A Microbiome of HR technology We Are

The microbiome discussion had me riveted. One of multiple 10-minute presentations at the TED@IBM event really inspired me, learning about how microbes interact in symbiotic communities. The research shared by Dr. Robert Prill, a computational biologist at the IBM Almaden Research Center who gave this TED talk, specifically talked about microbes and food and how they can tell us if something is good for us or bad for us. This could have profound implications on keeping food production safe worldwide.

At the break, an analyst friend told me about a few HR technology projects he was advising on. Same solution provider – two new implementations and one remediation due to serious data integrity and security issues.

Remediation? Yikes, I thought. Not that surprising; we’ve been in the HR technology marketplace for many years and solution providers can never be all things to all customers, whether they say they’re a true integrated talent management suite provider or stay focused on a best of breed solution.

And then it hit me – wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have a microbiome of sorts for companies buying HR technology? Or for any hardware and software purchases procurement, finance, operations, IT, marketing and sales, human resources and talent acquisition makes?

My inspiration became a realization that we actually already do – a somewhat symbiotic community of business executives, HR buyers, IT, analysts, influencers, vendors and third-party consultants.

Obviously selecting the right HR technology can be a daunting task, whether it’s a new solution or a replacement system. So many things have to be considered in this complex ecosystem relationship — cloud computing, HR data management, talent analytics, best of breed and integrated HR and talent acquisition and management systems, and more.

In our own microbiome, it’s happiest time of the year for many HR and business executives who are now at the 2015 HR Technology Conference & Exposition (second only to vacations and the holiday season). They are busy evaluating and reevaluating their HR technology ecosystems.

There are three simplified selection steps to consider. These aren’t new and many HR buyers and providers alike have shared them for decades, but they’re always worth sharing again. Plus, nearly every software provider in our space will gladly give you a “make the business case” kit.

First, outline your problem and goals. What are the problems with your overall talent strategy today and what are your goals for tomorrow? Your HR technology investment extends beyond the product itself – it’s also about the collective experiences with your vendor that make up your HR and recruiting processes and the systems that enable them all – user experiences, implementation experience, customer experience, compliance experience, data management experience, system integration experience, and much more.

Second, research your solutions. Now that you’ve documented your primary talent strategy problems and goals, it’s time to find the right solution that will enable you to recruit, hire, develop and retain the very best talent. And this is where you can leverage your HR technology microbiome to make better informed decisions – analyst reports, online research, peer network reviews, third-party consultants. In fact, there’s so much information available today that most buyers are well-armed prior to selecting their short list of solutions.

Third, build the business case. The final step in this process is to create the business case for buying and/or replacing the right HR technology for your organization. This includes:

  • Reviewing your current talent processes, metrics and analytics
  • Outlining the benefits of a new HR technology solution (whatever that is)
  • Listing your top vendor contender or contenders (Technical documentation, features, benefits, services and support, ROI (qualitative and quantitative), etc.)
  • Calculating your costs (Software subscription fees, implementation fees, support fees, maintenance fees, customization and/or configuration fees, data integration and management fees, etc.)
  • Identifying your key stakeholders (CHRO and/or Head of Talent Acquisition Other Senior Executives, IT Department Finance/Procurement, etc.)
  • Creating your final compelling presentation (make that magical business case!)

Most of us in the HR marketplace know there are just too many realities and variables that can muck up the works from RFP to purchase to implementation to maintenance. Vendors over-promise and/or under-deliver, internal teams underestimate resources needed, and internal teams and leadership alike change before total cost of ownership is ever realized. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve heard, “Oh, I came on board right after we purchased and implemented [insert provider name here] – and now it’s a beast.”

These bad metaphorical microbes aside, a microbiome of business processes, people and HR technology we are. We’re more informed than ever when it comes to purchasing and implementing the talent technologies we count on to keep our businesses performing well and staying healthy. And that’s definitely good for us.

Happy Buying!

Be An HR Technology Software Myth-Buster

It’s amazing sometimes that we actually ever progress beyond wishful thinking and myths perpetuated by us. I’ve been in the HR technology space for almost 16 years now, and we never fail to fail. Meaning, we never fail to hypothesize and perpetuate that most HR and talent acquisition practitioners hate their tools and technologies are always looking for something better.

And that us, the HR technology vendors, are unethical and difficult to trust – i.e., it was the worst mistake every that we signed on with that vendor.

And yet, according to enlightening new research shared on the TalentCulture #TChat Show by KeyInterval Research co-founders William Tincup and John Sumser, almost 80 percent of HR buyers and nearly 90 percent of CEOs don’t think their software is lousy. And less than 10 percent of practitioners believe that more than half their software is lousy. Plus, the same research revealed that 87 percent of practitioners say that they enjoy their relationships with HR Tech Vendors. (This being from a survey size of well over 1K.)

The research also revealed that over 70 percent of respondents from larger organizations “Often” or “Always” felt that their HR software delivered what the vendor promised. And because in larger organizations software complexity is greatest, this is yet another positive sign that we’re (the vendors) are getting it right, no matter how much we want to say our competitors are getting it wrong.

What’s interesting to me is that John and William point out we (the vendors) are in constant improvement mode for customers – what’s the roadmap look like and what new features and functionality are coming, that we have to keep innovating or die. Forget the fact that, at least from KeyInterval’s data, HR buyers are pretty satisfied with their products and relationships, and why user data, adoption and satisfaction are so much more valuable than major software releases three times per year and other such updates.

There’s so much more counterintuitive and myth-busting data in the KeyInterval Research that I can’t wait for what’s coming the rest of 2015; this first report was only for January.

Of course there are those customers who wish they’d made a different software purchasing decision other than the train wreck they just invested in and deployed painfully. But if the KeyInterval Research is any indication, those are fewer than we’ve been led to believe. It doesn’t mean that my software company can’t beat up out your software company, because they can and will (of course, right?).

But we also should also continue to do what we do well, serve our customers’ needs while not only reinvesting in future innovative features with potential high adoption rates, but also reinvesting in our creative and collaborative relationships that will always deliver a higher return for all (and why we have customer advisory boards).

Because as I’ve written before, business thrives when customer communication and education are constant and engagement and retention are high. Your customers are a very special group of investors who count on some kind of return in short order – streamline their processes, save them time, money and more.

In the HR technology marketplace, customers want better hires, a smarter workforce, strong leadership, diversity of thought, agile innovation and so much more.

Deliver on that and you’re an HR technology software myth-buster.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: A modern hacker #1 via photopin (license)