Mapping the HR Tech Landscape
To better understand the many competing technologies and keep up in a fast-moving market, here are some suggestions and strategies for staying informed and making the best technology decisions for your organization.
By Steve Boese
The most common question I get from HR leaders and HR practitioners from small to mid-size organizations is usually a variation of "What is the best system for (insert HR or business process here) that I should evaluate for my organization?" It could be for a core HR system or a performance- management solution, or even for something more modern such as a socially capable intranet or an online rewards platform. But the genesis of the question, no matter the specific type of HR technology of interest, is the same -- it stems from a lack of time to conduct research, limited resources and often limited experience with the HR technology evaluation and purchase process. Often, HR leaders simply want to know what two, three or four solutions they should consider, rather than make comparisons of potentially dozens of similar-sounding solutions in hopes at arriving at the "right" one for their organization.
I completely understand why I get these types of questions so often. There are many established, mature and highly capable HR technologies in the market, as well as an ever-growing number of newer entrants to the space. Many, if not most, of these technologies (yes, even ones from the massive and market-leading providers) are potential options to consider for the small to mid-size organization.
So this month, I thought it might be valuable to try and point out some of the best resources, events and approaches that the HR leader can leverage in order to further his or her understanding of the HR technology landscape, and perhaps more importantly, to find and connect with other like-minded professionals that are also interested in the space. The goal is not to provide a comprehensive list of all the available resources, but to give HR leaders some guidance as to how and where they can best spend their time and attention to get the greatest benefit.
So, having said all that, here are just a few resources and tips that can help HR leaders better understand the market and assess HR technology solutions and the solution providers themselves:
The HR Technology® Conference -- As one of the conference co-chairs, admittedly I am a little bit biased as to the value and importance of the event as an HR technology learning and research tool. But there's no denying that the three-day event features the world's leading experts on HR technology. It's a program packed with company case studies and expert discussions, plus an exhibition with more than 300 HR technology providers, putting it front and center for the industry and providing the HR leaders the opportunity to conduct research, take in dozens of demos and make connections.
Technology Provider "User" Conferences -- While the HR Tech is the best place to see and meet practically all of the important solution providers in one place, there can be great benefit and an opportunity to learn more deeply about your specific HR technology solutions at your provider's own user conference.
Many organizations are only utilizing a portion of the capabilities of their HR technology. At a user conference, attendees typically can see and learn from other organizations that are potentially doing or have done the kinds of projects that would be relevant and important in their own organizations. Also, the access and availability of provider executives and product leadership is generally quite high at these events, more so than in other forums. If you want or need a "deep dive" into your specific products, or have a product on a short-list for potential purchase, then a user conference is a good option.
Virtual Conferences and Webinars -- A fantastic -- and almost always free -- source of product and solution information is being offered in the form of webinars and even virtual conference events by both technology companies and media outlets. Most mid-size to large providers offer regular product demonstrations and updates over the web, and often include customer and case studies as well. These types of webinars and online events can be a great way to get to know a little more about a provider and its solutions, but without the cost and time spent away from the office that attending an actual event would entail. Let me add that many of the larger solution providers are now conducting one-day "road show" events in larger cities that are usually free to pre-qualified company representatives.
Social Networks – There's a pretty large community of HR technology experts and enthusiasts across all the popular social networks and for the HR leader looking to expand his or her knowledge and understanding of HR tech, there are ample opportunities to do so on these networks. First and foremost, the HR Technology® Conference LinkedIn group is a fantastic place to ask and answer questions, connect with industry leaders, and check some of the vary latest news and opinions in the HR tech market. When I get asked the questions I mentioned at the start of the column, I often advise HR leaders to post them to the LinkedIn group, because consultants, analysts, vendors and other HR leaders are usually ready and willing to help. Additionally, especially leading up to HR Tech, the Twitter hashtag of #HRTechConf will provide a steady stream of information, commentary, event reports and links to external resources on all things HR technology.
I know I just scratched the surface of all the available sources and resources for the HR leader to become more expert in the often complex world of HR technology, but hopefully, this short compilation offers at least a decent starting point for your research.
If you are able to attend the HR Technology® Conference in October (or one in the future), you will get a chance to see literally hundreds of solution providers, and even more importantly, the chance to meet many peers and colleagues that are interested in HR technology as well. If not, then please take advantage of the many other options and opportunities that are available (including reading this column!), to keep one step ahead of the market.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.