On the look out for HR technology innovation.

(photo of the view-master reel from excellent flickr stream of cgines, thanks)

I’m starting to get settled into my new job here at Gartner,  researching the HR-HCM technology space.  The support and peer network has been brilliant, the job is everything I’d hoped for.  I’m having fun. I’m learning every day.  Jim is keeping  me busy.

I’m conscious that most of my working career has been SAP and SAP ecosystem focused, and so I need to broaden my perspectives.  Step out from my SAP comfort zone.   

I hoping that my readers can help.  Point me to HR and HCM stuff you think I should be researching.  I’ll be heading to some HR-HCM related conferences, and some enterprise 2.0 events here in Europe.  Let me know the ones you think I should attend. (They can be in English or German) 

thomasdototteratgartnerdotcom  or please  leave me a comment here.

I plan to be over in the  Bay Area on the US west coast for the last week of April,  so if you are based there, let’s try to meet up.  Over the course of the year I’ll be in a number of European cities, and I even have a trip down to South Africa planned. 

A lot of my time in this job needs to be spent listening.

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A seat at the table redux

From Claudine’s excellent stream.Thanks

Over on Phil Fersht’s blog the HR navel gazing seat at the table angst session about HR’s role continues, triggered by the inflexion advisors 2008 predictions. Lots of interesting comments. Very similar to the discussion over here last year.

The brilliant Evil HR Lady Nailed it then.

What are models? Crud people, hire yourself some statisticians.

This HR angst about its role and importance, and whether it has, deserves or will ever get a seat at the table or not is rather tiresome. It has been going on ever since I started in the field in the early 1990’s, and it is about time it stopped. If HR is to get a seat at the table, then it needs to get off the therapy couch.

The other predictions from inflexion advisors are a lot more interesting. Subscribed.

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HCM and Blogging. Check out Knowledge Infusion.

There are many niche HCM-HR consulting companies with between 20-200 employees out there, but there is one that I’ve come across recently that is punching way above its weight, and that is Knowledge Infusion.  Yes, they have a smart management team, but that isn’t the magic juice that keeps them in the front of my mind when I think about HCM strategy.

I’ve only met Jason Corsello twice, but I’d have no hesitation in recommending US based customers who are trying to figure out a talent management strategy to call him up. No amount of glossy brochures or invites to partner days  would have induced me to do that.  The two Jasons  (and the rest of the team) have built up a recognisable and powerful brand, at least for me, through a combination of solid research and very readable blogging and a growing  community. Once or twice a week they pop up in my feedreader, with something interesting, topical and insightful. 

Take a look at this recent post. from Jason Averbook, the CEO.(apologies for the cut and paste)

Knowledge Infusion during 2007 has worked with over 100 organizations helping them set their overall HR and HR technology strategy. During this period, it has become more apparent then ever that the role of HR has changed and will continue to change into the future. What are the changes?

  1. HR is being looked to more than ever from the business to understand the impact that people have on business results. Most HR organizations are not equipped at all to provide this information and in 2007, began to realize that the manual, data heroics probably won’t work going forward.
  2. HR leaders today are split into two camps; those that have been in HR forever and new entrants into HR. Lets call them HR Natives vs. HR Immigrants. The HR Natives are struggling to get out of old school, transactional HR while the HR Immigrants don’t want anything to do with that. This caused quite a chasm in HR organizations in 2007 and we expect this to continue in 2008.
  3. Continued entrance of “The Quants”. HR leaders are either equipped or hiring individuals with quantitative backgrounds to focus on measurement. This is changing the demands on the rest of HR as far as the type and style of information that they need to have at their fingertips.
  4. HR is focusing on marketing internally more than ever. Creation of employment brand is important, but more HR organizations are marketing themselves to the press to prove they are creating value in their workplace. The Knowledge Infusion Deployment Excellence practice actually does this for clients and in 2007, the demand was greater then ever.
  5. HR is no longer an administrative, back office function. HR is at the executive table in most organizations today – a big change from 5 years ago – and now the question they are asking is “How can we prove value?”. This is a ticking time bomb because if they can’t prove value, they will be replaced with someone that has more of a view into the business.
  6. Alignment between HR and the business is at an alltime high. HR leaders are getting more than ever that they need to be the business, not support the business. Another big change from five years ago and will continue to be a major factor for HR going forward.
  7. HR leadership should be considered the most exciting job in an organization. They have their finger not only on the largest expense bucket, the people; but they have the opportunity to have the biggest business impact by driving workforce results from those people. HR HAS to look at it this way, or once again, look for a replacement for your role.
  8. HR will continue in 2008 to feel the pinch of the talent crunch. This MUST be a major focus of HR and not handled in silos such as Recruiting, Performance Management and Compensation, but a holistic strategy with a single leader as to how the organization will attract and retain talent now and into the future.
  9. HR has continued to learn from supply chain theory and will be forced into this even more as the economy changes. The right people in the right place at the right time will continue to be a major theme as it was in 2007. What does this require: KNOWING WHAT YOU HAVE – i.e… Talent Management.
  10. HR has stopped thinking of itself as a department and is thinking of itself as an extension of business. This has occurred extensively in 2007 and will continue to grow in popularity in 2008. If HR is not directly part of the business, YOU MUST do this first in 2008. This will change the role of HR forever in your organization and make it much easier to drive value.

