Little Data

On August 6, 2013, in Analytics, Big Data, Futures, HRExaminer, by John Sumser

If you're not familiar with the data integration issue, it's not really surprising. Problems like these are highly technical and very, very boring. The market pays attention to shiny new things. Grungy maintenance work isn't shiny or new.

If you’re not familiar with the data integration issue, it’s not really surprising. Problems like these are highly technical and very, very boring. The market pays attention to shiny new things. Grungy maintenance work isn’t shiny or new.

If you spend some time listening to users, you’ll start to hear something important. Much of the energy spent by HR Departments is focused on making data from various systems work together. Delivering mission critical insight is stymied by data integrations that don’t work.

Analysts and pundits never really see the operational environment. Ask any senior HR leader what they hate most about HR Technology and they will uniformly reply “Data Integration”. From the analyst’s perspective, “Everything works during the demo”. From the customer’s perspective, systems don’t talk to each other.

Payroll teams take on enormous proportions because getting the job right means starting on Tuesday for a Friday deliverable. The enduring embarrassment of being unable to count the number of employees consistently is another example. Making the data work for us is a way of reducing costs and increasing opportunity

Companies and movements are organized around the problem. Naomi Bloom, the industry’s most formidable voice on data and data structures has been making versions of this case for many years. Software is not useful unless it shares common data structures. Only then can data be entered once and human error minimized.

If you’re not familiar with the data integration issue, it’s not really surprising. Problems like these are highly technical and very, very boring. The market pays attention to shiny new things. Grungy maintenance work isn’t shiny or new.

In today’s HR Enterprise Software marketplace, there are four kinds of projects:

  • Fixing Broken Stuff
  • Migrating to a New Platform
  • Rewriting from scratch
  • Tweaking Existing Functionality

(I picked up this gem of an insight from Constellation’s new analyst, Holger Mueller.)

You’ll notice that innovation isn’t on the list. That’s because we have finished the chore of identifying and automating all of the possible administrative processes. If it requires a form, we’ve got a handle on it. For the most part, our vendors are becoming buggy makers. The next layers of innovation are not faster, better versions of what we already have.

Sadly, administrative chores have never been a value add. Administration is how managers know which button to push. Administration is no more than the overhead expense required to keep managers informed about the things they manage.

The next steps in HR Technology will involve going after real (read financial) value. We’ll wrap up the administrative tools in a tidy, one platform way. We’ll use that data to start optimizing organizational results.

Then we’ll start adding more and more data from actual operations.

But, it all depends on having a common data structure. It all depends on the data being able to work with other systems. While the market will be inundated with jury-rigged workarounds, the solution is clean data, not a cleaning process.

The enterprise HR software market is in the very early stages of being disrupted.



 
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