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Have You Defined Your HR Technology Needs?

I think it’s safe to say we live in a digital world now. Technology is the backbone for so much of business today that every position in every company is touched, in one way or another, by multiple forms of IT. But, as technology conversations infuse our daily lives, I’ve noticed that the discussions are rarely specific, defined or realistic. What do we really need out of our HR technology?

This morning I was catching up on some reading and came across Steve Boese’s Big Themes in Tech article on Human Resource HR TechnologyExecutive Online. Low and behold, he made a very good point that I fear may have gotten a little buried:

“The specifics of the HR technologies, and the specific business challenges they are meant to address, differ.”

What I love about this point is that it points out that every firm’s needs are different. What one firm has, another may not need. There is nothing more expensive and time consuming than developing unnecessary technology as a means to play catch up with others. The best technology programs I’ve encountered are launched to address a specific business problem or strategic initiative within an organization. They don’t try to be everything to everyone all at once, rather, they need to have one job that involves a series of prioritized tasks.

By the nature of my work, I see this often in mobile app development. I’ve seen companies building apps that either try to do too much, or don’t do enough. Examples of the former might include developing apps that try to serve to very different audiences at the same time or apps that aim to replicate every aspect of a highly-complicated database for a mobile device. The latter, however, can almost be worse. I call these “catch-up” apps. These are the apps that are exact replicas of the website created just so firms can claim they have an app.

We can apply this to dashboards as well. How many people have seen dashboards that do too much? If the goal of the dashboard is to simplify data reception, then reams of grids and charts are not going to be helpful. There has to be a set of agreed upon KPIs to focus on in order to make the dashboard most effective, which is difficult since KPIs will vary by firm and/or department.

To this end, in order to effectively streamline and manage investments in technology, there needs to be firm priorities in place that are consistent with business strategy. Too often, we get mired down in day-to-day obligations and forget to take a broader view. Further, if you are new to your organization, you may have adopted systems that are outside of corporate or department strategy.

Thus, if you are looking to develop or outsource new technology solutions, I think a fun and helpful way to assess priorities is to do an IT audit so you know exactly what you need. Here are some questions to consider, albeit this is not an exhaustive list:

What is your organization’s overall business strategy?

How does your department play a role?

What business problems are you currently expected to address?

What systems do you already have in place to address your problems?

How well are those systems working?

What are the value propositions of the technology systems you are currently using?

Do your systems deliver on those value propositions?

Are you strategically implementing/tweaking new systems, or are you mostly putting fires out?

Can you address major gaps by tweaking current systems or is new technology required?

What are your current business opportunities?

Are your technology systems allowing you to seize these opportunities?

Have you clearly communicated your corporate strategy, current problems and opportunities to your in-house IT contact, so that they can give you the specific support that you need?

Have you clearly communicated your corporate strategy, current problems and opportunities to your vendors, so that they can give you the specific support that you need?

Is the new technology you are considering crucial to the bottom-line mission of the department/firm/etc.?

If you have any stories to share about your HR technology, I would love to hear them. Also, please share some questions that you have found helpful as you’ve considered to technology projects.

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VP, Client Services

VP of Business Development Northeast Region


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