Is Cloud The Way To Go?

So I had to upgrade my cell phone contract.  I used to be on this thing where I had a bucket of minutes and text messages to use, and now I’m on exactly the opposite.  I have unlimited phone and text and about 10 GB of data I can use every month.  It really points to a shift in how we as users of wireless devices are working.  Less and less of our days are spent actually talking to each other, and more of our days are spent collaborating through various mechanisms that involve data.  I will admit to spending an exceptional amount of time browsing news on my phone, looking through facebook updates to keep tabs on people, and using my phone for work emails.  Nobody calls me anymore, and if they do, I get my voicemails through data (I read my VM, have not listened to one in years).

One of the big questions these days is about SaaS and Cloud.  Should we do it?  Should we stay on PeopleSoft or SAP HCM?

The answer for SaaS is a definitive Yes.

At some point, be it this year, next or in 5 years, you are going to move to the cloud.  I’m not an opinion about your current on-premise strategy, and I’m not making a judgment of you if you disagree.  I’m simply stating a fact.  Let’s tale a look at the facts:

  • ADP: The actual development of the Enterprise HRMS client server product is probably severely limited.  I don’t even know if they sell it anymore.  We do know that ADP Vantage is what they are selling and developing.
  • Oracle / PeopleSoft:  We’ve all heard about applications unlimited, but for those who thing that in 2020 we’ll still be going to a PeopleSoft Track at OpenWorld, I think you really have to evaluate your reality.  The developers are all on Fusion.  Let’s say you are right and there is still a PeopleSoft product in 2020.  How long do you think it will have been since your last major product enhancement?
  • SAP: Well, there’s HAHA, and there’s SuccessFactors.  Either way, SAP kind of knows that they are pouring development resources into the cloud.  Same conclusion as with PeopleSoft – it will be around for a while, but that’s not the whole reality.
  • Workday:  It’s already in the cloud from the start – no discussion here.
  • Talent Management: It does not really matter if you bought Taleo, SuccessFactors, Cornerstone, PeopleFluent, (I’m going to get in trouble for leaving out 50 companies), you bought into the cloud long ago for TM.

I’m not really trying to change your mind on the cloud here.  It really does not matter.  If you are an HR technology buyer, you simply don’t have a choice.  The vendors and the industry are in the midst of choosing for you.  In just a few short years, all of your premise based HR technologies are going to cease or significantly slow their development efforts and fully shift to the cloud.  If you want to be on a product that will be continuously developed, that is where it will be.

Just in the same way I really don’t have a choice to stay on my old cell phone plan, the world is moving on when it comes to HR applications.  It’s time to move with it.

Systems Deployment for the 99%

Believe it or not, when it comes to personal technology, I’m not in the 1%.  Come to think of it, I’m pretty darn sure I’m not in any 1%, but that’s not quite the point.  I finally got a new phone after sitting around on my last phone for 2 years – it was ancient.  I’m quite pleased with my new phone.  My last charge lasted me 41 hours (weekday standard use), and I got 43 hours before that.  Last week on Friday, I got 26 hours out of a single charge that included 3 hours of a Google Hangout (video conference on the phone).  All in all I think it’s going pretty well.  I’m a Motorola guy – I like the build quality, I think Motorola has the best antennas in the industry, and I happen to be a Google everything type of guy making Android work well for me.  Basically, I can make calls on my phone, I can drop my phone, and I can use it all day.  What I’m not is the guy who complains about a phone not having 2 gigs of RAM, my -ability to custom ROM (completely modify the OS on the phone), and have a 2% better screen quality than the next guy.

When I go out and read the message boards about phones (as I did extensively when I was researching what to buy), the total amount of complaining about fringe functionality shocked me.  I mean, is it really more important to have a phone that you can fully customize than one that does not drop calls?  Do you really have to have 2 gigs of RAM on a phone that might be 5% faster for it, but you have to charge up every 8 hours?  I guess we all have our priorities, but I’m pretty sure that the guys who complain about this stuff are the 1%.  Most of us just want to not drop a call, not have to charge our phone every couple hours, and for the rest, if we can do 80 to 90% of every other phone, we’re pretty pleased.

This is the exact same problem when we select new technologies for HR.  There are just some people who seem to scream the loudest, and because of that, we happen to pay attention to them.  Rather than figuring out exactly what we need to be successful 99% of the time, we’re left chasing the minority exceptions.  And because those exceptions are screaming madly at us, we think they become part of the core requirement.  When it comes down to decisions about this or that, and whatever tradeoffs we have, we’ve often been led to think that 1% is a bit more important and urgent than it really is.

