Is Chatter the Center of the Universe?

Last week at Dreamforce, Marc Benioff spent 2.5 hours of the opening keynote extolling the virtues of Chatter.  A life-size iPad showcased the ease of collaborating on sales deals and other work.  And, even more telling, a number of technology providers announced they were plugging into the Chatter way of life – including HR vendors Workday and Vana Workforce, as well as Infor (marketing), Concur (expenses), and Kenandy (supply chain).

The event sparks both a turning point and a bundle of questions …

Could chatter get any bigger?

Internal Social Networking – Reborn

Buzz aside, this event will mark a major shift in the perception of internal social networking going forward.  Benioff deemed the space “Social Enterprise” and identified “in-context social collaboration” as the business value differentiator. Truth be told, though, business leaders have accepted external social networks as a necessary business tool – for things like recruiting, prospecting, and customer service.  On the other hand, internal social networking continues to be met by raised eyebrows, headshakes, and outright skepticism.

Benioff makes a strong case that maybe the networks, to date, just haven’t been in the right place (in the middle of business activities) or connected to the right things (work products).  Though specific customer examples – such as NBC Universal’s use of chatter across all properties to collaborate on such things as marketing products – are still few, an impressive number of hands were raised in the keynote auditorium when asked “who’s using chatter?”

Who Isn’t Using Chatter?

Though a couple of HR vendors announced Chatter plug-ins, other social collaboration-oriented vendors were noticeably absent from such announcements.  Notably, Saba and SuccessFactors.  The question remains whether worker-centric applications such as these can connect to work and business activities while retaining the stream of work within their application set. Or, will they ultimately need to connect up with a business-centric social stream?  Where will the center of work gravity fall when everything shakes out?

What Will Larry Do?

With Oracle OpenWorld just weeks away, one wonders how Larry Ellison will respond to his protege and nemesis.  Though Ellison has a social platform in Webcenter Connect and ties to business application activities in Fusion Network at Work, will it come across as a “me too”?  It is hard to imagine Ellison extolling the virtues of a business application that could “enable customers and employees to rise up against corporate leadership” as Marc Benioff charged the 45,000 Dreamforce attendees, in what was certainly the most electrifying moment of the keynote. Still, it’s also hard to imagine Larry Ellison ceding the universe to Chatter.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Research Summary: Getting the Most from Your Calibration Process

Forward

With traditional performance processes under fire, but continued pressure to deliver a vehicle for measurement and feedback, leading organizations have incorporated calibration into the process. If done right, calibration can not only improve the value of reviews today, but create a foundation for business-centric performance management going forward. However, if done wrong, calibration only serves to exacerbate the complaints and frustrations of the business.  Based on interviews with more than twenty organizations, this best practice report lays out the best methods for creating and running successful calibration sessions.

A. Introduction

As HR organizations look to transform their performance management practice from an after-the-fact forced documentation to a driver of business outcomes, calibration can not only improve the perceived fairness of today’s process, but raise the value of performance management to the business by:

  • Socializing expectations.
  • Gaining visibility into cross-team capabilities.
  • Better preparing managers to coach employees.
  • Providing a natural segue to broader business conversations.

Figure 1. Incorporating Calibration into the Performance Process

B. 7 Key Steps in Running a Successful Calibration Process

In order to leverage calibration as a business value generator rather than a mechanism for further frustration, organizations must understand the key steps in running successful calibration sessions:

  1. Get what matters on the table.
  2. Make the conversation king.
  3. Make the tough calls.
  4. Own the result.
  5. Broaden insight.
  6. Move toward future-focused business impact.
  7. Communicate “what’s in it for me” to managers and employees.

