Naomi and Ron, The Way We Were
[ We've been revising our business strategy, mix of clients, project types, and so much more on a regular basis since 1987, but this is the first time we've made such changes in the era of social tech. My own view is that we should be as transparent online as we are IRL, and that's the impetus for this post about the current round of such changes.]
Context: A Stroll Down Memory Lane
One minute it’s 1972, you’re twenty-six, getting your MBA, getting married, spending your honeymoon camping cross-country, job-hunting in Silicon Valley with your new husband, and feeling physically invincible. Mainframes ruled, the possibility of packaged HRM software was finally being considered (here’s a 1976 InSci ad, EEO legislation was just being implemented, self-service referred to those New York AutoMat restaurants (which, according to my friend Bill Kutik, were called by their most prominent brand, Horn & Hardarts, by those in the know locally) to doing your own key-punching, and Ron and I were finding out what it really meant to sign up with each other for the long term.
40+ years later everything, and I do mean everything, has changed, not once but over and over again. Personally and professionally, it’s been a wild ride and a mostly terrific one. I feel tremendous satisfaction in the progress we’ve made, that our industry has made, that technology has made. But I also feel tremendous frustration that we’re not where we’d like to be. In spite of the tremendous progress in technology, and in spite of a ton of hard work all around, in far too many organizations we’re not driving business results to where they need to be and should be via technology-enabled and very effective HRM practices. Lots of important work to do before we declare victory, so we’d best get on with it.
Somewhere along the line, when I wasn’t looking, 40+ years of a road warrior’s work life, of cramming two years of living into every calendar year, of pushing hard to keep up, innovate, stay relevant and excel, all the while investing in my personal life, have taken their toll. 40+ years of working into the night before every vacation (but I’ve always treated vacations as sacred even when they were wedged into the cracks of my professional life), then flying off with Ron or my girlfriends to go sailing in the Caribbean before going right back to work without so much as a moment for re-entry, that’s a pace that isn’t sustainable much past your mid-60′s even though one’s brain and passions have aged very gracefully. There are just so many red-eyes (I lost count at 100+) that you can take before you swear off of them forever!
Now my days of climbing the Tomb of the Inscription at Palenque, pulling consecutive all-nighters during HRMS go-lives, and dancing the Llambada all night long at an IHRIM after party — yes, I too had my prime — are well behind me. But I’m damned glad I did all that and much more while my joints could handle the strain. And the lessons I’ve learned, the great people I’ve known, and the sense of accomplishment along the way have been well worth all that effort. That’s why my advice to all my younger colleagues, family and friends is to live large, push yourselves to accomplish as much as possible before life inevitably intervenes to slow you down, if only a little.
It’s a brave woman who accepts the passage of time without doing a little nip here and a little tuck there. And it’s a wise one who adjusts her goals, professional commitments and lifestyle accordingly. I’d like to think that I’m both brave and wise (I’m neither, but I’d like to think that I am), so I’ve been open about aging, I’ve moderated gradually my business travel over the last few years, and many of you have seen me riding a scooter (with Ron power walking beside me) at larger conferences. But in all those 40+ years I’ve never given myself permission to deliver client work that’s not up to my own high standards. And I’m not about to start now!
B&W Strategic Review
When I launched Bloom & Wallace, my solo practice, in 1987, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish and why it was important to do so — and that vision hasn’t changed. I’d always believed, long before it was fashionable, that the only source of competitive advantage, of business results, was the collective accomplishments of the workforce. And for me, human resource management had always been about doing all that’s necessary to ensure that the organization’s workforce is in fact that source of competitive advantage and that driver of business results.
Whether this gets done with or without an HR department, with or without employees versus contingent workers of various flavors, with or without specific technology enablement, and many more such questions, once answered, dictate the appropriate tactics, but the intent doesn’t change. Therefore, given my background in technology (specifically enterprise software) and belief in the power of effective human resource management, my 1987 through 2013 and beyond vision of Bloom & Wallace’s business has been and will continue to be “advancing the practice of human resource management through the effective use of information technology.” Full stop!
Since B&W’s launch in 1987, in pursuit of this vision, we’ve gone through at least four significant changes in our mix of work and clients. We’ve evolved from (1) focusing solely on the HR technology needs of large/global end-user organizations, to (2) focusing on the much broader HRM strategy and delivery system needs of those same types of end-user organizations, to (3) focusing on a mix of end-user and vendor/BPO provider projects to (4) focusing primarily on the deep design of next gen HRM enterprise software business and product strategies. And along the way we built up a very substantial business licensing our IP (HRM object models/architectural “starter kits”) across the HRM software and outsourcing industry. For 2013 and beyond, we’re making our fifth such change in the mix of our work and clients, but our vision, our purpose remains the same.
We’ve already begun reducing substantially the aggregate number of clients with which we’ll be working at any given time as well as entering into more ongoing and strategic relationships with those clients. This inevitably changes our relationships with those clients from entirely ecumenical ones (where we often worked with competing vendors at the same time, although that was always a difficult balancing act) to deeper and more ongoing (less project-oriented) involvement. More so than in the past, current engagements may include mentoring, fundamental business strategy consulting, advisory board work as well as very strategic product-related work. With fewer clients at any one time and more strategic involvement with them, more patriotic relationships are inevitable. Therefore, I’m doing my best to ensure that the clients I take on are ones whose leadership I know well and respect highly, whose products/services are creating/have the potential to create real breakthroughs in our industry, and who are comfortable working with me to bound and schedule my involvement while moderating the related travel.
