.  Through those stories and the conversations that followed, I learned that one member speaks Armenian, another’s mother and father were jailed in South Africa for their anti-Apartheid work when she was still a schoolgirl, and one of the others is a pretty impressive ballroom dancer (something I can confirm first hand after last night).  As for me, I sang in folk clubs in the 60′s, owned half of a BMW R69S and rode it all over the UPenn campus in spite of not being able to reach the ground from the seat by giving total strangers with long legs a ride on the back, and had been thrown out of tap dancing classes as a young girl (in spite of those classes being taught by a cousin) for being disruptive.

All of that hidden talent was only revealed when someone got us talking about it.  Would I have put such items on LinkedIn?  Probably not, because they wouldn’t have struck strike me as job-related.  But last night, in the interests of raising money for our nationally-reviewed professional theater, in doing my job as a Board member, I pulled out that hidden talent and let ‘er rip.  And that got me thinking about what other hidden talents lay forgotten or simply not uncovered and never recorded because, at the time, they don’t seem job-related.

LinkedIn does provide sections to capture our philanthropic activities and other interests, but without classifying the related capabilities with endorsements, how easily are they searched?  And what about your enterprise talent management processes and systems?  Are they designed to tease out your workforce’s otherwise hidden talents?  Do you have the conversations with colleagues that are needed to learn not only how well they’re equipped to perform the obvious requirements of their jobs but also what else they might be able to do if an appropriate situation arose?  Reviewing this post with The Wallace brought forth the suggestion that LinkedIn and enterprise talent management systems provide places to capture “things we’re able to do but hope no one discovers,” “things we’re able and willing to do if compensated appropriately,” and “things we once did which are now legal/culturally acceptable/in demand for which our KSAOCs could be resurrected.”  KSAOCs on steroids!

I don’t know if last night was the start or the finish of my tap dancing career, but I’m more committed than ever to ferreting out the potentially useful hidden talents of friends and colleagues.  Of course, there are some talents that should definitely remain hidden, and tap dancing may have been one such of mine.

Smart Machines/Robotics — Implications For HRM/HRTech — Where Do I Begin?

Hi, I'm Naomi, Your HR Tech SmartyPants Robot

Hi, I’m Naomi, Your HR Tech SmartyPants Robot

Last week I was privileged to deliver a presentation to the top women execs at ADP about the future of HR and HR technology.  Sounds straightforward enough, but it wasn’t.  My presentation wrote itself, and it demanded that I title it: ” A Tale of Two Futures.”

One of those futures I described as extrapolative, and one I described as discontinuous, all of which I’ll describe in a later post.  But the place to start this discussion and series of posts on the impact I believe smart machines and robotics will have on the world of work and on the workforce, not to mention on the HR profession and HR departments, is with the highest level business planning HRM considerations that I’ve been writing/speaking/consulting about since the mid-1980′s.  [Note: For those of you who have worked with the IP I've licensed across our industry, the next section should be familiar.]

Until recently, one major thread running through within this business planning process, which connects HRM planning to organization planning, went something like this (clearly this is a massive over-simplification, and my HRM object model notes here go on for many, many pages):

  1. What is the nature of the work that must be done to create our products/services?
  2. What are the KSAOCs (knowledge, skill, ability and other deployment-related characteristics — my very own term — which humans may possess and which are) needed to do this work?
  3. Would we be better off (in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) doing this work within our organization or buying the results of this work from a 3rd party?
  4. For that work which we think is best done by a 3rd party and purchased as results, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for purchasing this work as results?
  5. For that work which we think is best done within our organization, will we be better off (again, in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) using legal employees (legal here isn’t referring to the specific legal requirements of any particular country — that comes later — but rather the broader definition of employee, which is always defined at the country level) versus contingent workers?
  6. For that work which is best done in-house but via contingent workers, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for contracting with and onboarding effectively(yup! the old days of leaving all of this to procurement are long gone, and we know now that HR must be involved deeply in the whole life cycle of these workers) the necessary contingent workers?
  7. For that work which is best done in-house via legal employees, what are the best sources/terms and conditions/etc. for hiring and onboarding effectively the necessary legal employees?
  8. …. tons more but that’s enough for now.

