Tech Changes Coming

The Sierra-Cedar Survey unveiled at the HR Technology ® Conference shows HR-tech spending on the rise, mobile adoptions moving forward and cloud deployments overtaking licensed ones next year.

By Kristen B. Frasch

In their first-ever -- and only -- joint appearance today at the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas, Alexia (Lexy) Martin and Stacey Harris will co-present some eye-opening results from this year's Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey. All signs, they say, point to a stronger economy, with spending increasing and cloud and mobile adoptions continuing to roll ahead.

The forecast, says Harris, "looks even more positive than last year, with more than 50 percent of survey respondents saying they will increase spending next year."

This is a sure sign, Martin adds, "that the economy is [finally] good, [as good, perhaps,] as 2008 to 2010 was 'iffy.' "

For the record, this will be the 17th year that Martin, longtime vice president of research and analytics for CedarCrestone, will present this survey's findings, now under the auspices of Sierra-Cedar, the newly formed technology services company resulting from the July 2014 merger of Sierra Systems, CedarCrestone, Io Consulting and Analytic Vision. She now hands the baton to Harris, Sierra-Cedar's new vice president of research and analytics, and the primary author of this year's report. Here, based on prior discussions with HRE, the two share some of the survey's key findings, as well as what it says about important trends and best uses of HR-technology implementations going forward. 

Of keen interest to them and others in HR-technology circles is the survey's indication of continued increase in cloud core human resource management system deployments and plans for such deployments to overtake licensed, on-premise or hosted deployments by 2015. (Fifty-eight percent of the 1,063 responding organizations plan to deploy SaaS systems year, compared to 51 percent licensed, on-premise systems.)

Mobile also remains on the rise, to no one's surprise. The study shows mobile-enhanced process adoption grew by 30 percent from last year and respondents plan to double their use in the next year. Also telling was the fact that organizations that implemented social-enabled HR processes saw a 34 percent increase in employee self-service adoption, and a 66-percent increase in manager self-service adoption.

"[Social and] mobile is still on that high trajectory," Martin says.

In addition to seeing rising cloud use as well as all the benefits that go along with it - lower costs, higher user-experience/satisfaction scores, fewer total HR-technology headcount required for implementation and support, and faster implementation times), "we've identified a new value proposition associated with integrated workforce management, talent management and business-intelligence solutions," Harris says. According to the survey, the top adopters of a combination of all three solutions have higher HR, talent and business-outcome scores than those with lower adoption levels.

"I believe this is the next big area of integration that innovative HR organizations need to pay attention to," Harris says, "similar to the integration push for talent management over the last several years."

Probing deeper into "the value of HR technologies" has been CedarCrestone's and now Sierra-Cedar's goal "for a good long time," Martin says. "What's the value that organizations get [from HR technology]? That's what we're after and that's why we've added these value-chain-analysis questions."

What they've revealed, she says, is "there are very clear places that prove more technology adoption leads to more positive business and financial outcomes. We see this more now than ever before."

One very clear theme, year after year, continues to be the importance of change management to the success of technology initiatives and implementations. And not just change management per project, but a systemic and cultural commitment to it, 24/7.

"For 16-plus years, this has been the critical success factor," says Harris. "This year, as we've done a few times before, we dug into this topic at a more granular level. We asked some additional questions and the results indicate that organizations with a culture of change management spend less, have HR organizations that are viewed as more strategic and outperform" the competition.

Through her years of research, Martin adds, she has "seen it over and over, that ongoing change management at organizations [is the single-most-important process ensuring the success of] their technologies."

In fact, a new organizational characteristic/subset the two included in the study this year - the notion of a quantified organization - seems to relate directly to change management. The QOs, as they're calling them, excel in business-intelligence-process maturity, says Martin, "putting data directly into managers' hands, having more data sources and using more metrics categories."

They are also, she adds, "150 percent more likely to adopt a culture of change management, [where] every process is filtered through that lens and falls under that change-management umbrella." Looking specifically at the costs of the technology - i.e., the expenses of the HR-tech product, the labor and the external implementation costs -- the numbers show organizations with cultures of change management (with accompanying commitments to support, communication and education around system changes) have 57 percent less overall HR technology costs per employee than those that never practice change management during such projects.

The evidence is irrefutable, says Martin: The QOs "that adopt systemic and ongoing change management for their technologies actually save money through the process."

Interestingly, says Harris, "we've always looked to some group of 'top performers' to understand lessons learned. But this year, the top financial performers [weren't standing out like before], as if the entire market has begun to adopt the best practices we've previously seen from them."

So, this year, "we had to dig deeper," she says, to establish the QOs "from which we pull lessons learned."

And "what can we learn from them?" she adds. "They get the basics right, they have excellent strategy and culture, and they innovate."

As for where HR technology is headed, this year's emerging technologies - a traditional piece of every HR Systems Survey - include gamification (with 34 percent of organizations leveraging it now, principally for benefits and wellness) wearable technology (mostly for tracking and workforce productivity) and social-aggregation tools (especially for recruiting, hiring and policy monitoring, but also for some recognition and performance management).

"That's primarily the focus right now [with these newer tools just coming on the scene], Harris says. "People are looking at the people out there who are players in certain things [in whole new ways].

This changing face of recruiting, she adds, "is very exciting."

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Oct 9, 2014
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