Just as I found safety in numbers before my marriage, dating multiple gentlemen (non-gentlemen quickly learned they need not ”apply”) concurrently so as to avoid getting too entangled with any one of them, so have I run Bloom & Wallace since its founding. But with a substantially more focused and smaller set of client relationships at any one time, it’s just not possible to maintain that same level of ecumenicalism. By selecting just a few clients to work with at any given time, and moving from project-based consulting to a more ongoing, strategic relationship, I’m investing my limited consulting bandwidth — and we all know that investors are inclined to favor the organizations in which they invest or they wouldn’t have picked them in the first place.
What Won’t Change?
Hopefully my tweets, blog posts and public speaking engagements will continue to be as useful (or not) to you as they have been, perhaps more so for my posts which I hope will appear more often, and I intend to keep them as balanced and objective as possible but with all of my biases showing. I will continue to emphasize full disclosure when I’m writing about clients or non-clients so that you can judge for yourself to what extent my biases toward specific ideas, designs, HRM practices, architectures/object models and more have blinded me to other points of view, other product approaches, and/or other business strategies. You should assume that I’m working only with those clients whose strategies and products/services are simpatico with my independent view of what’s what.
I’ll continue to spend a good bit of my time meeting in person and remotely with major as well as innovative vendors/providers across the HRM domain — and poking into some of the more interesting edges. And I’ll keep working hard to repay the courtesy of vendors/providers for their briefing time and analyst days by being prepared to give as good as I get. My apologies in advance for not being able to meet with/speak to/write about everyone or everything of interest as I try hard to make more time in my life for a growing list of other interests. One of those interests, painting in watercolors, may yet show up as blog post illustrations.
The bottom line:
After a ton of soul-searching, I’ve decided that I love what I do and want to keep on doing it as long as I’m capable of doing my work to my own high standards. By reducing the business travel and client workload to what’s more than full-time by any reasonable standards but is a lot less than the double time schedule I’ve kept for so many years, it’s business as usual at Bloom & Wallace with one exception. With far fewer clients and more ongoing and strategic relationships with those few, it’s entirely fair to presume that my choice of clients no longer ecumenical.
Never mind trying to make meaningful predictions, which are very hard to do safely when you’re under a zillion NDAs. Instead, I’m focusing 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, my handsome prince of a frog, 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?
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 Palm would make a brilliant comeback), business (like wishing that the financial executive thieves who stole our financial security in the great recession would go to jail), 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, no one would 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 “starter kit.”
- From now on, no one would 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 know the names and UX color schemes of all the vendors.
- From now on, no HRM software vendor would 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.
- From now on, no analytics would 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 would 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.
- From now on, all HR leaders would be the very model of a modern HR leader who understands how to select and deploy technology to support HRM’s responsibility for driving business outcomes. If you think this is a worthy goal, here’s my “starter kit.”
- From now on, vendors who dissemble about their business strategy, product capabilities and roadmaps, or in other aspect of their answers to prospect/customer questions would 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.
- And last but by no means least, prospects/customers who are ill-prepared, ill-informed, ill-mannered etc. in their interactions with vendors would 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 would get via my wish list.
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.
If you’re an observer of effective HRM and IT, if you’re passionate about what happens at the intersection of these subject matter domains, then even on vacation you can’t help but notice innovation or simply good practices in either or both. Ron and I are on vacation, cruising with Regent Seven Seas onboard Mariner from Miami to Lima, Peru. This is our first such trip that has involved several days at sea, running in open water. And some of these days have been pretty heavy weather, with 5-6 meter seas, 50 knot winds, and enough movement of the ship to send many seamen to their bunks — not us of course, as we’re veteran sailors on our own boats.
But through it all, despite their ranks being thinned considerably by seasickness and worse, the staff — in restaurants, bars, poolside, housekeeping, everywhere — maintained their own high standards of service. Some programs were rescheduled, e.g. a guest singer on board had turned a little green during the worst of the ship’s rockin’ and rollin’, and we might have waited a few moments longer during meal service, but only a dedicated observer of effective HRM would have noticed that those staff unaffected by or able to overcome the ship’s considerable movement were covering for those who had taken to their bunks.
Could your business operate to a very high standard for a couple of days with half your workforce down with the flu, homebound after a major weather event, or otherwise unavailable? Could your team achieve a very high level of customer service while coping with their own discomfort? More importantly, would they care enough to do it? Is your “crew” engaged enough and professional enough to insist that the show must go on despite the vagaries of wind and tide? Well, this crew did, and I credit their leadership, corporate HRM practices (Regent, as I’ve written before ), preparation/training, and especially their selection criteria.
There’s an old sailor’s expression that “anyone can man the helm when the seas are calm.” I would add “it takes great HRM to enable a crew to operate well when the seas are angry.”
And the winner is?
[Shout-out to my colleague Lisa Rowan at IDC. Her recent guest post was the impetus for my finishing this post, which I had started right after Workday went public on 10-12-2012.]
1987: Bloom & Wallace and PeopleSoft Founded
1987 was a big year in the history of HR technology. That’s the year I founded my solo consulting practice, but Bloom & Wallace warrants little more than a footnote. Much more important in the history of HR technology, 1987 was the year that PeopleSoft was founded by Dave Duffield and Ken Morris.
PeopleSoft changed the way that HR leaders thought about technology by giving them the ability, without programmer involvement, to add a data element here, write a report there, and use the software directly without a data entry shop. But PeopleSoft also changed the way in which software company cultures were created and sustained, and that may have been just as important as the contributions that PeopleSoft made to the technical foundations of HRM software.
Building upon the foundations of their last company, Integral Systems, Dave and Ken’s PeopleSoft challenged the then conventional wisdom that only mainframes could run the HR and payroll applications of large organizations. With hindsight, we now know that the then dominant pre-PeopleSoft vendors, including Tesseract, Genesys, Integral, MSA, Cyborg and more, went from dominant to chopped liver practically overnight — and they never recovered.