Now this same business planning process looks different in some very important ways (again, a massive over-simplification):

  1. What is the nature of the work that must be done to create our products/services?
  2. What are the KSAOCs (knowledge, skill, ability and other deployment-related characteristics — my very own term — but with a definitional change to make clear that these KSAOCs are independent of their delivery mechanism, which could be human or not) needed to do this work?
  3. Would we be better off (in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) doing this work within our organization or buying the results of this work from a 3rd party?
  4. For that work which we think is best done by a 3rd party and purchased as results, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for purchasing this work as results?
  5. For that work which we think is best done within our organization, will we be better off (again, in terms of costs but also quality, risks, time to market, environmental impacts, and many other factors) using legal employees (legal here isn’t referring to the specific legal requirements of any particular country — that comes later — but rather the broader definition of employee, which is always defined at the country level) versus contingent workers versus smart machines versus humanoid robots?
  6. For that work which is best done in-house but via contingent workers, what are the best mechanisms/sources/terms and conditions/etc. for contracting with and onboarding effectively(yup! the old days of leaving all of this to procurement are long gone, and we know now that HR must be involved deeply in the whole life cycle of these workers) the necessary contingent workers?
  7. For that work which is best done in-house via legal employees, what are the best sources/terms and conditions/etc. for hiring and onboarding the necessary legal employees?
  8. For that work which is best done in-house via smart machines, what are the best sources, terms and conditions/etc. for acquiring and onboarding (yes, there are some very minimal onboarding steps needed, e.g. human involvement in “feeding the beast” in the way that IBM’s Watson requires knowledge owners to educate it, but more about that in a later post in this series) the necessary smart machines, most of which effort is best left to procurement because these smart machines are mostly categorized as “plant & equipment?”
  9. For that work which is best done in-house via humanoid robots, what are the best sources, terms and conditions/etc. for acquiring and onboarding (and here there’s much more of an onboarding story than with merely smart machines, e.g. showing our new best friend around the facility, assigning it to a team and to specific tasks, ensuring it has the necessary security to access facilities as it moves around doing those tasks, etc.) the necessary humanoid robots?
  10. …. tons more but that’s enough for now.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot, and from as many angles as my Talmudic training suggests, and I’ll be writing a lot more in this series.  But for now, this is probably enough to send jolts through every HR professional and HRM object modeler among the mishpocheh.  Indeed, the robots are coming, and HR had better think about what role the want/need to take where R2D2 is concerned.


My 2014 And Beyond Wish List For HRM And HR Technology

[I posted my first such wish list 1/29/2013, and just writing it lifted my spirits.  So, I thought to myself, why not do it again?]

Carnac In Bloom

Carnac In Bloom

If any of us really knew what was going to happen in 2014, wouldn’t we keep it to ourselves and invest accordingly?  Furthermore, anyone worth their salt in the industry thought leader/observer/influencer game is living under zillions of non-disclosures and embargoes, making any attempt at predictions  fraught with potential legal peril as stuff you’re not allowed to know seeps into the part of your brain that’s doing the predicting.  And just predicting something that’s an obvious extrapolation from what any fool can see doesn’t seem worthy of the Great Carnac turban.

So, although I love reading everyone else’s predictions, especially those which paint cogent pictures of technology and/or competitive landscapes while providing a ton of useful context for making their predictions, I’m continuing to focus my energies on what I want to happen.  What would I make happen if my magic wand, bought years ago at FAO Schwarz, could be recharged?  What would I ask him to do if The Wallace really could perform magic?  How would I change the practice of HRM and HR technology, and the KSAOCs of the relevant professionals,  if I were a (hopefully benign) dictator?  What would the all knowing, all seeing Carnac the Magnificent do if she were in charge?

This could have become a very long list of changes I’d like to make in “life, the universe and everything,”  but I’ve tried to control myself and focus solely at the intersection of HRM and IT.  Thus, I’ve left out whole swaths of desireable changes in technology (like wishing that Microsoft would develop a sensible object model for the contacts functionality in Outlook, e.g. so that folks could have seasonal addresses and households could be grouped together with email and mobile info by person), in business (like wishing that the financial executive thieves who stole our financial security in the great recession would go to jail and that politicians who lie would branded with a giant L on their foreheads), in society (like wishing for freedom and democracy to spread as quickly as do certain diseases simply through intimate contact), and in my personal life (like wishing I were tall/thin/blond/likely to live 100 years), and so many more types of wishes.  But I digress.

