graphic for The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR Tech

 

HR vs IT

On June 12, 2014, in Big Data, HR Technology, HRExaminer, by John Sumser

man having tug-o-war with computer in hrexaminer.com article about HR and IT department battles

IT can’t prioritize HR’s requirements at the top of the list. So, HR always gets short shrift.

Recently, I was asked about the conflict between HR and IT and whether it can be healed. Here’s my take.

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 others’ 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.

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