All these code bases and their historical peers live on in the back rooms of various aggregators for their still meaningful maintenance revenue streams. But their heyday ended when PeopleSoft changed customer expectations, buyer behaviors, and our perceptions of how much fun it could be to hang out with an enterprise software vendor.
For all the bad habits that PeopleSoft’s flawed data and process designs brought to HRM for the last twenty-five years, we learned a ton from this company and its software architecture. And many customers (not to mention industry watchers) shed a tear when Mr. Ellison succeeded in his hostile takeover of PeopleSoft in 2005.
2012: Workday’s Year
When someone writes the history of the next twenty-five years of enterprise computing, I think that they’ll mark 2012 as just as important as 1987 for HR technology. It would be nice to think that they would be celebrating the 25th year of my solo consulting practice, but no such luck. Rather, 2012 will go down in history as the year that SAP and Oracle became more concerned with newcomer Workday than with each other — and with considerable justification.
From the surprise Saturday announcement in December 2011 of SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors, and the strategic about-face that marked their all-in commitment to true SaaS, to the very much expected acquisition of Taleo by Oracle in early 2012, we’ve been struck by how much of the coverage of these two bastions of enterprise software has been about the real or perceived threat of that upstart Workday. And you only had to listen to Larry Ellison’s comments on Oracle’s last quarterly earnings call to know just how focused he is on Workday as a competitive threat.
Not only have discussions/coverage of Workday dominated the HR technology landscape this year, but discussions of Workday have included everyone from financial analysts to cloud aficionados, and from SaaS pioneers likes Salesforce.com (with whom Workday is deeply partnered) to the computer science super geeks. And Workday customers — let’s not forget that customers are the folks who really matter in the HR technology industry — have added their voices to this discussion, supporting Workday with their enthusiasm, published case stories, and intense collaboration.
2013: Who’s On First?
But what about the future? What stories will dominate the large/global market, core HRMS/TM and related HR technology conversations in 2013?
- Will Workday’s momentum continue to build as industry observers and buyers appreciate more fully the considerable moat they’ve built with their architectural innovations, organizational culture, customer collaboration and expanding functional footprint?
- Will customers residing on aging ERP/HRMS platforms consider fully their true SaaS options, including Workday, when they realize that moving to their current vendor’s next generation platform will be just as much of a new implementation as moving to Workday or another vendor’s next gen HRMS/TM, especially if they plan to get any business value from these investments by revisiting their business rules, processes and data designs?
- Will Oracle commit themselves completely to a true SaaS future and to all the customer benefits beyond TCO savings that go with it? With they bring all of their considerable resources to bear on driving a true SaaS future for their extensive and maturing Fusion product line? Will they achieve the deep integration needed across their Taleo and Fusion assets?
- Will SAP deliver a true SaaS HRMS/TM which includes an all-in SaaS payroll, going beyond hosting their on-premise payroll application? Will Employee Central’s evolving design and broadening functionality be deeply integrated with SFSF’s talent management capabilities?
- Will Infor’s investments in their own true SaaS HRMS/TM capabilities emerge as a major contender for larger/global organizations? Will they achieve the architectural innovations, deep integration, customer collaboration, and pricing advantages needed to challenge the market leaders?
- Will ADP’s (with Vantage) and Ceridian’s (with DayForce) investments in their own next generation true SaaS HRMS/TM for larger/global organizations demonstrate strong enough TM and global capabilities, as well as deep enough integration and architectural innovation to compete head to head with their ERP/HRMS competitors?
- Will it matter that some comprehensive HRMS/TM vendors don’t offer a complete ERP when the installed base of ERP/HRMS customers look around for their next generation move? Will that move be limited to the next generation from ERP/HRMS vendors or will those buyers be willing to piece together their HRMS/TM of choice from one vendor and the rest of their ERP suite from another?
- And what about a range of other potential HRMS/TM market disruptions? Will Microsoft get serious about HRMS/TM and buy one of the more capable middle-market providers? Will a non-US-based HRMS/TM vendor land on our shores with real market impact? Will Kronos go all-in with a true SaaS, full-scale, global HRMS/TM for larger organizations? Will SilkRoad or SumTotal or Brand X deliver deep integration, scale up for larger/global organizations, advance their architectural and build-out commitments to include a global payroll engine or ??? Will any of these vendors — or others not mentioned here — achieve an architectural or product vision breakthrough that we won’t know about until we see it?
Of two things we can be certain. 2013 is not going to be dull in our neighborhood at the intersection of HRM and IT. And InFullBloom appreciates your readership and will do our best to an eye on these developments and many more as 2013 unfolds.
[Full disclosure: Workday is a current client, ADP and Ceridian are recent clients, as are various other US and non-US-based HRMS/TM vendors. Oracle and SAP, from an HRM perspective, as well as several other mentioned firms, although not clients, are followed as closely as time permits and are led by highly respected and very capable colleagues.]
Disclosure: If you think you read this last Christmas, you’re quite right. And you may read it again. 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. And I should note that the picture above is a page from Bloom’s Camera 1950 Catalog.
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 97 on New Year’s Day) and Herman (who published his “romantic” novels under the name Harmon Bellamy), and the owners of small family businesses worked very long hours.
When I was really young, my Dad left for work before dawn and rarely got home before I was put to bed. Friday nights were usually spent having Shabbat dinner, with all my Bloom aunts/uncles/cousins and even great aunts/uncles (those without their own children), at my grandmother’s house. After dinner, Dad went off to Schul with his brothers. On Saturday mornings, we were all off to Schul, but we were orthodox so only my one male first cousin Elliot got to sit with his Dad. The store was open on Saturdays, so my Dad, in spite of the Orthodox prohibition against working on Shabbat, went from Schul to work on many Saturdays, especially if they were short-handed 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.