For the record, here is my short list of wishes for my professional world.  From now on:

  1. No one will call themselves an HRM business analyst or product manager unless they came pretty close to my view of the needed KSAOC profile for that role.  If you think this is a worthy goal, here’s my profile (now a little dated but still a good place to start).
  2. No one will call themselves an HR systems professional unless they had gotten their hands dirty developing custom or packaged software, configuring business rules in custom or packaged software, modeling the objects and then bringing them to life via definitional development, managing effective-dated meta-data, or similar.  It’s really not enough to have mastered some report-writer and to know the names and UX color schemes of all the vendors.
  3. No HRM software vendor will deliver so flawed an underlying data design or object model that even I can identify three significant flaws in the first ten minutes of their demo.  And that means getting job and position right, incorporating contingent workers and community members (as in collaboration communities) everywhere they belong (and no where that they don’t belong), and providing for the inherently recursive nature of work unit, work location, KSAOCs and more.  I really am going to out the very next vendor of new software (and here I’m trying to be sensitive to the fact that much legacy software doesn’t — although it should — pass muster when it comes to how well the underlying object model supports 21st century HRM), no matter for what intended target market, which is a throwback to the flawed data designs of yesteryear.  I REALLY AM!
  4. No analytics will be presented to innocent managers, employees, executives or others not previously bludgeoned into understanding crap data unless the underlying data on which it’s based is clean.  Furthermore, all analytics, with just a click/touch/point/smile, will be explained in terms of how they’re derived, what the results mean/could mean, and what to do to address those results, with these layers of explanation pushed or pulled appropriately based on what the customer is trying to do.
  5. All HR leaders will be the very model of a modern HR leader who understands how to select and deploy technology to support HRM’s responsibilities for driving business outcomes.  If you think this is a worthy goal, here’s my “starter kit.”
  6. Vendors who dissemble about or obfuscate their business strategy, product capabilities and roadmaps, or in other aspect of their answers to prospect/customer questions will experience the full impact of liar, liar, pants on fire.  And that includes throwing FUD at the competition, persuading prospects/customers to a course of action that serves the vendor better than it does that buyer organization, and pretending (in the face of all evidence to the contrary) that their first priority is serving their prospects/customers/market when they’re really serving Mammon.
  7. All prospects/customers who are ill-prepared, ill-informed, ill-mannered etc. in their interactions with vendors will experience the buyer equivalent of liar, liar, pants on fire via an Emperor has no clothes video gone viral on YouTube.  Buyers who haven’t a clue about their real business needs, who insist on zillion line item RFPs, who abdicate all responsibility to so-called consultants (unless they pass my tests 1 & 2 above with flying colors), and so much more, and especially those who don’t know the difference between great software/vendors and merely mediocre ones, deserve exactly what they get — and that’s exactly what they will get via my wish list.
  8. No one will call themselves analyst/influencer/thought leader/etc. unless they actually conduct objective research from which they draw and publish analysis (for analyst), actually have some demonstrated influence on the behavior of HR professionals and/or HRM vendors (and influence isn’t measured by Twitter followers or blog post readers but by actual changed in behavior attributable to your work), actually product meaningful insights or other forms of thought leadership that are respected widely.  In my wishful thinking neighborhood at the intersection of HRM and IT, we’ll have very high standards for what we expect in the work of those who want us to think of them as analysts, influencers and/or thought leaders.
  9. No one will “paint the roses red,” e.g. by calling whatever they’re selling SaaS, integrated, or effective-datedVocabulary does shape our thinking, and in my wishful thinking world, words will have meanings that are more concrete than jello.
  10. The impact on work and workers of advances in automation and robotics will be anticipated by industry and governmental leaders such that we will be able to balance the needs of organizations to take full advantage of the cost savings and performance enhancements from the best of technology and the needs of society to minimize the negative impacts from these same advances in technology.

Writing this wish list has been totally cathartic.  Having made every conceivable mistake in my career, not to mention having been ignorant on so many occasions, I know how hard it will be to achieve even a good start on accomplishing my wish list.  But just because something is really hard to achieve doesn’t mean we should give up, because this is important.  With $$$ pouring into HR technology and executives finally realizing that effective HRM really does matter, these next few years will be our best opportunity to realize my wish list.  So, just like in losing weight (but that’s another set of wishes on which my track record is VERY spotty), the journey begins with that first step.  And I hope to see all of you along the road to HRM and HR technology nirvana.

Applications Integration — Financials And HR

Blog -- Finance and HR imagesI’ve been thinking a lot lately about both business and applications integration.  You may have read my modest rant on the bastardization of the term integration as used to describe how applications are connected.  You also may have seen my videocast comments on the reasons why I think that your HRMS and core talent management applications (so performance, staffing, compensation, development, succession etc.) deserve a very high degree of what I mean by integration.