Figure 2. Structure of a Performance Calibration Session

C. Actionable Advice for HR Leaders

With few organizations satisfied with performance-appraisal results and most re-designing their process every three to five years, it is easy to incorporate a new fad and quickly become disenchanted. The calibration process is not a new fad – it has been found to be an effective practice. However, it needs to be done right or it will just lead to further frustration. Summary recommendations to get started:

  • Ensure proper investment. Can your organization invest in facilitators, coaching for managers, and getting executive support for establishing what matters?  Such investment is critical in rolling out a process that positively impacts managers and their teams.
  • Keep it simple. The investment in the process should center around driving better conversations – amongst managers within the meeting and between managers and employees outside of the meeting.  Meanwhile complex processes and administrative demands should be kept to a minimum.
  • Look for calibrations already occurring in the organization. Since this is a business-driven activity, some business areas or teams might be conducting calibration-type sessions.  Some groups may be effectively using calibration sessions to drive useful conversations and consistent results.  Look to these pockets for initial investment and value creation; then leverage these examples throughout the organization.

D. Report Links

Get the full framework with component details on what’s different and where the business benefits lay. Find out how vendors will need to respond – and what you should expect from them.

Buy the full research report on the Constellation Research website.

Contact the Sales team to purchase this report on an a la carte basis or join the Constellation Customer Experience!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are Check-ins The Future Nirvana of Time Tracking?

Time tracking has always been at the forefront of the internet of things – from the early days of punch cards fed to a mainframe to more recent advancements such as interactive voice response and biometric devices.  How do advancements in SoLoMo technology open up even further possibilities?

Time tracking itself began as a compliance necessity – ensuring people were paid for the proper time worked and no one (especially the company) was getting cheated.  However, tracking time worked has generated far greater benefits than just that.  Knowing when, how many, and on what people work allows for optimized near-term scheduling and, when tied to outcomes (such as widgets sold, widgets produced, and customers satisfied), it can enable predictive planning – including hiring, scheduling, and deployment.  In other words, collecting data on what people are working on and tying that to desirable outcomes can mean big money.  Meanwhile, technology advancements – in particular, biometric devices – make this data more accurate and due to ease and speed, more specific.

For those whose paycheck is tightly tied to clocking in and out, this works great.  However, there is a huge gaping void of workers whose work activities are a complete mystery.  For this population, the act of filling out a timesheet – though often tried at companies to get a “handle on things” – leads to complaints and non-compliance, at best, and mutiny and attrition, at worst. There have also been attempts to raise things up a level – via goal tracking.  Tracking progress and completion toward goals (that could also be tied to projects and outcomes) would garner a similar level of visibility into the work activities of a more elusive population. However, getting individuals to track goals day-to-day is even less realistic than getting people to fill out a timesheet. “We would love it if people did that,” remarked an HR executive in a recent interview.  But they don’t.  It’s a burden and doesn’t help them get work done.  It sure would be great data to have though.

Enter “checking into work objects.” Just as Foursquare and Facebook Places (soon to be replaced by embedded check-ins) allow a consumer to check into a restaurant, airport, or other spot of interest – and then enables others to comment, share experiences, and make suggestions (in addition to suggestions and “offers” made by the system itself), work systems could allow workers to check into a project, customer, product, etc., forming the basis of a useful, collaborative work activity.  This is just what DoubleDutch proposes with its new Hyve product.  Such a mechanism bridges the unstructured, natural way of working of a large population of knowledge workers and structured data collection that can be used for high value visibility and decision making.  (See below)

Though check-in data cannot replace the highly granular and accurate time keeping made possible by badge swipes and biometric devices, perhaps there will be a marrying of the two for the on-the-clock crowd as well.  With mobile devices becoming more pervasive, an increased desire for social-based work environments, and increased mobile device sophistication (such as QR code readers), checking into work may become a natural and productive way to keep time.

DoubleDutch screenshots:

Check into a work object with DoubleDutch

Visibility into what people are actually working on - made possible by structured data collection

——————————————————————————————————–

For more on this subject, check out (DoubleDutch CEO) Lawrence Coburn’s blog post on work objects.