While I can never be sure, I think those conversations with Ronni must have been the origin of my now famous story 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 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, watching for shop-lifters (you thought that was something new?), 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. And I can still hear, ever so faintly, that special ka-ching when I’ve made a big sale.
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 mail Bloom cousin, took over the business from our fathers, built it into something completely non-retail but VERY successful, and sold it about fifteen 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 2013 than we’ve had in 2012.
Hillel the Elder
When I was sixteen (the legal age for automobile driving in Massachusetts at that time), and after considerable driver training with the redoubtable Chief Walmer (a retired police chief who was the driving instructor of choice where I grew up), I:
- presented myself in person at the local DMV (the relevant government office);
- showed the government documents that proved not only my age but also my right to apply for a driver’s license (the rules then may have required full citizenship, but I really don’t remember);
- took both a written and an “on the road” driving test (the “killer” scenario was parallel parking at the curb on a hill — and these were stick shift days) as well as a vision test under the supervision of a DMV employee;
- was subject to a background check to ensure that I did not have a disqualifying criminal record;
- was required to submit a medical authorization to ensure that I did not have a disqualifying but not visible medical issue or one which would require me to have a limited license, e.g. a night vision problem that restricted my driving to daylight hours;
- was required to show proof (but I really don’t remember the details on this) of insurance on the car I would be driving (obviously, my parents’ car); and
- had by then spent a few hours with the nice DMV people who may well have noticed if I were unable to interact and behave in a more or less “normal” way.
Getting my automobile driver’s license meant a lot to me, and I (like all my friends of the time) was proud to have this evidence of my adulthood. And even though, from that day to this, we continue to cope with the bad behavior of legally licensed automobile drivers as well as the bad behavior of unlicensed drivers, there is no NRA-like unelected third branch of government scaring the shit out of the other three branches over eliminating all automobile driver licensing procedures because they don’t prevent all that bad behavior. Rather, we have a broad societal consensus that the licensing procedures, and the licence renewal procedures, provide some modest but valuable protection from hoards of untutored, unlicensed, nutty as fruitcake automobile drivers. And we accept that the fees involved in driver and vehicle licensing are used to support these regulatory and enforcement procedures.
Had I wanted to drive a truck (not a little pickup but a major truck) of some variety, for pleasure or business, I would have needed a different type of license — more training, more in-person testing, more background checks, more detailed medical authorizations, more, more and more. But I would have done all of this gladly if driving a tractor trailer were my chosen profession or even an important competitive sport in which I chose to participate. And even though, from that day to this, we continue to cope with the bad behavior of legally licensed tractor trailer drivers as well as the bad behavior of some few unlicensed drivers, there’s no well-funded lobby insisting that we eliminate all tractor trailer driver licensing procedures because they don’t prevent all that bad behavior. Rather, we believe that the licensing procedures, and the licence renewals procedures, provide some modest but valuable protections from hoards of untutored, unlicensed, nutty as fruitcake tractor trailer drivers. And we accept that the fees involved in tractor trailer driver and vehicle licensing are used to support these regulatory and enforcement procedures.
Most importantly, if I wanted to buy one of those huge military tanks with the very cool swiveling turrets through which you can launch G-d only knows what destruction, the simple answer would be no. I can’t buy one for private use, I can’t drive it through the gates of my development, I can’t drive it up the highway to Tampa — no, no, and no. And I certainly can’t buy the missiles for which that turret was designed at my local tank show or over the internet for delivery by FEDEX. Somehow, somewhere it was decided that certain vehicles are just not appropriate for private ownership, and somehow we live with this restriction without going nuts over our lost liberties.
But when it comes to allowed vehicles, we haven’t just focused on licensing their drivers. We’ve also spent the last sixty years making those vehicles safer, making the passengers in those vehicles safer, protecting the innocent from accidental errors make by those drivers and so on. Have seat belts and backup cameras and bleepers, greatly improved breaking systems and tires that don’t skid on wet pavement saved all of us from all possible vehicle accidents? Of course not! But there’s no groundswell of protest advocating that we eliminate all safety improvements in our cars and trucks just because they don’t prevent all accidents. Rather, we there’s a broad consensus that safety improvements to our vehicles provide some modest but valuable protections from vehicles skidding out of control, drivers and passengers crashing through their windshields, and drivers backing up over their own children playing in the driveway.
Having cried myself to sleep last night and awake this morning over the senseless loss of life in my country, it’s time to speak. If not now, when? We’re not killing each other because we are collateral damage in a civil war or living in territory being fought over by warlords. We are killing each other because we don’t have the guts to break the back of the NRA in order to do for weapons what we do for vehicles. I grew up target shooting and have the awards to show for it. I’m proud of those awards, and I have no desire to deprive hunters or sportsmen of their gun ownership or use. But it’s long past time for guns to become safer, for gun owners to be rigorously licensed, for gun sellers to be rigorously licensed, for some weapons and ammunition to be verboten, for gun ownership taxes to pay for the needed enforcement, etc.
Just because there are no perfect regulations, no way to guarantee 100% compliance, little chance of preventing the truly insane or evil from doing their worst, that can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing when it comes to regulating gun ownership, sales and safety further and more effectively in America. And even as we try to address the complex and interconnected issues of mental illness and violence in our society, it’s time to fast track the part of the puzzle that’s doable immediately.
[At the core of Judaism is the concept of Tikkun Olam, that we are commanded the repair the world, to make it a better place than we found it. This isn't optional, something you do for extra credit, it's central to what it means to be a Jew. And even though most of us aren't able to improve the world in headline-grabbing ways, we are all able to leave this world a little better than we found it. And then there are the great teachings by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, one of which is "And if not now, when?"]
