The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology


Up In The Air – Packing Theory

systematicHR Avatar

Many of the people I know have watched a film called “Up in the Air.”  Indeed, I suppose it was a popular file garnering several Oscar nominations.  (I have no idea if it won anything as I don’t watch the Oscars.)  Several people have told me how personal the film was, and other than the whole “affair thing” I’d have to say that I agree.  I’ll take a moment to point out that I am nowhere close to 10 million miles either.  However, there were certain points of the film that as I watched it (on a 4 hour flight of course) I chuckled to myself and realized that I do the same thing.

The first of these moments occurred when George Cloony’s character looks at his Anna (I have no idea what her last name was)’s character’s suitcase and begins throwing things out of it.  I’ve gotten to the point where I have packed for 2 week international trips inclusive of 3 suits, workout clothes, extra flip flop (sandals), casual clothes, neck ties, etc… all in a convenient carryon bag.  Cloony’s character is exactly right.  The 35 minutes spent waiting for a checked bag after you land at the arrival city is a considerable amount of time each year for many travelers.  I’d guess that if I checked a bag every time I flew, I’d spend in excess of two 24 hour days in the airport baggage claim area.

In HR software terms, what I’m talking about is design, and most specifically design towards business requirements.  There is all too often a desire from the business user to define every possible element.  Division 1 wants to have 3 extra fields, while Division 2 things that their users will revolt if the “Commit” button is not located in the top right corner of the MSS form.  This is all fine, but we tend to spend time working through this detailed minutia rather than solving for the business requirement.  There are always tradeoffs to be had, and usually in the big picture, the strategic business requirement is much more desirable that forcing a few users to get used to the placement of a button, or to make do without a few fields.

Unfortunately, back in the 90’s when we were all in love with the power of ERP and how we could all manage to our individual uniqueness, we allowed our organizations to get used to dictating to us in HRIT how our applications should be delivered.  We still see it today even though re now realize that 90% of customizations are not driven by a business need, but by user preference.  In today’s world of SaaS vendors, many organizations are quickly realizing that not only are vendors creating user environments that are based on leading practice usability, but that vendor design is often better than anything customers can come up with anyway.  However, there still seems to be a sense from the user population that small design items are important, and HRIS often sees minor customizations as simply minor.

My point is this: get through the airport with a carryon.  Minor customizations seem minor, but when you try to stuff them all in a carryon, you realize you’ll have to check that bag.  You have sacrificed future upgrade ease, you’ve decided that the tradeoff for small customs is more important than business outcomes, and you’ve once again told your ultimate end user that they know more about running HR than you do.  Don’t do it, carryons are a wonderful thing.

systematicHR Avatar

2 responses to “Up In The Air – Packing Theory”

  1. Sean Rehder Avatar


    To your point terminology. Different companies use different names for the same item/process in HR Recruiting. Imagine if accounting departments did that. I assume this is because there is no standardization or formal training (that I know of)…no one goes to college to become a recruiter.

    As I implement CRM applications/practices for corporate recruiting departments…they often ask to change the names within the applications. I push back…stick with CRM industry standardization I say and here’s why. So far so good

    Oh..and next time you pack for a trip…post some pictures of the process and final outcome. I want to see this. “JJ” made that kind of claim once…but I won’t believe it until I see it. Post it on as I would love to see other people comment with their pics. I’m still a “bag checker” for anything over 2 days and I hate it.

  2. systematicHR Avatar

    Sean – checking a bag for 2 days? You gotta take a pic of that for me!! You at least have to figure out how to get by for 1 week in a carry-on. The international travel assumes you will use the hotel laundering services.

    The terminology is a good callout. Amazing how organizations want to change the name of everything, and then holler about change management later when all the new people over 5 years have to go through a learning process just to speak the same language.

    A lot of this is data governance. Not only do you have to standardize language within the walls, but standardizing language to the market is also a good idea.