This is good solid stuff, it helps start a conversation. It shows a great grasp of the industry and the issues, and it makes me want to know more. I used number 2 the other day in a meeting with a customer, with the proper attribution, of course.

If you are trying to build a brand in the HCM space, and you want to reach folks like me, then really you ought to have a blog, or at least content that I’ll actually want to read via an RSS feed. I won’t read a brochure or remember much about a static website with pretty fonts, but if you are consistently posting good stuff on HCM technology it is quite likely that one of the HCM long tail will notice and before long you’ll slip past the marketing din and into my regular reads.  Donald in the UK knows his mustard on Competencies, but would I have known this without his blog? No way.

It takes me a second or two to forward an interesting post to a colleague or customer, and I can come back six months later and find the post again if I need it. The shotgun splatter of the newsletter is feeble from the range that most firms fire it from. I want to read your stuff when I feel like it, not when you decide to send it.

To the SAP partners out there, take a leaf out of Knowledge Infusion’s book and get your voice heard. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Give away a bit, and you get a whole lot back.

Transparency, performance management, HR and the Cluetrain.

At India’s HCL Technologies, workers get to grade the boss, and everybody can see the ratings. Read the full story over on business week.

Instead of asking why should you open up performance management for everyone to see, I’d suggest you ask, “why not?” What is the point of having an elaborate recording keeping system if it is kept looked away?  Imagine how much more seriously managers would take 360 degree feedback if it was open for the whole company to see? 

Do you know of other companies doing this? 

Nayar, the CEO had this to say.

“I believe this whole concept [of making management more accountable to workers] is going to get accepted as a way of life … Talent is only becoming scarcer and scarcer.”

Cluetrain meets HR. Cool. This fits in rather nicely with what James wrote a couple of weeks ago.

Most people, I suspect particularly the generation that went to college in the last ten years or so, will want to work for employers that trust them, not those that try and control them. They will also want to work at places that allow them to use the tools they know make them productive. Forget ROI studies- this generation doesn’t need, expect or want someone else to tell them whether web services might make them more productive. It would be like saying no you can’t use a pen- you have to use this chalk and slate. Forget the phone we have this cool pigeon service…

Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and so on are not matters for IT professionals to decide, really. They are questions for managing directors and human resources professionals. If you want to hire top talent you need to trust people and help them become even more effective. Shutting things down won’t cut it. Is training required alongside the trust? Absolutely. Does your corporation need clear policies about acceptable behaviour, online and off? Obviously.

HR departments today are faced with a simple choice. Are they for or against openness and trust? Every other policy decision is just details.

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Performance management, Berlin, and an acquisition….

A big part of my job is helping SAP customers connect with each other. This week on Thursday and Friday I’m facilitating a workshop on performance and organisational management in Berlin.  The focus is on performance, mbos, objective setting, bonuses  and the like, and how to make these work better.  Practical, nitty-gritty HR reality. 

The agenda looks great, with speakers from Shell, Danfoss, InfoHRM, Institute of Employment Studies,  SAP internal HR, Henkel… full agenda here. It is a chance for HR professionals  and experts to learn from each other, mainly through conversation really. Product features are not on the agenda, but experience is.  (drop me a note if you want more details) 

  For those that knock best practice, we aren’t blindly suggesting there is “one best practice”  but  hopefully by bringing customers together we help them realise that gosh someone else had a similar challenge as I have today, and they fixed it. 

My colleague Jürgen Daum will pick up on the need for HR and Finance to collaborate better. Finance performance management tends to ignore people factors, and HR often loses the connection to the business drivers. Both can learn from each other.

Being off the grid last week in Les Gets,  I read very few posts, but I did read James’s take on the SAP acquisition of Pilot  He nails it.  

Pilot is a nice bite-sized chunk for SAP, with plenty of room for upside growth- it only has 150 customers now, but with access to SAP’s salesforce and distribution channels we can expect significant growth in the near and long term, because organisational overlaps are minimal.

For those who like sentences with lots of commas and subordinating conjunctions here is the official press release.