Reflecting on what might make a great list of 2013 predictions — beyond those I’ll be discussing next week on my first videocast – I realized that I’d either be repeating a list of hot topics with which you’re already familiar or showing my ignorance (it’s getting worse not better with the explosion of relevant knowledge). So, instead of predictions, I thought I’d offer some advice that will be useful no matter what’s happening in our industry. And to do that I’m updating an old post that deserves another hearing. My thanks to a Twitter follower, Holly MacDonald, for reminding me of this post.
Life doesn’t just happen. Well actually it does, but there are a zillion opportunities for you to chart and then steer your own course through it by how you react to the opportunities and challenges that life offers. Our lives are a rich tapestry of the choices we make (shall I marry Ron Wallace or one of the other fine contenders?), the compromises we’re willing and able to sustain (if I marry Ron Wallace, we’re not going to be rich but I’ll be a lot happier than with the Prince behind door #2, besides which I’m quite capable of earning a good living), the serendipity to which we’re are subject if we’ll only seize the moment (how lucky I was to have been born into a family/religion/cultural community that valued education and rewarded academic accomplishment or here I am at the University of Pennsylvania, a really top school, even if I’m working my way through and unable to participate as fully in campus life as some of my more affluent classmates), and the shit that happens (what do you mean I’ve got arthritis and fibromyalgia when I’m clearly in my prime? what do you mean my husband has cancer and I need both shoulders repaired?).
Choices, compromises, serendipity and shit — these are indeed the four winds blowing every life around. And yet the course is unique, totally our own, that each one of us chooses or which is force upon us.
In real life, some people, just by the accident of their birth, really do get more shit than anyone deserves and are given very limited choices. But for those of us born into reasonable circumstances and with a reasonable amount of intelligence (or at least the potential for acquiring same) and good health, therefore for most readers of this blog, what we accomplish in life has a lot to do with:
- the choices we make from the smorgasbord of possibilities that our lives present,
- the compromises, really sacrifices, we’re willing and able to make in support of those choices,
- the effectiveness of our responses to the serendipitous opportunities that our lives present, and
- our ability to handle the inevitable shit, and I don’t simply mean here the fall-out from our bad choices, poor compromises or ineffective seizing of the opportunities but rather the really bad stuff that’s not in any way our fault.
Are you wondering what got me started on this topic? The simple answer is aging. As each year ends and a new one begins, it’s impossible not to notice that the years in front are increasingly outnumbered by the years behind. And it’s a wise person who takes stock of what they’d like to do/see/experience/learn/etc. during those years in front and how and with whom they would like to spend their precious time.
But the very Naomi-specific answer is that I’m a methodical, list-making, over-analyzing, searcher after mental models and taxonomies. I’ve approached every important part of my life with as much careful research and preparation as I could muster at the time, working hard to understand my real choices (often more than I realized at first glance), just what was lurking under the surface of various compromises that would come back to haunt me later, how truly serendipitous an opportunity might be versus arriving as a result of long-standing effort and deliberate seed-planting, and (after the usual railing at the G-ds when misfortunate strikes) accepting/working with/overcoming life’s shit with the best grace I could muster. And now, with my 67th birthday in the rearview mirror, and Bill Kutik’s announced retirement from the HR Tech Conference that he created, it seems like as good a time as ever to do a little extra reflection, analysis, list-making and rededication.
Is there any possible connection between all of this and what’s happening — or should happen — in my professional neighborhood, at the corner of HRM and IT? Absolutely! The compass rose of life can be applied to every aspect of life, from developing HRM strategies to selecting and implementing HR technology to deciding whom to hire. Charting the best possible course through each of these situations requires making the best possible choices, accepting and then making work appropriate compromises, seizing the opportunities that present themselves, and dealing with the inevitable shit. Charting that course takes considerable knowledge (yes, that’s where the heavy lifting begins), ongoing discipline (more heavy lifting), real insight into deciding what’s important and why (oops, sounds like deep fact-finding, analysis and introspection), a willingness to take action and then commit yourself when the inevitable shit hits the fan, to doing the right thing and making your choices and compromises (assuming they were sufficiently wise) succeed. A heavy load indeed, for one’s professional and personal life, but there’s really no other good option. Steer your own course wisely or be at the mercy of those who would steer it for you.
And to my close and valued friend Bill Kutik, may you have fair winds and following seas in all that you continue to do. This post’s for you.
[Full disclosure: Workday is a client, but I attended their Tech Summit 2012 and a portion of Workday Rising 2012 as an "influencer," and my related travel expenses were reimbursed by Workday.]
You may have thought that everything that could be said about Workday’s Tech Summit 2012 had already been posted, but you were wrong. There was another announcement made there quietly, as befits the first steps on what is going to be a multi-release, probably multi-year product journey, that has not yet been covered. And since Workday’s announced “Collaboration Framework,” described by them as a lifecycle deployment tool, is their vision for interrogatory configuration
(which I still think they should have been named “Naomi”), I thought I’d combine an update of my own views on this topic with the highlights of what Workday announced at their recent Tech Summit:
#WDAY @Workday‘s interrogatory configuration tool accelerates configuration of SaaS tenant, supports sales demos as well as implementation 2:58 PM – 5 Nov 12
Three years ago, in the first month of my blogging journey, I wrote:
“Two of my long-standing HRM software architecture preferences have gone mainstream (remember, this is 12/2009):
- True multi-tenancy, a required foundation for successful HRM SaaS products or BPO platforms; and
- Highly configurable tenants, to include the effective-dating of those configurations, full inheritance across and within tenants, and no disruption of configurations as the vendor applies new releases.”
