Strategy First, Then Technology

Since the beginning of time in the HR technology space, we have looked to technology as the golden goose to solve all problems. This kind of thinking has caused the demise of what I call talent management technology 1.0, cost us time and resources and hurt our reputation among business partners.

To think differently about talent management technology, we have to acknowledge sins from our past. These include but are not limited to:

1. Digitizing processes the workforce and business leaders found tedious to complete and as having little value add. Also, not thinking differently about the end results and what is going to provide the business with the value and intelligence it is looking for about its talent. Simply putting tools in place to make HR’s life easier will never meet expectations.

2. Thinking that implementing vendors’ technologies equates to deploying a talent management strategy. Technology implementation in the world of talent management is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the total effort to make sure technology is adopted and leveraged as designed. If all you do as an organization is take the vendors’ software price and add the vendors’ implementation price to it, you will be about 50 percent of the way there cost-wise and about 20 percent of the way resource-wise. We have all underestimated the cultural change, organizational change and requirements to drive adoption of these tools without truly understanding this issue.

3. There is a major difference between implementing a module from a technology vendor and deploying a process within an enterprise. We have believed that by thinking in a module approach, we slowly but surely can reach talent management nirvana once we finish putting in all of the modules. What we have learned through talent management 1.0 is that while implementing modules in silos provides some efficiency, thinking holistically and deploying processes across functional silos is the only way we get true value and effectiveness.

4. Talent management technologies do not work without a solid foundation underneath them. For the past five to seven years organizations have been trying to implement talent management technologies without having a solid foundation of information such as who reports to whom, on what geographies reporting is needed and what type of information will be stored in the foundational HRMS versus talent management tools.

5. Lastly, deploying a talent management strategy, which includes the implementation of technology to enable that strategy, is something that must be owned, led and accounted for. It should be placed in the hands of the HR function and not the IT function. Another big mistake we have made in the talent management 1.0 era is thinking IT alone will implement technology, and our strategy will be executed against this implementation. IT is a partner, not the owner. If you ever find yourself with IT owning and leading the deployment of a talent management strategy, stop the project and rethink where you are going immediately.

It is time for us to stop simply implementing technology to solve the talent management business imperative and begin thinking about how to deploy a talent management strategy that achieves specific outcomes that our enterprise needs to win the war for talent. The longer we give technology implementation the majority of the attention as part of any talent management initiative, the longer we as an industry will continue to spin our wheels and not make traction on leveraging technology to enable a strategy that ties directly to our business goals.

Let’s learn from past sins, and take a giant step forward by not wasting another era of great technology. It is time that we stop blaming the vendors for falling short of our needs.
It is time for HR to shine and achieve something that the industry has not been able to achieve in its 150-year existence: bring true data, process and intelligence to the board table and help the enterprise realize the value of its largest expense — its people.

Jason Averbook is the CEO of Knowledge Infusion. He can be reached at