Posted in Disruptive technology, Innovation, Internet of things, Mobile, Social collaboration, Workforce Management | 1 Comment

HR Mobility Round-up

As predicted, HR technology providers are releasing mobile applications in droves.  Within the last few months Lawson/Infor, Lumesse, Peoplefluent, SuccessFactors, and Workday have all had major announcements, with more to come. Some interesting trends:

What about HTML5?

Bullish statements from Salesforce.com, Google, and Facebook, along with an enthusiastic technical community would suggest that native application builds are no longer necessary and HTML5 is the way to go.  And yet, no HR technology vendors are using HTML5.  They are all building native. Why is this?   The reality is that while HTML5 has closed some gaps with regards to local data storage and speedier caching, the user experience is still insufficient to get new users addicted to new applications.  And this is what HR technology providers need to do right now.  Until HTML5 can completely close the gap or employees/executives are so used to using mobile devices to access and leverage people information, native development (on potentially multiple operating systems and design palettes) will be the norm.

What’s the approach to native development?

There are three major camps with regards to native development strategy, ranging from generalized to specialized (see figure below).

1. Standard native applications for iOS (Apple), Android, and Blackberry (RIM).  With this approach, vendors are building applications for all major devices.  The application interface is tweaked slightly to fit into the design experience of the device, but a good portion of the development work can be re-used from device to device.  The advantage of this approach is more rapid cross-device development and the ability to reach more users with simple, straightforward tasks.

2. iOS (Apple) specific applications. With this approach, vendors are optimizing the mobile experience for the iPhone, in particular.  Plans to build out on other devices take a back burner. The advantage of this approach is a richer experience for a popular device and a quicker time-to-market with new applications.

3. iPad specific design. With this approach, vendors are optimizing design for users of a rich and roomy touch interface. Other tablet devices are not a concern yet, because no one is buying them. However, executives and senior managers are buying iPad’s by the dozen.  For HR, this is a target constituent for rolling out people planning and insight.  The advantage of this approach is an extremely rich and hopefully addictive interface for a strategic population.

As different kinds of applications emerge, vendors are sure to mix and match these approaches.

What applications are being delivered?

Employee “directories” are the most common mobile application with offerings from Lawson (Mobile Employee), Peoplefluent (Explorer), SuccessFactors (Org Chart), Ultimate (Employee Directory), Workday (Organization Swirl). In addition to look-ups, some of these applications such as Peoplefluent, SuccessFactors and Workday offer rich visualizations of organizational relationships.

Another very popular application being delivered via mobile is recruiting, with a particular emphasis on manager visibility into the recruiting process.  Lawson, Lumesse, Peoplefluent, and Successfactors all have takes on this.

Kronos covers workforce management. Saba and SumTotal cover learning. And, ADP introduced a mobile payroll RUN last year.

*See below for some public screenshots.

Your POV:

What applications and devices are most needed in your organization?  Is your vendor hitting the mark?  What are they missing?

———————————————————————————————————-

Workday Organization Swirl

Peoplefluent Explorer

Peoplefluent Recruiting

ADP RUN

Ultimate Employee Directory

Lumesse TalentLink

SuccessFactors Org Chart

Kronos Workforce Mobile

Posted in Mobile, Uncategorized, Vendors | 4 Comments

Why Business Leaders should conduct Talent Reviews

The plan will fail without the right resource allocation

In order to be successful in today’s business climate, leaders need to not only develop a strategy, but execute on that strategy.  There is too much fast-moving competition for an important initiative to fail due to lack of progress.  How one manages people, and work, and the complex relationship between people and work is what sets one business leader apart from her peers.