Thus began the introduction to my first post on interrogatory configuration, on what I saw then, and even more so now, as the key to durable success for true SaaS. Yes, as I envision it, interrogatory configuration is an essential enabler of financial success for true SaaS vendors, of business outcomes and agility/innovation success for their customers, and of freedom for those customers (once and for all) from overly expensive and time-consuming sales cycles, implementation projects, ongoing adoption of new capabilities, and ongoing accommodation of customer business changes.
Winding forward three years, I’m not only convinced that interrogatory configuration is that key but am heartened to see how much progress has been made by the true SaaS HRM vendor community on turning the relevant concepts and intellectual property into early stage delivery. Therefore, among the many announcements made by Workday at their recent Technology Summit and Rising customer conference, I see their work on interrogatory configuration as having some of the most durable benefits for their customers.
Highly configurable (you already know that Workday, with release 18, will unleash the capability to extend their objects and empower these extensions with the full range of object support that every Workday object receives — see Josh Bersin’s excellent discussion), metadata-driven, definitional development is a wonderful thing. Several of my client HRM software vendors are on this path, but Workday is still the most visible and mature true SaaS HRM vendor using these techniques — and Workday has delivered the most complete expression of them thus far.
But even in configuration, all those available choices have to be analyzed, selected, tested and implemented, individually and in combination with other choices. And this must be done with care and a deep knowledge of the downstream implications of various configurations, not only during the initial implementation but also every time business needs change, software upgrades are applied (even when applied as SaaS mostly opt-in updates), regulatory rules appear/change including retroactively, new executives bring new perspectives, etc.
Enter interrogatory configuration, which is pretty easy to explain but VERY difficult to do, at least for complex HRM software. Basically it’s a piece of software (think TurboTax) which poses questions to the client ‘s business analyst (which could be a 3rd party, including the vendor’s implementation services person), provides a context for those questions along with the implications of selecting from among the available answers (e.g. explaining what types of organizational structures use what types of position to job relationships and why), and then, based on the selections made (and all such are of course effective-dated and subject to inheritance where appropriate), it does the configuration of the base application without manual intervention of any kind. Interestingly, Google filed a patent for a VERY limited example of this in 1997, which was awarded in 2001, in which they make very clear that you can’t do this unless the underlying architecture, the software to be thus configured, is composed of objects that can be manipulated dynamically.
More Talmudic than Socratic, this question/answer dialogue continues, with each exchange doing one set of configurations while setting up the next set, until the customer has implemented fully the set of capabilities/business rules/coding structures/workflows/etc. that will be their implemented software as of the selected effective date. An interrogatory configurator is designed to work prospectively, so that you can see how a partially to fully configured application will look/behave before committing those configurations to take effect. For those configurations that are permitted to be changed retroactively, with the attendant retroactive processing once they are approved for implementation, the interrogatory configurator is also intended to work retroactively.
Without interrogatory configuration, every time those hand-done configurations must be changed, all those choices must be re-evaluated against the needed changes, and then new choices made, tested and implemented. Furthermore, the implications of each configuration change for downstream processes must be analyzed and actions taken to at least inform users of those implications. So, while we may be able to eliminate most of the programming implementation work by having great configuration tools delivered with our HRM software, without interrogatory configuration we have by no means reduced the business analyst time and expertise needed to keep things running properly. And great, models-based HRM business analysts are really scarce.
This is the business case for automating as completely as possible the configuration of highly configurable, true HRM SaaS, to include when used in BPO platforms. It’s the business case for my emphasis on interrogatory configuration, something on which I’ve been working for at least the last fifteen years and which, thanks to advances in the underlying software development technologies, is getting very close to fruition.
Now imagine that the interrogatory configurator is a integral part of the marketing to sales cycle, allowing for a high degree of self-provisioning, at least for less complex organizations (notice I didn’t say small or quote headcounts). And even for the most complex organizations, imagine how much configuration could be done with data gleaned during the sales cycle (perhaps primed by the vendor’s CRM system?) so that a usefully configured application could become a sales cycle tool which blends seamlessly into the actual implementation once agreements are signed. To the extent that true HRM SaaS vendors proceed down this path, the whole dynamic, timeline and cost of the sales to implementation processes are improved beyond that which can be achieved otherwise. In addition, the role, staffing and economics of the systems integrators (SIs), are changed substantially, to the benefit of both the customer and the SaaS vendor.
And that’s exactly how I read Workday’s plans in this area. Dubbed their “Collaboration Framework,” Workday’s approach is to begin, at the earliest date of prospect interaction, to seed their Collaboration Framework with a wide range of facts about the prospect captured today via their CRM (Salesforce.com) system and then use that information to launch their interrogatory configuration. With hundreds of business processes and reports, not to mention pre-configured security groups, landing pages and integrations, which themselves map to objects in their solution library, they envision their collaboration framework as providing the needed user experience to take prospects through a discovery process which then assembles their initial Workday tenant. There’s a lot more to this, but at its heart, it’s about knowing which Workday objects to use where, with or without customer-specific extensions, and how the individual customer’s versions of these objects are connected to deliver the requested functionality.
The bottom line. Reducing dramatically the elapsed time and cost of HRM software sales and implementation, not to mention ongoing configuration, is an important enough business outcome for HRM SaaS vendors and BPO providers to justify building interrogatory configurators. Doing this requires underlying software architectures which enable configuration without miles of procedural code. It also requires the product’s designers to know and be able to express the patterns of good practice in a whole range of HRM areas, from organizational designs to hiring practices, and the good practice combinations of same. And there’s an enhanced opportunity here for incorporating all manner of exogenous data, from salary surveys and hiring patterns to commentary on which organizational designs are common in specific industries — and why. If your vendors aren’t working on this, it may be awkward for them that Workday has begun this journey in earnest. And if you’re a true SaaS vendor in the HR technology space who’ doing something similar, I’d love to hear from you.