Jonathan Becher,  CEO at Pilot has a blog,  check it out. -especially the post about teaching elephants to dance.  Here at SAP we could always do with some dancing lessons.  It would be fabulous if Jonathan and his team could wander over to SDN-BPX in the analytics corner too. 

I also  look forward to seeing how Pilot  and SAP HCM performance management can work together, because the HR performance management space is really hot at the moment.  I’m interested in Jim’s  and Jason’s take on this.

SAP’s acquisition strategy isn’t about buying customers or “securing” maintenance revenue streams. It is about filling white spots in our product offering quicker than we could build it, and bringing in an outside-in thinking to starship enterprisey. 

All that SOA stuff that we keep harping on about helps SAP integrate this sort of acquisition at a technical level faster, making this sort of “tuck-in” move much more viable. Take GRC as an example.  With Virsa we have been able to make huge technical integration strides in a very short period, expand the solution and also effectively ramp up the field to sell and support it.   With this experience I’m confident that we can do the same with Pilot.


German IT departments and SAP related innovation

Just about everytime I visit a customer, I’m impressed with the add-ons that they build on top of SAP, often with SAP tools.  Usually these remain hidden under a bushel, either deliberately (perhaps because of a perceived competitive advantage), or because no-one talks about it beyond the company borders. We vendors should do a lot more to highlight customer driven innovation, because there is lots of it out there.

Two examples of innovation.

A few years ago, many of the German Multinationals spun off their IT departments into separate companies. These firms then charge the other members of the group for their services. Some of these firms have developed successful secondary businesses providing implementation and hosting services to other companies. BASF, the world’s biggest chemical company is a good example of this BASF IT Services has a very successful SAP based payroll and HR service. They have been running SAP for years themselves, so they have turned this competence into thriving business. They run the SAP German pension engine on behalf of several other German employers, and the HR systems for many of the local towns and authorities. …  Over the years they have established themselves as a key SAP partner, especially in the German speaking market. They are growing outside of Germany too. BASF have been one of the pioneers of Kiosk based Employee Self Services in factories, and it is really impressive to see the stuff that they have added to the standard.

BASF IT Services was created in April 2001 with the consolidation of BASF’s IT units in Europe. Including the results for 2005, the subsidiary has to date made savings for the BASF Group to the tune of some 300 million euros.

Impressive, customer-driven innovation. Driving down costs for BASF Group, adding to the bottom line, and providing a service to the broader supply chain.

Just up the road from SAP is the pretty town of Weinheim. 


Well worth a visit if you like quaint half-timbered houses and old castles. It is also home to Freudenberg, World leaders in  seals, vibration control components, filters, automotive carpeting reinforcements, engine compartment insulation and auto headliners, lubricants and release agents. Freudenberg produces nonwovens for the textile and clothing industry  and Freudenberg nonwovens are used as carrier material for roofing membranes or for insulation and soundproofing in metal-profile ceilings. Freudenberg’s  rubber floorcoverings are laid in airports, hospitals and other public buildings. They also make really funky cleaning products. It is a family business that is probably why not many folks outside Germany know about them.

They have also spun off the IT department into a separate business called F-IT, and turned strong internal SAP competence into a successful services business.

I read today about F-IT producing a new X-app, called Dispute Management. The press release is in German, but I’ll vaguely translate a bit here.

F-IT has used the SAP Netweaver Visual Composer to built a new application, Dispute Management. The integrated SAP solution connects heterogeneous data sources, and provides a user friendly graphical interface.  The solution has been certified by SAP as part of the SAP xApps (Packaged composite Applications framework.)

This is great. Customer-driven innovation, using SAP tools.  I’d love to see more companies doing what F-IT has done, take in-house SAP competence and turn it into a valuable service, or better still product. 

The German SAP consulting market is highly competitive, partly because of this IT service company model. It probably explains why the big SIs have less market penetration here than elsewhere.


An HR blog well worth a read….

Donald H Taylor, to give him his full title, has a fine HR related blog.  There aren’t enough HR folks blogging. We need more Donalds and systematic HRs

Donald has an interest in Human Capital reporting, as I do.

Via the Taleo blog, I stumbled across the latest Hewitt Research. It is great to see us getting to the point whereby HR investment decisions can be related to business performance.

Results showed that the flow of pivotal employees – defined as employees in the top quartile of their peers in pay progression – into and out of an organization is a strong predictor of changes in Cash Flow Return on Investment (CFROI[1]) and shareholder value. 

This is good for the accountants, but it is even better for the HR folks who have a modicum of financial savvy. Head into your next meeting armed with the Mckinsey Talent Study, the Watson Wyatt Human Capital index etc and your own data and blast them with facts.  


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