In her eBook and accompanying video, Patty Azzarello, veteran business leader and former GM of Hewlett Packard, lays out five key things that block action from actually occurring.  One of those things is getting resource allocations to stick. Here is what she has to say:

“If you want to do new things, you have to move resources. Moving resources is really hard and it’s one of the biggest things people disagree about. Your strategy is where you put your resources. You need to ensure you put the right resources on the new things you need to get done.  Never ever expect your staff to do this offline and cooperate behind the scenes to move resources around. It will never happen. You need to drive the resource decisions – top down, in the light of day with the whole staff and make those assignment decisions really clear up front.  Or else, those resource shifts are never going to happen.”

Getting staff together to decide resource allocations in the context of new and changing initiatives is the essence of a talent review.  It is easy enough to assign theoretical headcount numbers to new product investments, new territories, or new business development initiatives.  It is a whole different matter to figure out who the right people are to lead and support these initiatives, how this is going to affect existing teams, and to get the management team on board with the changes.

In a talent review, the leadership team first discusses the business initiatives critical to success in the coming year(s).  Important leadership roles and vulnerable staffing areas are highlighted.  Next, the discussion moves to individuals.  Each individual within the scope of the review (managers and above, critical experts, etc.) is examined.  What is the individual’s strengths?  What is their interest? Are they a fit for a new initiative or are they better suited to remain where they are?  Should they be groomed for the next opportunity?  Over the course of the conversation, the leaders get on the same page with what matters to the business and what’s needed by the business. Disagreements are plentiful – especially when it comes to losing staff or not getting the choice assignment proposed for a mentee.  The conversation, results, and action plan are transparent, though, and the business leader can be confident in the execution of the plan.

HR business partners can bring quite a lot of value to a talent review.  In addition to facilitating the conversation and keeping the objectives and action plan on track, the HR partner will likely have access to data analysis, including cross-organizational comparisons and historical trends.  In addition, the HR partner can help with the follow-through on the action plan itself by incorporating the team’s needs into programs such as recruiting, development, and learning as well as providing coaching to the managers with changed responsibilities.

In the best case scenario, the HR business partner has already recommended this approach and the business leaders are on board and seeing strong results.  This is the case in a good portion of Fortune 500 companies – at least at certain levels and in certain functions. For those business leaders that lack this benefit, don’t wait for HR. Talent reviews are a business-led activity.  Initiate the need with HR and make the sessions happen.  Your strategy will be thankful.

Your POV: Are you a business leader?  Do you conduct talent reviews? (or do you call them something else?) Is HR involved?  Shoot me a note.  I’d love to hear your story.

——————————————————————————————

For more on talent reviews, please see:

What talent reviews are:

Behind Closed Doors – The Talent Review Meeting

What’s The difference between talent reviews and succession planning?

Tools for talent reviews:

Talent Review vs. Calibration Tools – What’s the Difference?

Using Performance and Potential Matrix

What to expect in the meeting:

10 Dysfunctional Characters at a Talent Review Meeting

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The risk of (good) innovation

The risk of deploying an innovative product is that your users might just fall in love with it. And, they will be devastated when you have to pull the plug.

The mark of good user satisfaction is no longer a score in the “I don’t hate it” realm or even a measure of system usage.  With the consumerization of workplace applications and the growth of freemium, user-selected applications, the new bar for user acceptance is “I can’t live without this application.”

This is how many users of Cohuman* feel.  But, unfortunately, according to an announcement to customers last night, Cohuman is shutting down it’s services in 34 days. Here are some reactions from customers on the blog announcing the shut down and the mysterious acquisition as well as the Facebook page enabling users to share their reactions and go-forward plans with each other:

“I’m very disappointed and very sorry to hear that cohuman is shutting down. Since I’ve discovered and shared it, I’ve gotten several clients used to it when NOTHING ELSE BEFORE HAS WORKED.”

“This makes me so sad. Along with other comments we would be more than happy to pay for the free service.”

“Since I discovered this software, me and my team has discovered really how to work in collaborative way. This news is very sad too us, we was justing starting to use it, and the results was very good. And everybody was excited with the solution.”