[The complex configuration flowchart illustration above is taken from the publicly posted http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E18727_01/doc.121/e13426/T356981T356985.htm . This document and its associated flowchart are the detailed instructions for configuring the Oracle Treasure functions within EBS 12.1 This is precisely the type of complex configuration, where choices and downstream implications matter, that an interrogatory configurator is intended to handle during initial implementation as well as with every new release of a true SaaS product as well as with every business change which must be reflected, in an effective-dated manner, via changes to those configurations. ]
[As I'm writing this, Israel is under attack from Hamas terrorists, and there are literally hundreds of Hamas rockets, supplied by Iran, raining down on Israeli civilians daily. In response, Israel is going after Hamas leaders, rocket launchers, weapons depots, and similar military targets. Can you imagine our response if the Mexican drug cartels sent rockets into Texas? So, superceding all my thoughts on thanks and giving in 2012 are my prayers for the State of Israel.]
It’s that time of year again when I reflect on how very fortunate I am to live in this amazing country and on what I can do to make it better. The election is over, and I’m relieved at the outcome. For all the problems we’ve got, and they are daunting, we are so very blessed to be here.
For my first two blogging Thanksgivings, I did a post that focused on counting my own personal blessings, and I plan to do that again. But last year and this year, I’ve started with the second part of this holiday’s message, the giving part. And I’d like to give credit where it’s due, to a 2011 Facebook entry by Ron’s first cousin Barbara Wallace Schmidt of Washington State, for getting me focused on the giving part of this so American holiday.
Having grown up in an orthodox Jewish home (well, modern orthodox), I learned from a very young age that philanthropy (tzedakah) isn’t about extra credit. It’s an obligation. The window sill over our kitchen sink was the home of five or six tin boxes, called pushkas, into which my Dad deposited his pocket change each night after work. Periodically, a representative of one of the charities that distributed these pushkas would stop by to collect them, have a cup of tea and something sweet with the lady of the house (who rarely worked outside the home in those distant days), and leave a bright new empty box to be filled up again.
And then there were the naming opportunities. Maybe we Jews didn’t invent this concept, but we sure as hell perfected it. There’s not a tree in Israel or a toilet stall in a Jewish nursing home that doesn’t bear a plaque with the name of the donor whose funds paid for it. With my dimes, brought every week to Sunday school (Hebrew School was on weekdays, and then we wrapped up all that learning plus on Sunday mornings), I must have filled dozens of folded cards with enough slots for two dollars worth of dimes that could then be turned into my very own tree for Israel.
It’s been more than a half century since I saw my Dad empty his pockets into those pushkas and I put my dimes (which I would have preferred to spend on candy) into the “plant a tree” card, but I remember them like they were yesterday. The Hebrew term for philanthropy is tzedakah, literally fairness or justice, and we learned it young and continuously where I grew up. Not only am I writing this blog post today, I’m making a number of year-end donations. 2012 has been a good year for Bloom & Wallace, and this is how we celebrate.
And lest you think that all philanthropy is equal, Maimonides offers a hierarchy of giving, with the first item listed being the most worthy form, and the last being the least worthy. I find it interesting that the most worthy form is to help a person in need to become not only self-sufficient but also to join the circle of tzedakah in their own right, not unlike the later Christian notion of teaching a man to fish. Translated from Maimonides:
- Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
- Giving tzedakah anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
- Giving tzedakah anonymously to a known recipient.
- Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient.
- Giving tzedakah before being asked.
- Giving adequately after being asked.
- Giving willingly, but inadequately.
- Giving in sadness (it is thought that Maimonides was referring to giving because of the sad feelings one might have in seeing people in need as opposed to giving because it is a religious obligation; giving out of pity).
I think that this view of giving, of philanthropy, of tzedakah is the flip side of the Jewish notion of success. We believe (at least those of us who haven’t gone so far off the rails as to believe their own press releases — but that’s another story) that your successes are not solely of your own making and that one should not take too much credit for them. As it happens, we are all either blessed or cursed by the good fortune of our birth and by the good fortune, the mazel, that has accompanied our journey through life. Born in the US? Mazel. Born healthy, intelligent, and loved? Mazel. Wanted by two reasonably together and prepared parents? More mazel. Managed to get through school, university, life-to-date without dread diseases, terrible accidents, loss of your freedom or life in civil unrest? Pure mazel.
What you build on top of all that good luck through your own hard work and perseverance is absolutely yours for which to take credit, but it’s important to remember just how much of what we become, of who we are, and of what we have is just plain dumb good luck. Thinking about life this way, as a three-legged stool (the good fortune of our birth, the good fortune of our lives, and what we ourselves accomplish through our own efforts) of which we only control one leg, makes clear why tzedakah is an obligation for those of us whose stools have three good legs. And that explains exactly why I’m on the progressive side of the political divide.
And now for the thanks part of this post. My list doesn’t change much over time, but my appreciation for these blessings has grown so much over the years. For those of you who haven’t started your list, here’s mine for Thanksgiving 2012:
- Ron Wallace — if you haven’t met The Wallace, you’re in for a treat. He’s smart (and never flaunts his far greater intellect than mine), beyond funny (especially when doing those imitations of all the satellite systems he helped design), kind to everyone even when they’re not, 150% behind me in everything I do, an enthusiastic dancer, able to design/fix anything electronic/mechanical/plumbing/etc., infinitely patient, very slow to get anywhere close to angry, doesn’t complain no matter how ill/uncomfortable he is, shares my love of travel/adventure/British mystery DVDs/boating/the list of shared interests is very long, understands my need to “fly” solo at times, never asks me what anything costs (knowing I won’t go overboard even when we’re buying me great jewelry), likes many of my friends and is happy to have them travel with us, provides full infrastructure support so that I can pursue my dream career and other interests, still a hunk after all these years (Ron went through college on gymnastics scholarships), and thinks I’m the best thing that ever happened to him. What more could any woman want?
