Or does HR strategy define HR technology?
The honest answer is probably both, but I’m going to argue that HR technology leads more often than not. It isn’t that strategy does not contribute to new functionality, but technology opens so many doors that the end effect is the ability to concentrate on otherwise impossible ideas.
In the 80’s and 90’s when HRMS was in its infancy, Human Resources was completely administrative. Opportunities to focus on true workforce development and identify workforce activities impacted the bottom line were non-existant. Several causes from not having the data, time or skills to evaluate these connections between profits and the workforce contributed to the lack of strategic focus. With HRMS, HR executives gained the data, and some degree of time to focus on these activities. Unfortunately, it took years for the HR discipline to evolve and the HR practitioners to understand that there might be value they could provide to the business. It took additional years for the business to accept that HR could provide that value.
Then in the late 90’s, along came the modularized HR system and some point solutions. These systems like performance, training administration, and recruiting provided solutions to transactional processes that further streamlined and automated once time consuming tasks. While not adding particularly to the strategic value of HR, they did begin the growth of today’s talent management systems. The core HRMS no longer houses the truly valuable data. Instead, it houses core information while talent processing occurs in specialized subsystems. These systems now act to truly shape the workforce and impact profits.
Also in the late 90’s, the emergence of employee self service allowed direct access to employees for updating of employee data. In the beginning, this wasn’t much. Today’s portal technologies interact with talent management systems and also give HR direct communications access to the employee. In effect, these tools have become critical not only to data processing, but also for the communication of the employer brand.
Obviously there’s considerable flow in either direction, but one cannot deny the positive affects HR technology has had in shaping the direction of HR strategy.