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Inside HR Tech Column

http://www.hreonline.com/images/SteveBoese106x106.jpgA Different Look at HR Tech

HRE's newest column aims to provide HR leaders with information, analysis and opinions on how new technologies are impacting the workplace, and how HR leaders are utilizing technology to drive positive results in organizations of all types and sizes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
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Welcome to Inside HR Tech, a new monthly column about HR technology that will focus on the practical, current and relevant developments in the HR technology subject area, and how new and emerging technologies are being leveraged by HR leaders in their organizations.

First off, let me tell you a little bit about me -- I've been involved with workplace technologies for more years than I care to remember sometimes! More specifically, in my career I've been an HR technology end user, a systems-implementation consultant, worked in a product development organization for a major enterprise software company and, perhaps most importantly, have led the HR technology operations as a member of a corporate HR leadership team for a major telecommunications company. I've been lucky enough to gain a pretty solid understanding of the challenges, goals and motivations from both sides of the HR technology table.

While the long-running HR Technology column by Bill Kutik will continue to provide commentary and analysis on the state of the HR tech marketplace and vendor community, I hope, with this column, to help HR leaders further their awareness and understanding of the fast-paced HR technology market on a different, more actionable level; highlight emerging trends and new solutions; and provide examples of how your peers and colleagues are leveraging and exploiting technology in support of their business objectives.

With the accelerating pace of business, the urgency for HR leaders to better understand their organization's talent, and the emergence of a new and powerful set of HR and workplace technologies, the need for a more thorough understanding of the fast-paced HR technology market has never been more important. However, at the same time that effective use of HR technology has become more essential to organizations, the market for HR technology solutions has grown much more complex.

Just what makes this market so complex?

For starters, there has been a seemingly continuous cycle of vendor consolidation. Large talent-management vendors such as Taleo and SuccessFactors have been consumed by even larger software juggernauts (Oracle and SAP, respectively), and entrenched enterprise suppliers such as IBM (with its acquisition of Kenexa) and Salesforce.com (with the purchase of Rypple and the creation of Work.com) are making more aggressive moves in the HR tech space. For customers and prospects, this tendency toward consolidation at the top end of the market often has implications for future product-development plans, service and support levels, costs and sometimes fundamental changes in the supplier-customer relationship.

Simultaneously, this consolidation in one part of the market has led to opportunity and innovation in other areas, as evidenced by a growing number of new and exciting HR tech start-ups. Several brand new categories of HR technology have emerged in the last few years -- among them, video interviewing, recruiting and sourcing solutions powered by social networks; and collaborative, social platforms for employee goal-setting, recognition and rewards, and peer feedback.

Adding in the not-insignificant impact that public, social and professional networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook are having on the workplace and in internal talent management, the HR leader today faces a dynamic and evolving market of technology solutions and platforms, making evaluation, selection and deployment of them a more complicated proposition than ever before.

Finally, blend in to this mix of consolidation and innovation several significant changes in the fundamental approaches to enterprise-software development and delivery models -- while you've no doubt heard of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and gamification, you may not yet be fully leveraging these technologies' exciting potential. How and where you might best take advantage of these tech changes is top of mind for many HR leaders in 2013.

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And one last thing: Your employees are clamoring for everything, including every workplace HR and productivity solution, to be available to them 24/7, on every manner of mobile device, and they want these solutions to provide the same kind of personalized, engaging experience they have grown accustomed to. If you've had employees ask, "Why doesn't open enrollment work more like Amazon?" or "When can I check my team's schedules on my iPhone?" you are not alone.

With the Inside HR Tech column, I plan to take a closer look at emerging technologies, talk to solution providers, gauge the thinking of industry experts, and connect with HR leaders on the front lines -- all with the goal of providing a resource for HR leaders to help them better understand the dynamic HR technology space.

In my new role as co-chair of the HR Technology® Conference -- the largest gathering of the global community of HR tech vendors and solution providers, industry thought leaders and tech experts, HR leaders and HR technology practitioners -- I get to see and test-drive the newest HR-software solutions, connect with leading analysts and consultants about the latest tech trends, and learn from HR executives about their successes and challenges in applying technology to their businesses.

This perspective, I think, will help make this column a valuable resource for the HR leader, who has about a million things on his or her plate and may not have a deep background or expertise in technology. But, as you know, technology -- when it is the right technology, applied to the right problems -- offers tremendous capability and opportunity, and can lead to real competitive advantage.

So, as we set out on this journey, I'd love to hear from you and get your thoughts, questions and concerns about the HR technology market and how this column can best help you and your organization.

Steve Boese is a co-chair of HRE's HR Technology® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com.

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