We’ve been in love with self service, direct access, portals, and everything else that allows a user to interact with HR on her own. We have generically called self service and reporting tools portals, even though most of us don’t really know what a portal is or does. Well, intuitively we do, a portal is just a simple portal into types of data. But a portal should be much more than just an employee self service transactional site. It should really serve multiple purposes and launch multiple types of functionality. The portal was once a technical term that involved all sorts of technologies to present a variety of data objects from multiple data sources into a single user experience. These multiple objects might be displayed in summary from as “portlets” which allowed further drill through and expansion into a selected area (data, topic or transaction). What is more important to me is not the nature of the technology, but what end users can now do in portals.
So, what is a portal?
First and foremost, most portals already have transactional capabilities that we called self service. These are the basics that we’ve now had for a decade, where employees and managers alike can make changes that range from the simple address transaction to the more complex employee transfer.
Second, the Analytics should be made available to managers (and sometimes even employees). The portal should be able to present core analytics and KPI’s to a manager based on her level within the organization, business unit, and any other attribute that makes the selection of which KPI’s are viewed meaningful. But then again, many of us have had analytics in our portals for a few years anyway.
Third, we need to have an integrated knowledgebase. Here we start to get into more sophisticated service delivery concepts as opposed to just delivering a chunk of data. By making a searchable knowledgebase available, we’ve now integrated how HR interacts with our customers from an informational perspective and moved away from the simple transaction processing. The more integrated your search is, the more successful you will be in driving transactions out of the HR staff. Usability is also king here, as the old 2 clicks to anywhere rule (the one that never ever worked to my knowledge) also applies here – 2 clicks to any information an employee might need.
Lastly, social software has been emerging for a few years now, and while it might be part of people’s portals, HR and organizations in general are still trying to figure out how to apply it. Once you’ve integrated knowledgebase, you then need to integrate all types of additional data such as wiki’s and blogs to that same search framework. Tacking on how people connect is a complex leap from allowing people access to data in a knowledgebase or blog, but it’s the same concept – you’re helping people develop ways to get to data and information that is important to them.
At the end of the day, I think we all realize that the corporate HR portal is developing rapidly from the simple data transactions that we’ve lived with for years, and evolving into knowledge transactions. The first step of HR knowledgebase can quickly become professional knowledgebase and knowledge sharing, and then to connecting. This is what I think is next for portal anyway, what do you guys think?