After a decade of desiring a “seat at the table,” HR is finally in a position to help business leaders understand the impact of talent management technology. The function can offer a new approach to HR technology deployments based on measurable business outcomes, rather than process automation or cost reduction.
Today’s HR technology can deliver significant value to the business, but to realize this value HR must transform the old-school implementation methodology, which treats the installation itself as the main event. This new age of integrated talent management technology requires a focus on transforming processes through configuration to deliver meaningful talent intelligence to support strategic business decisions.
The first imperative in this evolution is to redefine how software implementation success is measured.
Leading HR software providers no longer focus on single aspects of talent management. Instead, they offer integrated suites of modules to address the organization’s overall talent management needs with rich, decision-making business intelligence.
Many companies still approach implementing this technology using methods from the enterprise resource planning days where customizations were the only way to make it work, and automating existing processes without too much disruption was the payoff. Reporting and analytics were an afterthought, and the user experience was not of much concern to the IT department relentlessly driving toward the “go-live” date.
This continues to describe the majority of HR software deployments in 2012, which consequently have failed to deliver real business value. New technology plus old-school implementation methodologies equals diminished business value. Implementation methodologies have to change to keep pace with the promise and evolution of new technology.
Recommendations to Evolve HR Implementations
The technical delivery of the talent management technology software is no longer the main event in an implementation. Where technical specifications and sandboxes were some of the defining deliverables of the past, they are now necessary steps to support the new end game. The new defining deliverables for implementations are transformational processes supported through configuration that deliver the holistic analytics that matter to the business. For example, for a services organization the key outcome of any talent management deployment should be to understand the skills deployed, the skills needed for upcoming assignments and the skills available on the bench. Providing the business with the ability to understand when to hire versus when to develop internally on a daily, ad-hoc basis can be invaluable and creates a clear business case for change.
Following are eight recommendations to evolve deployments to keep pace with the needs of today’s talent leader and the potential in today’s talent management technology:
1. Begin with defined business outcomes and work backward. Prior to any talent management technology deployment, HR leaders must understand what business outcomes will define success in their organizations. They must seek answers to critical questions about:
The business: What are the short- and long-term business goals, and what are the skills or talent requirements needed to reach those goals?
The data: What metrics need to be measured both inside and outside the organization, how are they measured, who needs to receive them, and what format should they be delivered in?
The end users: How do they receive information, what is the best way to communicate this information to them and what information do they consider relevant and meaningful?
2. Focus on the new target audience, its experience and expectations. The best strategy and the most powerful software in the world won’t deliver the desired results if the audience doesn’t adopt the new technology. User adoption and high levels of user engagement correlate directly to the level of value a user perceives. If users can’t see the value in executing steps of a process or using a piece of software, they won’t engage. HR must focus on today’s savvy end users during each phase of deployment, from designing the overall deployment strategy to creating communication about change management. HR must ensure that end users understand “what’s in it for me?”
3. Focus on change management and the message. Change management is fundamental to successful deployment, and key to any successful change management approach is a focus on the value message for end users. Smart organizations will create a structured approach for change that starts with a clear vision and brand and compelling reasons for change that users can easily understand. Next, organizations empower “champions of change” at all levels within the organization. Finally, they develop a comprehensive plan to promote acceptance through marketing, communications and branding.
4. Embrace process transformation and calibration. Automating a broken process merely speeds up the bad results. HR leaders must rethink processes and make the transition from optimizing them — perfecting efficiency — to transforming them — delivering specific outcomes. By embracing process transformation early in deployment, businesses can ensure gaps between processes and technology capabilities are calibrated to ensure desired business results. With today’s agile technology, HR leaders should challenge their organizations to change, adapt and evolve their thinking and their way of handling processes — if nothing else, for the sake of growth and flexibility in the future. Key differentiators for the business should be identified up front and dealt with in terms of system design, but only after careful consideration of what truly makes the business unique versus what is merely done a certain way because it has “always been that way.”
5. Focus on technology integration. Identifying relevant data to feed the overall business intelligence architecture is critical. Organizations need to define a solid data conversion strategy and integration architecture plan, which eliminates siloed data and builds a more meaningful picture of talent and business analytics that speak to every level of the organization.
6. Support business agility. Businesses must alter strategy quickly to stay competitive and retain customers. Yet regardless of industry, staying agile to adjust to new strategy is a constant challenge for most organizations because agility means change, and change involves people and processes. As talent leaders embark on HR deployments that support continual change in business strategy, they must allow for flexibility in their own strategies by understanding that every three to six months measurements of success may change, and integration points within the enterprise may evolve. Today’s talent management systems, many of which are delivered in the cloud, make it easier to adapt technology to rapidly changing business requirements.
7. Evolve organizational capabilities for deployment. Successful deployments tap capabilities that lie outside of traditional HR skills. It’s important for HR leaders to take inventory of the skills available within their chosen deployment teams, identify gaps and find — by building or buying — the necessary talent to bridge those gaps. Several high-level skill sets are critical to the team, including marketing, business analytics, process design and governance.
8. Decrease dependence on IT. The role of IT has changed. Once focused on heavy implementations, customizations and report development, now IT’s role in new deployments should focus on integrating the technology into the rest of the business architecture. IT’s focus will be to weave the SaaS product into a broader application architecture strategy as well as to support mobility and enterprise-wide analytics. HR must transform processes to leverage functionality of an SaaS application right out of the box, and it must decide which processes stand alone and which truly need integration to other HR and enterprise functions. In doing so, HR moves toward a model that gives the function more control over its data without such heavy dependence on IT.
HR has a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between highly evolved HR technology that holds the promise of delivering measurable value and the old-school software implementations that erode it. Implementations must die and be replaced by deployments. Bridging the gap requires a new approach to deployment that focuses on measurable outcomes, end users, process transformation and effective change management.
Heidi Spirgi is the co-founder and president of Knowledge Infusion, a global HR consulting company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.