“I have used a lot of productivity tools and I’m very surprised to see Cohuman leave the scene. What is it that good products never stay very long even though they seem to be loved by many?”

The public outcry – including anger over the sudden shutdown, support for charging a fee (even for free stuff) just to keep it going, and praise for giving them a product that makes work better – is startling.  It makes one wonder why a) necessary funding never kicked in and b) the acquiring company is shutting this gem down.

It is a sad, but poignant example of the industry’s growing pains.  There is a lack of a standard measurement for true user success for workplace applications – one that can be used in determining appropriate funding and investment.  Neither current measurements for workplace usage (based on top-down enterprise buys) nor pure consumer applications (based on wide-spread open usage) apply to these new applications that make work better. That needs to change.

In addition, there is a big unknown with regards to the balance between freemium, viral user adoption and charging a fee for value.  What is the right turning point?  What are the right tiers?  These questions are being played out as we speak and there will be many more examples like Cohuman before we get answers.

If you are contemplating deploying an innovative technology at a broader enterprise level, Cohuman’s blog post and Facebook page will provide a good anecdotal understanding of what to prepare for – both the positives and the negatives.  It is a good reminder to have a back-up plan, get a contract that incorporates potential acquisition, and closely follow the viability of the company.

——————————————————————————————————-

*Cohuman is a social-oriented task management application that allows employees and external collaborators to track and prioritize to-do lists and projects.  The work “goals” and completion are transparent and can automatically change in priority based on the needs of others on the team.  I highlighted it in my Enterprise 2.0 presentation as an example of connecting goals to work.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Why I’ll enjoy the HR Technology Conference this year

I’ve always looked forward to the HR Technology Conference – that is, up until a few weeks before the show.  I looked forward to seeing the latest and greatest from the competition. I couldn’t wait to see my long-time connections and meet new, interesting people.  I eagerly speculated about the song Naomi might incorporate into a keynote.  I looked forward to hearing about the pains and achievements of HR leaders getting technology to do what they needed.

But all that would change a few weeks before the show.  I would suddenly realize that my experience at the HR Technology Conference would consist of long days at the Sears Tower or long nights in my hotel room preparing a big demo or a big presentation or both.  Actually, it was great – and my boss, Gretchen Alarcon, always shined.  But I missed all the fun.  And, this year – as an independent analyst – I plan to have some fun.  I am looking forward to watching those big demos and big presentations.  In particular, I am on the hunt for innovative approaches to business-centric HR technology.

I hope you will join me in the hunt – whether it is for shiny and useful technology or for connections to people who can spark your plans and ideas.  If you haven’t already purchased a pass, please feel free to use the Promotion Code WILSON11 (all caps) when you go to register online and get $500 off the rack rate of $1,795. (expires September 19)

Bill Kutik tells me that registration is off the charts and rooms are filling up fast, so here’s one procrastinator telling another to get your plans in place.  And, let me know what they are!  I’ve got the Awesome New Technologies for HR session on my agenda, but I am looking for a clone to cover all of the simultaneous sessions.  Looking forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Research Summary: People Management Technology – A New Framework for Delivering Business Results

Forward

This report lays out a new framework for evaluating people technology decisions in an age of increased demands on business results.  The document delivers comprehensive insight into emerging trends and actionable advice for technology and HR leaders as they make next-generation investment choices in the next three years.

A. Introduction

With mounting pressures on business leaders to get the most from their people to hit targets, technologies that manage and optimize people are increasingly at the forefront of strategic investments.  As a result, technology leaders will face significant HR technology decisions in the next three years.  However, legacy frameworks and decision criteria focus on HR itself – separate from business (see Figure 1).  The time has come to fully connect HR technology to the business.  What’s more, “HR” technology provides too limited a view of what needs to be achieved.  The technology picture needs to focus on infusing people decisions and business decisions together – focusing on solving business problems, not further enhancing HR capabilities.

