[The original version of this post was published here in January, 2012, but a call I did last night with a magazine editor reminded me that we must emphasize just how important it is to start any HR technology project with a well-grounded strategy. Far too many HR leaders (and CFOs, line of business leaders, and more) are still playing whack-a-mole with a laundry list of automation, process, business rule and/or business outcome pain points. They tackled those pain points as they arose rather than settling down to do the strategic planning that would have put them in front of those damn moles and equipped them to win the battle, once and for all. In case you forgot what those damned moles look like, here’s a good list with which to get started mole hunting. And please note that when I do a reprise, it’s not a reposting as is but a fresh review of an old friend, editting/updating as I go.]
- Gather all of the organizational strategy, current state HRM and HRMDS information you can find. Read it all through the lens of strategic HRM, looking for the specific impacts on business strategies and outcomes that must come from well-executed strategic HRM. See the patterns in those strategic HRM requirements and design HRM policies etc. to deliver them. Then prepare to update your HRM policies, practices, and operations to support converged HRM and HR technology.
- Assign someone to inventory your current HRMDS, including all the “informal” components. What software are you using — brand/module/release — and what is it costing, including both direct and indirect out-of-pocket costs as well as the associated (and often much more important) opportunity costs? What outsourcing are you doing — provider/scope of service — and what is it costing, including both direct and indirect out-of-pocket as well as those pesky opportunity costs? What spreadsheets, Word documents, private databases, and even paper files (gulp!) are you depending on for some of your HRM processes?
- Learn all you can about the differences between poor, good and great HR technology, and about what the market offers — continuous learning needed here because the goal line keeps moving. There’s a ton of material on my blog (here, here and here are some good starting points), and an absolute must is attendance at a major HR technology conference. I’ll be speaking again this year at the big Kahuna of such conferences, LRP’s HR Technology Conference (and honored to have been a speaker at every one of these amazing conferences since their inception except when a hurricane threatened our home and a sister by choice lost her son). I will also be speaking at the newer but rapidly growing European HR Technology Conference.
- Clean up your HRM data — including organization data, people data, competency models, business rules, and data granularity — to support converged HRM and converged HR technology. Start with the most important roles, organizations, KSAOCs, whatever, but you really can’t do anything decent with analytics unless your data is sufficiently reliable, granular and properly structured.
- Insist upon detailed product roadmaps, with dates, against which to evaluate vendors and providers for evidence that they’re on top of converged HRM and converged HR technology — and do probe for their strategies around all eight convergence themes mentioned in the blog post on this you will have read in step #3 above.
- Determine what components of your current HRMDS platform are serving you well, which are not, what needs to be upgraded/enhanced/replaced, what can remain as it is (but keep an eye on this as all components “age”). Design your future HRMDS to deliver those strategic HRM requirements and then make your HR technology decisions. Be disciplined and methodical in evaluating potential HRMDS platform component changes, or changes in people and process, and don’t be a victim of vendor “promises.” Weed out/de-emphasize vendors and providers who can’t take you to a converged future — and run away from those that don’t even know that the converged future is coming.
- Do not judge the needs of tomorrow’s workforce or HRM by yesterday’s standards, but do judge your own responsibilities and their results in terms of driving business outcomes.
You obviously don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself; there’s a ton of staff work discussed above that’s properly delegated. But it’s important that you get just as comfortable discussing — and then making “bet the farm” decisions about the technology-enabled aspects of HRM as you’ve become (or been expected to become) discussing and making decisions about the financial aspects of HRM. And there’s not a reputable MBA program of any substance that leaves out any of this — IT, finance, HRM, and operations management — which is why I’m so grateful for mine earned in the distant mists of HR technology history.
We may not have met, but I’ve got your back. Sincerely yours, Naomi Bloom
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