The Holy Grail I

On July 31, 2013, in Big Data, Futures, HR Scoop, HR Technology, by John Sumser

HR sticks to the story of the value of intangibles like a mobster hangs on to an alibi. It's not hard to believe that people are the heart of the business. It's been painfully hard to quantify it.

HR sticks to the story of the value of intangibles like a mobster hangs on to an alibi. It’s not hard to believe that people are the heart of the business. It’s been painfully hard to quantify it.

The search for the thing that makes HR relevant is generations old. An avalanche of platitudes about the importance of people didn’t get us there. The rest of the organization knows that relevance means financial performance and little else.

Walk into a room full of HR pros and say, “HR is meaningless unless it makes money.” You are liable to get stoned (in the Biblical not Californian way.) HR sticks to the story of the value of intangibles like a mobster hangs on to an alibi.

It’s not hard to believe that people are the heart of the business. It’s been painfully hard to quantify it. A large part of the problem is that HR is an island of silos. It turns out that two decades of increasingly complex enterprise software is partly to blame. One way of thinking about the HR Silos is that they are wired in place by the software that serves them.

An alien walking through the HR Tech expo would be bewildered by some of the following things we take as normal:

  • Compensation management systems that are not directly connected to the real time payroll feed.
  • Performance management systems with no connection to the learning system.
  • Recruiting systems that are not directly attached to payroll
  • Succession planning tools that are separate from scheduling, payroll, recruiting, training and performance management
  • Training systems that are unaware of project and workplace scheduling.

The list is endless and nauseating. Contemporary HR Enterprise tools actually inhibit great HR. At this point, imagining the possibilities of tools that unleash human potential is obscured by the very things that should enable it.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that the various siloed pieces of software don’t share basic data structures. Identical data is entered in different systems at different times. The process of keeping the data clean is so manual and so subject to failure that maintenance becomes an end in itself.

The net is that all of the current fuss about HR Analytics boils down to high-end navel gazing. No one gives a flying fig newton about the internal operations of an administrative function. They all know that administration can not produce value in a vacuum. They all know that HR can not produce value in isolation, that HR data is best deployed in ways that involve the rest of the company.

They’re all shouting “Show Me the Money

The new kids on the block (Workday, Cornerstone, Ceridian and PeopleMatter) are all attempting to build single code stack, single rules engine SaaS compliant solutions. In a single code stack, the data does not require maintenance in order to be useful. An interesting consequence is that the number of people who need special spreadsheets declines dramatically in the presence of these tools.

The initial cost savings of a single code stack tool comes from the people it makes redundant. The real power, however, is the way it collapses data and the silos that use it. The time once spent cleansing the data can now be applied to using it. Without the dreadful burden of data integration within HR, it’s possible to drive amazing results for the enterprise as a whole.

It’s astonishing what can happen when the data structure ceases to be an issue.

At the recent Ceridian users conference, I had a chance to see Chris Salles‘ presentation. Chris is the head of eLearning for the Guitar Center. At the time he did the work he talked about in the presentation, he was the Director of Store Labor.

The Guitar Center is a $2Billion company with 243 stores and a large internet presence. The company sells guitars, amps, sound systems, recording gear and accessories. They are owned by Bain Capital (remember them?)

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the tools Chris used to unleash profitability in the company. One key was the integrated scheduling, payroll and workforce management tool from Ceridian. The other was Chris’ ability to see the problem in system terms.

 
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