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.

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?