The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Style and Strategy: Nadal versus Federer

Style and Strategy: Nadal versus Federer

Jun 23, 2010

I love tennis.  I prefer to watch it than to play as I’m not really very good, and I seem to have a bum shoulder.  Each year, my wife and I record the coverage of every grand slam, and to be honest, we have missed the once omni-presence of Rafael Nadal in all the finals.  Watching Nadal play was always a demonstration of power, command and grace.  The man can move around a tennis court like almost nobody else and only in his early 20’s I think he has 7 or so grand slams in his trophy case.

I also love Roger Federer.  Comparing his gracefulness against Nadal’s is difficult.  Certainly Roger has a different type of grace.  His is flowing and nuanced.  He commands his opponents not that he can always out power them or even out play them, but he can always outsmart them.  You will sometimes (not often) see him losing the first set of the match, only to “figure out” his opponent in the next set.  The key here is style.  They are both winners, but Federer’s graceful fluidity has gotten him a record number of grand slam wins.  On the other hand, Nadal’s speed and hard hitting style have gotten him fewer wins (although he’s quite young) but he is now riddled with constant injuries.

I’m going to liken this to long term HR technology planning.  I’m constantly surprised how few organizations have a long term technology roadmap and have actually stuck to it.  Most, I find, are constantly redeveloping their technology suites not based on their strategic needs, but they are updating with the technology-du jour.  Many organizations get caught implementing too many things all at the same time, and tax their staffs unnecessarily.  They bring new functionality in that was not planned well and integration suffers.

While short term implementation cycles might be executable, the long term data strategy is often what is really at risk.  When implementing off of the roadmap and going for the short term gain, the ability to make high quality connections between systems, the ability to seamlessly bring in the new functionality to the employee experience, and the ability to govern high quality data all become more difficult.  An organization’s ability to plan and stick to the plan is usually also indicative to execute a single technology within the broader HR ecosystem.

When integrations and data governance fail, the effects are often not visible for months or even years down the road.  You can hammer something into place in your HR ecosystem, but the positive impacts of the new technology are often short lived.

Callout to Karen Beaman – who I still have not played tennis with yet.

One comment

  1. Dubs, You are right on here. In order to succeed in tennis or with HR technology, you have to have a strategic roadmap in place that you’re following. Just as in tennis, it’s important to stick to the basics, build a solid foundation, and don’t get distracted by one-offs or the next hottest player in town. In watching the US Open, I’m reminded that the best players are those who come on the court with a plan and are consistent and steadfast in their approach. And the same holds true for the best HR technology architectures: planned, consistent, integrated, and focused on the basics, not the bells and whistles. While fanfare may sell, it doesn’t deliver the results.

    I’m ready to take you up on a round of tennis, Dubs, anytime!


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