- Friends and family who are also friends — I value friendship above diamonds, and those who know me realize that’s high value indeed. No one gets through life unscathed, no one! And it’s your friends who not only share your triumphs but will also see you through the really tough times. You know who you are.
- Good health, great health insurance, and the smarts to manage my own healthcare – Ron and I have watched the whole health care reform discussion with just one point of view: everyone should be as free from worry about their health care costs as we have been, even as we’ve battled a number of expensive health issues. I can’t even imagine having to fight with an insurance company in order to get what Ron needed when he was diagnosed a few years back with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The bills were enormous and would have broken even our generous budget if not for great coverage. And I’ve had so many joint repairs that the staff at the surgical center know me on sight, and that’s only the beginning of what aging has done to my lambada. But thanks to Ron’s NASA career, we’ve got the same kind of private insurance our Congressmen have, converted now to our supplemental plan while Medicare is primary. We’d like to see everyone have this level of financial protection and peace of mind, but what do we know about health care? For the record, Medicare is income adjusted so I’m paying a ton for it, and that’s entirely fair, but I’d love to know that they had added a few higher brackets so that Mitt was paying more than me.
- My career, clients and colleagues — I’ve had an amazing run, and the best is yet to come. Imagine being in on the very ground floor of the use of computers in business and still being able to contribute? For those of you worried about your career, and who isn’t in these trying times, please take heart. There’s always opportunity for those who are willing to work their butts off, invest in their KSAOCs, and do the heavy lifting. To all the colleagues and clients from whom I’ve learned so much, and those yet to come, I’m very grateful for the opportunities and hope I’ve given as good as I’ve gotten. And I’d like to say a special thank you to my much younger colleagues who have welcomed this digital immigrant with open minds.
- The accident of my birth — I come from pioneer stock. My grandparents were refugees (aren’t all Jews?) from a shtetl in Lithuania. They came to the USA at the turn of the 20th century to avoid conscription into the Czar’s non-kosher army as well as to escape the pogroms. Like every American except our native Americans, we’re all refugees of one sort or another, even those who think they’re special because they came first or brought some wealth with them. Were it not for my grandparents having the courage to leave the familiar behind, to make what was then quite literally a trek across Europe to get bilge (they thought steerage was first class) passage to the USA, to arrive with no English and just the bundles they carried to a gentile America which was still quite hostile to Jews, I would never have had the opportunities that so many of us take for granted. Freedom isn’t free, and democracy isn’t a birthright, so count your blessings that you’re here — and thank those who never rest so that we can.
- Our military and their families, our first responders, those who work the midnight shifts in emergency rooms, there are so many who won’t be having as peaceful or comfortable a Thanksgiving as you and I will have. My thanks to every one of them.
Although Thanksgiving isn’t really a religious holiday, I think it’s prayer-worthy. So here’s mine for all of us. Life is short, fragile and amazing; live large. G-d willing (now we’re back to mazel) we’ll live long and prosper and be the life of the party at the old farts home.
- Happy Birthday InFullBloom
I launched my blog exactly 3 years ago, 11-8-2009. In my wildest dreams, I never expected to attract so many loyal readers — there are now 10K+ of you — nor did I realize how much I would enjoy blogging. So, with a huge shout-out to those of you who have encouraged me in person and online to keep on writing, I thought I’d celebrate my blog’s 3rd birthday by reaffirming its purpose.
Perhaps the best place to start, as always, is with the results we’re trying to achieve, working backwards from there to figure what must get done, how, when and by whom, in order to achieve those results. In my professional life, the results we’re trying to achieve are specific organizational outcomes through improved human resource management (HRM). But what is HRM?
HRM is a business domain, a collection of processes and business rules whose purpose is to help ensure long-term business and organizational success. HRM is about planning for, organizing, acquiring, deploying, assessing, rewarding, leading, coaching, supporting, informing, equipping, retaining, and developing a high performance, cost-effective workforce. It is also about nurturing the growth, usage and value of the organization’s intellectual capital and personal networks.
What a mouth full, and there’s more. HRM isn’t just the work of a central/local/3rd party HR department. While an HR department and HR professionals may still lead the strategy and design of HRM, HRM execution is increasingly in the hands of managers and leaders at every level and of the increasingly technology-enabled, self-sufficient workforce.
The purpose — the expected organizational results — of HRM are to maximize the performance of the organization’s workforce and the leverage from its intellectual capital and personal networks toward achieving the organization’s stated business outcomes. If we could get all of the organization’s work done and results achieved without any workforce, we wouldn’t need HRM. But we can’t, so we do. That said, no amount of HR technology is going to move the dial on organizational performance unless it’s enabling those HRM processes and business rules that drive business outcomes. HR technology is the key enabler of HRM; but deciding what HRM processes and business rules to enable remains very much the work of HR leaders.
The Bottom Line: I will continue to push the HR technology community to deliver better software and services, at better prices, and with greater ease of implementation and adoption. I will continue to push the HR community to do the heavy lifting of understanding their businesses and how HRM should be shaped to drive improved business results. I will continue to push myself and my fellow “influencers” to be transparent, innovative, and focused on real thought leadership. You might say I’m an equal opportunity scold, but no ones gets more flak from Naomi than I give myself. Thank you so much for coming this far with me on my blogging journey.