On that same videocast, there was also a good bit of discussion about the inherent connections between core financial applications and your HRMS, but I think there’s a lot more to say on this point, especially given a recent inquiry on same from my colleague Emma Snider.  It was Emma’s questions to me in the wake of that videocast that are the immediate impetus for this post, although it’s been on my list for some time.

With respect to our having discussed the connections between financial and HCM applications on the referenced videocast, she asked:  “In your opinion is this because HR and finance truly are going to start working together much more, so HR should be concerned with what finance is using in terms of technology, and vice versa?  Are the two functions really destined to team up?”

To these good questions, here’s how I responded [with my responses to Emma edited by me here for greater clarity]:

“First, finance and HR are inherently connected in a purely business sense in that (1) the bulk of most organizational costs (which can be 70% to 80% in businesses which are predominantly service-based) are related to their workforce, (2) understanding what it is about HRM that moves the dial on revenues and profitability goes to the heart of measuring and enhancing organizational performance, and (3) there’s no way to manage business outcomes without integrating financial and HR data quickly and cleanly, analyzing that data quickly and cleanly (to include predictive analytics), and then delivering that analysis directly to decision makers at their point of decision-making, i.e. as embedded analytics, at their speed of thought.  From a systems perspective, finance and HR share many enterprise level objects — including work unit, work location, person, account, contract, and many more — and place many of the same demands on system architectures, from the needs for widespread user access and effective-dating done systemically with full retroactive processing to the need for managing geographically-based regulatory requirements via powerful inheritance capabilities across and within SaaS tenants.  So, on both a business and systems basis, there’s a natural affinity between these two domains which argues persuasively, especially at a time of embedded analytics, for them to be integrated (as I define that term) in a systems sense and working well together in a business sense.

There’s a lot more to be said on this subject, but I hope this gives you a sense of where my head’s at when it comes to making the business case for considerable “Blooming” integration across financials and your HRMS — and I can’t wait for the comments to fly.


Modest Rant — Applications Integration By Any Other Name… Is Something Else

Painting The Roses Red

Painting The Roses Red

Given the active discussion (debate?) over on LinkedIn about my proposed definition of true SaaS (now renamed “Blooming SaaS,” this post was intended to be more of an insistence on precise definitions than a disparagement of other business/deployment/architectural options in enterprise HRM software), I thought I’d rattle a few more cages.  In the interests of encouraging a lively discourse, here I’m tackling the concept of applications integration.  If you think that there’s grade inflation in our schools and in workforce performance measurement, that’s nothing compared to what’s happened to the humble term integration as applied to HRM applications software.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, we had two terms for the way in which applications might be connected.  We called them interfaced, when disparate applications were connected, and integrated, when applications were built from the ground up to be inherently connected.  Everyone understood the differences, and there was peace in the land of (then) data processing.

Interfaced meant that we would pass a file (which could well have been on a reel of tape carried quite literally from one system to another, at least in the very early days of my career, or a transmitted electronic file or an agreed and shared Web service in more recent years) containing data written by one system that was intended to be read by another.  The format of that interface file was either imposed by the more powerful (politically or economically) of the two systems’ owners (e.g. health care plan providers, to this day, have considerable leverage when they insist that incoming employer files be formatted to their receiving specs) or negotiated agreed mutually (as was the case when two independent systems, even those owned by the same vendor, needed to move data between them).  And even as the technology for interfaces has advanced considerably (although delimited electronic file transmissions are still in wide use), what’s important to note here is that an interface does not impact directly the sending or receiving system.  The sending system knows how to create the interface and the receiving system knows how to use it, but they are otherwise just as independent as is AMEX from Amazon when I charge purchases on the latter to my credit card with the former.  In spite of their near real-time and highly automated exchange of agreed protocol messages, their connections still fit my definition of an interface.

In that same far away kingdom, once upon a time, integrated meant that although an application may have consisted of many automated processes/reports/edits/user views/whatever, they had all been developed against the same data design and architecture with the same programming standards applied across all the related code and, most importantly, with the same underlying assumptions about the subject matter domain applied across the entire application or set of applications as defined by the underlying data definitions.  Even as data designs evolved to database schemas and on to object models incarnated as objects, even as architectures evolved to take advantage of cooperative computing and layered designs and to address the needs of connected/social/mobile/self-service/global computing, and even as I lost complete track of how today’s enterprise applications are really constructed (along with many of you), I (some would say foolishly) continued to used the term integrated to refer to applications that were developed against the same object model and architecture with the same definitional development standards applied across all the related functionality and, most importantly, with the same underlying assumptions about the subject matter domain applied across the entire application or set of applications as defined by the underlying object definitions.