Figure 1. What HR-Centric Technology Looks Like

B. New Framework Focuses on Impacting the Bottom Line

The shift from HR efficiency and effectiveness to business performance means it is no longer sufficient to bolt-on business users and solutions as an afterthought to HR technology.  Such a strategy is incomplete, relying on outdated frameworks to inform what is important to HR, but not to business success.  Instead, a more valuable framework for next-generation investment value will (see Figure 2.  A comprehensive framework and component details available in the official report):

  • Focus on business value first. Instead of aspiring to optimal HR service delivery, a next-generation technology framework aims to equip the business with first-rate people management tools in the context of overall business management.
  • Recognize business-oriented people applications as the drivers of business value. Instead of lumping high value business touch-points into a general talent management category, a next-generation framework differentiates tools for business users and optimizes how they interact with business technology.
  • View foundational elements – including data, transactions, and programs – in support of business focus. Foundational components continue to play an important role in next-generation investments, but differentiating characteristics, such as flexibility and integration, shift to support the ultimate goal of delivering business value.

What Business-Centric People Technology Looks like

C. Technology Leaders Can Expect Vendors to Respond

The race is on to build out proper platforms, innovate at the business effectiveness layer, and fill in the remaining layers organically or through acquisition and partnership.  There are 4 foundational elements for success:

  1. Business user design thinking orientation.
  2. Tighter integration with business systems.
  3. Pluggable integration with different components in the stack.
  4. Solid foundation.

D. Actionable Advice For HR Technology Leaders

As organizations look to take advantage of the latest developments in business-centric, people impact technology, they have the choice of two approaches.

  1. Update to an agile platform with a mind to innovate at the business effectiveness layer.
  2. Add value with planning & operations applications first, building a case for platform investment.

E. Report Links

Get the full framework with component details on what’s different and where the business benefits lay. Find out how vendors will need to respond – and what you should expect from them.

Buy the full research report on the Constellation Research website.

Contact the Sales team to purchase this report on an a la carte basis or join the Constellation Customer Experience!

Posted in Business value, Innovation, Research, Solving business problems, Strategic HCM, Talent Management | 2 Comments

IHRIM Article: Disruptive Technologies Move to the Core with Next-Generation Platforms

The latest half-yearly edition of IHRIM’s Workforce Solutions Review delves into the technology challenges and opportunities facing HR, IT, and business leaders today.  Suzanne Rumsey and Brett Addis of Knowledge Infusion reveal the five key “change drivers” in successful technology deployments, culminating in an adaptation of routine behaviors.  Naomi Bloom and Jim Holincheck hit point and counterpoint on the definition of SaaS.   Michael Krupa, technical director at Charles Schwab, advises his peers to put customizations to rest and turn to next generation HR systems instead.  And, I describe the success elements in getting the agility and innovation value promised from those next generation systems.  It’s a good read and just a small fee if you’re not already an IHRIM member.

In the meantime, here are some highlights from my article:

Disruptive Technologies Move to the Core with Next-Generation Platforms

Agility and innovation on the agenda for IT’s next big shift

Introduction

Today’s IT leaders are under pressure to deliver value quickly while keeping costs to a minimum. But, most IT leaders cannot meet the demands because legacy platforms are holding them back. Next-generation platforms beckon and promise to deliver extraordinary results. With these platforms, IT leaders can turn their attention to business value and innovation rather than customization and maintenance.  Meanwhile, consumer-oriented technology advancements have leaked into enterprises as a result of department- or employee-driven value-seeking. Though these technologies are considered disruptive in today’s ecosystem, they will soon become standard in core platforms. As IT leaders look to deliver sustained innovation and business value with a next-generation platform change, they should focus on the nuances of these four technology enablers:

  • Cloud
  • Mobile
  • Embedded Analytics
  • Social

Cloud

Cloud encompasses 3 major components: SaaS, DaaS, and PaaS.