I’ve actually been an advocate for a while of forgoing the requirements gathering process and just having a set of use cases.  What is it exactly that we need to get done, what are the outcomes we need to achieve, and how do we measure that we have achieved them?  Sure there are going to be little things in there that need to be considered, but if we have a set of systems that gets us to an outcome instead of a set of requirements, then we can move on and figure out which system provides that outcome in the best way.  Often, we’ll realize that of the three systems that achieve the outcome, our next selection criteria is not the field and functional capability, but the user experience that is next in importance.  Really, outcomes don’t matter if users don’t use.  Then after all is said and done, if there’s still room for negotiation between a couple systems, the nitty gritty details come in, but only after we’ve decided that the system actually gets us to the right end state.

I don’t know about you guys, but my end state goal is to be able to make a call without dropping.  As a Verizon / Motorola guy, I have not dropped a call in probably 2 years, and I’m pretty sure I hit more cities and states than most of you.  All I’m saying is that I don’t need to chase the stuff that some people think is really cool.  My phone is there for a very specific purpose and if I can get that done 100% of the time, then I’m good to go.  Isn’t HR technology the same?

Strategy without Technology is Stupid

As of about 2003, I don’t think I could live my life without my devices.  Back then it was the blackberry and laptop.  Now it’s my Android phone, iPad and laptop.  If I lose my phone, I’m basically dead in the water – no contact with the outside world… I’m totally cut off.  When I’m waiting for the train, I’m reading my daily dose of news.  When I’m walking between the train and the office, I’m reading the last 5 emails that came in while I was on the train and keeping up to the minute.  When it’s after hours and I don’t know where I’m meeting my friends for dinner, I simply navigate to one of them using Google Latitude.  If you took all my devices away, I’m not sure I can return to 1999.

Here’s my pitch when I do an introduction to a new client, “I’m an expert in all things HR Service Delivery, but focus on HR technology.”  There was a time when this made sense.  I’m not sure it works anymore.  The point is that when we talk about HR Service Delivery, most of our services are now delivered through a technology.  We worry less and less over HR coordinator/generalist types who shepherd processes through for managers, and shared services people who make sure that calls get answered or paper gets entered.

Let’s face the facts about HR Service Delivery strategy.  Our employees and managers don’t actually want to talk to us anymore.  They are used to booking their own travel, entering their own time and expenses, looking up budgets in the financial systems.  Their personal lives are all about going to and their iPhones.  If their lives revolved around getting stuff for themselves instead of asking us to help them with a promotion, they would be much happier.

So why do we end up helping these managers so much?  Mostly it’s because more than half of the companies we work for have technologies that suck.  Yep, I said it… your HRT sucks.  If you really looked into your strategy (which probably has a lot to do with engaging employees/managers, making HR more effective/efficient, delivering better information… you’d quickly figure out that your HRT is actually the roadblock.  Put in something that is so easy to use that managers don’t have to ask you how to do something, and you’ll have happier employees who use the tools and get things done.

I’ve spent a lot of time guiding clients to their strategies, and also looking at the strategies that other consultants put together.  We all do the same things, we figure out where the business is and how we align HR to it, and then we figure out how to place technology to meet those HR and talent requirements.  It’s all a bit top down though.  What we need is a bottoms up approach that goes hand in hand with what we’ve been doing all along.  Figure out what the business needs from technology, but also what our employees want.  If we meld this together, we’ll find out that the technologies we deploy are more aligned with everything we need.

For 2013, it might be time to update my tagline.  “I’m an HR Technology specialist who is great at applying it to HR Service Delivery.”


The 2012 HR Technology Conference is Coming!!!

I was visiting a Hari Krishna temple yesterday, but it didn’t open at all times.  Tourists and visitors had to go in during services hours, and in my case, there were a good 1000 people in queue for this particular temple/time combination.  When the doors finally opened, I was amazed at the pushing going on, even when standing still.  Listen, there’s nowhere to go – and I really can’t take a step forward.

For me, unless it’s for work (I’m kinda on top of it if it’s work related), I’m a procrastinator.  Everything I do is last minute – just ask my wife, it drives her crazy.  My general philosophy is that nothing is really quite so critical that I’m going to drive myself nuts trying to get it done RIGHT NOW.  Everything still gets done, usually with the same attention to detail, and almost always on time.  I know that eventually, I’m going to get to the front of that line – I’m just not going to stress about it.

For those of you who are slackers like me, have been planning to go to the conference, but have not registered, there is still time.  Just use the Promotion Code SYSTEMATIC (all caps) when you register online to get $500 off the rack rate of $1,795. The discount does not expire until the conference ends on Oct. 10.

There’s an off chance I might even see you there this year.