And then, when I wasn’t looking, the evil witch stole those very clear and quite different definitions of interfaced and integrated and replaced them with an absolute muddle so that HRM software vendors doing interfaced (but with some truly creative approaches to (1) ensuring that user experiences were consistent across disparate applications, (2) doing reporting/analytics/etc. against a consolidated data store, and (3) minimizing the differences across their applications in terms of domain assumptions) applications could describe their offerings as integrated.   Clearly those vendors appropriating integrated to mean interfaced (but very cleverly so) felt that the term integrated communicated more goodness than interfaced or they wouldn’t have appropriated it.  But in doing so, they forced the vendors with truly integrated application suites, what we’ll now dub “Blooming integration,” to search for a new term that means what the old integrated meant before there was grade inflation.

So out came unified, organic and G-d only knows what else to distinguish between those applications that were in fact integrated by my definition and those that were interfaced, again by my definition, no matter how sexy or attractively that interfacing is done.  Well, bah humbug on that.  None of these terms have the gravitas of integrated, and the vendor marketeers that stole integrated for their own nefarious purposes know that.  So just as I did with “Blooming SaaS,” I’m going to offer the stamp of “Blooming Integrated” to those vendors who really qualify — and call the rest “Blooming Interfaced,” again no matter how effectively it’s done.

But why should customers and users of HR technology care about any of this or is this really just an “inside baseball” discussion among dilettantes with nothing better to do?  These distinctions should matter a ton to customers and users because every dollar that must be spent on maintaining those non-Blooming integrations is a dollar that’s not going to be spent on product enhancements, customer support, thought leadership, and so much more.  And the greater the inherent interconnectedness of the underlying processes and objects of those non-Blooming integrated applications, the more money must be spent — now and forever — on keeping those non-Blooming integrated applications tied together as much as possible.

I’ll leave it for another post to dig into which HRM applications most need to be “Blooming Integrated” versus those which very conveniently can be left to connect via great, highly leveraged interfaces.  But there’s a good taste of where my thoughts are going in the recent #Predict14 videocast sponsored by Workday, beginning at minute 3.30, with more discussion here.  Hopefully, this gives you a little something to chew on mentally when you’ve chewed yourselves beyond full with Christmas dinner.  And may I close with my heart-felt prayer for a little more peace on earth in 2014.

A Bloom’s Christmas: Inventory Management And Retail Retold


Blooms Camera Ad Circa 1950

Bloom’s Camera Ad Circa 1950

[Disclosure: If you think you've read something very similar before, you’re quite right.  And you may read an updated version in the future.  I learned so much about business, absorbed it through my pores, as I worked at Bloom’s Camera (later, Bloom’s Photo Supply and then just Bloom’s, Inc.), lingered at my grandmother’s kitchen table after Friday night Shabbat meals where all the important decisions were made for that business, and was then apprenticed to all the other small businesses run by various relatives.  I went on buying trips to New York for the fancy ladies wear shop run by one aunt (they used to model the dresses at high end shops), learned the uniform business from another aunt, and was taught the basics of the Borscht Belt hospitality business by a great cousin.  By the time I got to my MBA program, cash flow, supply chain, human resource management and more were already baked into my world view.  So, with Christmas just around the corner, I thought you might enjoy a different perspective on this holiday.] 

On Christmas Eve, my Dad’s retail camera shop closed early, and we knew we’d have him with us all that next day.  Really just with us, even if he were too tired for much conversation after working the very long hours of the retail Christmas season.

New Year’s Day was for taking inventory, and it was all hands, even my very small hands, to the wheel.  But Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were really special.  Time alone with my father (of blessed memory) Jack Bloom was rare and precious.  He ran a modest camera shop with his brothers Paul (who’ll be 98 on New Year’s Day 2014 and with whom I’m working on his memoir) and Herman (who published his “romantic” novels under the name Harmon Bellamy).  Then and now, the owners of small family businesses work very long hours.

s house.  After dinner, Dad went off to Schul with his brothers.  On Saturday mornings, we were all off to Schul.  Because we were orthodox, only my one male first cousin Elliot got to sit with his Dad while, in those early years, we girls sat with our mothers, aunts and grandmother in the upper balcony, firmly removed from the males, by tradition, so as not to disturb their prayers.  Bloom’s was open on Saturdays (no retail stores were open on Sundays in Massachusetts until I had left home), so my Dad and his brothers went to work directly from Schul on many Saturdays, especially when the store was shorthanded by employee illness or vacations.