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms provide a baseline set of components along with highly tuned configuration options. By staying in the delivered “box,” IT organizations can uptake new features immediately without costly maintenance cycles.
  • Development-as-a-Service (DaaS) is the delivery of development tools for making application extensions, as well as UI mashups that go beyond delivered configuration capabilities. Such tools enable IT organizations to go “outside the box,” but in an agile, upgrade-safe way.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is the delivery of platform integration and orchestration tools, easing the way in which new integrations are brought in and folded into key business processes.

Cloud Computing includes SaaS, DaaS, and PaaS

With their next generation platform choice, IT leaders should ensure that it provides the highest level of agility and a level of discipline that matches their own strategy.  Information technology leaders are best positioned to drive sustained innovation with a SaaS platform that does not allow for code customization. Such platforms are often referred to as “true SaaS,” in which all customers are on the same code line.  Still, pressures from the business to deliver just the right functionality can be hard to fend off.  PaaS and DaaS will provide the ultimate answer for those IT organizations that feel constrained by SaaS yet seek the benefits of rapid updates and deployment.

Embedded Analytics

Legacy systems delivered business intelligence (BI) separate from applications.  Such a separation meant a disconnect between decisions and actions – rendering both tools less useful and powerful than they could be.

With next-generation platforms, IT leaders should look to bring value to business users by tying decisions and actions together within applications. Embedding analytics in applications can come in the form of role-based dashboards, formal and informal process insight and/or transaction support.

  • In the case of role-based dashboards, the individual can see the big picture, but also has direct access to the underlying data and can initiate changes or change requests.
  • Within processes, comparative insight can lead an individual to a clear decision point or down a better path.
  • While completing a transaction, individuals can see the impact of their changes and fine-tune their entry.

Next-generation Analytics Enable Control and Embedded Delivery

With embedded analytics, decision support must be thought about up-front in the implementation cycle. At the same time, it’s important to recognize the changing requirements and new information that will be gained as these tools are put into practice. The IT leader should make sure that the analytics platform is easy to configure, change, and roll out across the various application touch points.

Mobile

With more than 74 percent of the world owning mobile phones plus smartphones changing expectations of what can be accomplished with such devices, IT leaders will need a sound and easily adaptable mobile delivery strategy.

Part of this strategy includes how to convert or build applications for mobile devices.  A key decision point is whether to build native applications or Web-based applications.

  • Native applications are optimized for a particular device environment – including user interface, speed of use, and interoperability with other native applications. Native applications are ideal if you can narrow down the mobile OS platforms to one or two.
  • Web-based applications can scale to all operating systems with one development effort. This is often a more practical path given there are currently more than five active operating systems and the market is changing rapidly.

Both Native and Web-based Mobile Delivery Have Benefits

Though application providers are busy building out mobile applications, it’s not likely
they can keep up with IT’s array of mobile demands in the coming decade.  It will be important for IT leaders to understand the vendor’s own mobile development platform and how this can be leveraged by the IT organization. Is the mobile development platform part of the Platform-as-a-Service capability?  Will it be?  In the meantime, IT will need to make sure to deliver mobile applications that address the most critical and appropriate business needs – and to waitlist the rest.

Social

Enterprises have seen the proliferation of social network tools in pockets of the business; Microsoft Sharepoint, alone, can be found in 78 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Unlike consumer tools such as Facebook, Yelp, and Foursquare, these tools are secured and focused on the sharing of work materials, updates and decisions. However, the stand-alone enterprise social network has its limitations – limitations that can be overcome by incorporating this new way of working into next-generation platforms.

  • Stand-alone networks are disconnected from people systems. Though people-centric, the standalone tool misses out on key data housed in HR records –such as work history and organizational connections. Likewise, the people (HR) system misses out on rich information shared about expertise and work completion.
  • Stand-alone networks are disconnected from business systems. Though the stand-alone system supports informal decision-making, the formal decisions, transactions and process updates are missing – causing a disconnect in the way people can perform their work. Likewise, the business system lacks the important insights gained from the network when individuals initiate transactions or complete processes.

