HR and IT

Topics: HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser

The corporate IT function is undergoing a stream of disruption. SaaS, mobile, security and integration of new tools make for a heavy workload. Gone are the days when it was prudent for IT to exert control over HR Technology. In the coming months and years, HR and IT are going to have to hammer out a new relationship.

It’s already happening in practice.

IT and HR are both staff functions (in companies that don’t produce software). The difference is that IT is increasingly becoming a product line while HR never will. You can easily imagine that almost every company has considered whether or not it can become more like a software company. No organization has ever wished it could become more like an HR department. Ever.

In some ways, IT’s job is easier. All they have to do is understand the firm’s requirements and then prioritize and execute. What gets accomplished is entirely a function of what’s in the budget.

HR, on the other hand, handles a flow of issues that are mostly random. People in HR are great at proceduralizing things. That’s a good response to craziness and unpredictable work loads.

Because it is a staff function, responsible for facilitating business outcomes, IT can’t prioritize HR’s requirements at the top of the list. So, HR always gets short shrift. That’s why they end run IT to get things done. That’s why there used to be HRIT departments.

In an increasingly SaaS world, the IT Department is losing control of a lot of things. Operational Departments are regularly bypassing them to acquire technical solutions. That’s sort of the nature of SaaS and its sales process.

To summarize, the disconnect between IT and HR is structural. Their positions in the organization make it impossible to meet each other’s needs. It’s unlikely that there is an initiative that would give the HR folks what they want.

That means that IT is in a big transition. HR is, too.

The two departments have some common ground. They both do things that make line management scratch its head. What makes sense from an HR or IT perspective is often at odds with the desires of people with P/L responsibility.

That doesn’t mean that HR and IT are inherently wrong (or stupid). It means that their roles are at odds with the uninterrupted accomplishment of corporate desire. They share the problems of being misunderstood and being viewed as an obstacle.

The notion that HR and IT could collaborate to meet each other’s needs seems far fetched to me. I can’t imagine where the common ground is. IT would want exceptions that HR can not grant. HR would want reprioritization that IT can’t give.

The common ground between the two functions is security. IT faces the impossible task of keeping the organization’s systems and data free from compromise. The biggest problem isn’t technical, it’s human. That’s where HR should be taking the lead.

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