Summer Sundays were for golf in the mornings and family time in the afternoons, often spent visiting family who lived far away.  In those pre-turnpike (yes, before there were highways, there were turnpikes) days, the trip to Hartford, less than thirty miles away, took well over an hour.  But on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we didn’t go visiting; we stayed home so that Dad could rest, and that meant me sitting beside him as we watched TV (once we had one) or read from the World Book Encyclopedia.  My Dad was a great reader, something my sister and I have “inherited” from him.

In the run-up to Christmas, everyone worked long hours, and it was rare to see my Dad during December.  My cousin Ronni (of blessed memory) and I, from about age seven, ran the strange machine in the open mezzanine above the old shop floor (when the store was still on Main Street) that took addresses on metal plates and transferred them to labels for the Christmas mailing of catalogues (like the one pictured here) and calendars.  Long before it was fashionable for small businesses, Bloom’s Photo Supply was into direct marketing, and we carefully collected the names and addresses of every customer and caller, all of which were entered into the perpetual address files that my Uncle Herman kept.

Sitting in the mezzanine, Ronni and I bickered over whose turn it was to load the metal plate (not fun), load the next item to be addressed (not bad), or turn the wheel (most fun) and discussed what we saw going on all around us.  Excess inventory, the bane of every retailer then and now, was a major topic, along with fanciful ways of getting rid of it profitably.  We also took careful note of anyone who appeared to be shoplifting, quickly reporting any irregularities with arranged signals to the salespeople on the floor, and our eyes and instincts were sharpened by experience.  Even today, on the rare occasions when I’m in a store, I can’t help but notice such behaviors.

While I can never be sure, I think those conversations with Ronni must have been the origin of my now famous story (at least among my gentile Wallace family) about the invention of Christmas as an inventory management scheme.  In that story, the wise men were retail merchants who saw in the humble birth of Mary and Joseph’s son a solution to the already age-old problem faced by retailers everywhere of how to ensure that the year ended without extraneous, highly unprofitable, even outdated inventory.  This is one interpretation of the Christmas story that my Christian Wallace family had never heard until they met me.

By the time we were ten, Christmas season found Ronni and me, the two youngest Bloom cousins, helping behind the counter after school and on weekends, ringing up sales, selling film and other simple products, dealing with shop-lifters rather than just watching for them from afar, recording those sales in the perpetual inventory files kept by my Uncle Herman (there never was nor ever will be again a filer like my Uncle Herman!), and generally learning the business.  Everyone worked during the month before Christmas, including our mothers who were otherwise traditional homemakers, and by Christmas Eve, we were all exhausted.  But the lifeblood of retail is the Christmas shopping season — always was so and still is — so our family budget for the next year was written by the ringing of those Christmas cash registers.  To this day, whenever I’ve agreed a client project or speaking engagement, I can still hear, ever so faintly, that old-fashioned cash register ka-ching.

My Dad was buried on my 50th birthday.  My cousin Ronni, just four months younger than me, died in her mid-thirties.  Cousin Elliot, Ronni’s older brother, and the only male Bloom cousin, took over the business from our fathers when they retired, built it into something completely non-retail but VERY successful, and sold it 15+ years ago.  But if you’re ever in Springfield MA, you can still see the four story mural of long gone camera and photographic supply brands on the exposed wall of Bloom’s Photo Supply’s last retail address, on Worthington Street just up from Main Street.

For me, sitting in my usual place at the keyboard, Christmas Eve will always be special.  Years after my Dad retired and I had a business of my own, we talked daily, with me updating him on my business in response to his questions.  You can’t fail to hear the ghosts of a retailer’s Christmas past even as my very non-retail business thrived.  ”How’s business?” “Business is great Dad.” “Are your clients paying on time? “They sure are, Dad.” “And are their checks clearing the bank?” “Absolutely.”  This Christmas Eve, I’d give every one of those checks for another Christmas with my Dad.

To all my family, friends and colleagues who celebrate the holy day of Christmas, may you and yours enjoy a wonderful sense of renewal as you celebrate the great miracle of Christ’s birth.  And please pray hard, on behalf of all mankind, for more peace on earth in 2014 than we’ve had in 2013.