Next-Generation Platforms incorporate and interoperate with Social Tools

As IT leaders evaluate next-generation platforms, they will want to make sure social tools are embedded in the business and people systems for maximum value. At the same time, new consumer and stand-alone social tools will continue to emerge and provide new value to the workplace. To get the most from emerging technology, IT leaders will need to make sure that the social network tools baked into the application platform will also provide interoperability with “the next big thing.”

Summary

Next-generation platform shifts will provide an exciting opportunity for IT to deliver value to the business rapidly, but with significantly lower costs.  IT leaders should position themselves to get the most from disruptive technology advancements built into the platform by:

  • Running a pilot in a specific department or for a specific problem. Choose a group that champions technology adoption, but is able to adapt if the technology is not selected.
  • Getting comfortable with the level of control over the technology.  Simulate change requirements – new business rules, bringing on a new organization or region – within the pilot phase.  Measure the flexibility and costs; determine if the platform requires improvement or if expectations need to be lowered.
  • Experimenting with innovative ideas. Where are social, mobile, and analytics most impactful? Get early feedback on usefulness from pilot groups. Adjust, eliminate or strengthen.
  • Leveraging small wins to get early buy-in and executive support. Use information learned early and apply that knowledge to more areas, building up more support as you go.

Your POV: Are you currently evaluating a next-generation platform?  What are your drivers?  Your key criteria?  What do you need help with?

Posted in Analytics, Business value, Cloud, Disruptive technology, Innovation, Mobile, Social collaboration, Useful technology | Leave a comment

The Race to Platform Continues: SumTotal Buys Accero & CyberShift

The People Impact Technology Race is On!

The HR vendor landscape is changing rapidly as we have seen with recent consolidations by Infor (Lawson), Peoplefluent (Aquire), and SuccessFactors (Plateau) as well as SumTotal’s announcement today to buy Accero and CyberShift.  One way to look at this consolidation is that there are too many vendors and not enough differentiation for them all to survive.  Though this is true, I believe there is a larger force at play here -  now, more than ever before, businesses need to get business results from their people-based systems.

In my soon-to-be-released report, “People Impact Technology Framework,” I describe the forces at play in moving from HR-centric technology to Business-centric technology.  New applications that are designed specifically for business users, with the goal of improving their work and planning capabilities, are emerging and getting the attention of executives. However, this new category of applications – those that deliver direct value to business – put even more pressure on underlying foundational architectures.  These “platforms” must be agile, complete, and inter-operable within the stack.  Only with integrated data and transactions can business leaders gain proper insight for planning decisions.  Meanwhile, the results from those decisions are only as nimble as the foundation allows for new data collection, changed processes, updated organization models, and follow through of strategic talent programs.

In the new vendor landscape, there will be just two types of providers: platform vendors and innovation vendors.  Platform vendors will have invested in the agile supporting architecture, unified the framework layers and created strong integration plug-ins for add-on capabilities.  Innovation vendors will have invested in the “business”  layer along with the ability to plug their solution into strong platforms.

So, it is not surprising that SumTotal – up until yesterday, a Talent Management Suite provider – has made a move to become a platform vendor by adding core HR, Benefits and Payroll via Accero and Time & Attendance, Labor Costing, and Workforce Management via CyberShift.  This is a strong move in the right direction, but as with many of the other vendors making this play, there is much work to bring the pieces together and build out an agile, unified foundation to support the goal of delivering value to the business.

Bottom line: To meet the future demands of business, the stakes are rising for HR vendors.  An integrated talent suite will not be sufficient, on its own, to deliver the business results expected from people technology.  SumTotal has made a strong play in the right direction.

Your POV: What is your experience with these vendors? Do you see an advantage by bringing these pieces together in your business?  What are your concerns?

Posted in Business value, Research, Vendors | Leave a comment