Finding the right software system sometimes feels like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. There are choices upon choices, but what works for some companies might not fit the specific wants and needs of other companies.
This year is shaping up to be a big one for HR technology – a tech renaissance is underway and new, user-friendly systems look nothing like the clunky tools and programs of decades past.
According to data from the Information Services Group’s Industry Trends in Human Resources Technology and Service Delivery report, more than 70 per cent of respondents say they have or will move to an HR software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform in the the next two years. SaaS, sometimes known as ‘on-demand software’ is a licensing model in which software is used on a subscription basis.
Debora Card, partner at ISG Human Resources Technology and Delivery Strategies, says there are two reasons for the flurry of investment in HR tech recently:
“One is definitely the raising of the profile of HR in determining the success of the enterprise. The other is that HR technology is probably behind the curve in terms of investment … so it’s got a little bit of catching up to do.”
Small to mid-sized companies are leading the charge. [Tweet “Firms with fewer than 10,000 employees report uptake of SaaS platforms at a rate nearly twice that of large firms – 34 per cent compared to 17 per cent.”] It seems large firms are more likely to stick to hybrid systems that integrate SaaS with legacy software.
The biggest driver behind investment, cited by 33 per cent of respondents, was to improve HR’s strategic value as a business partner.
“When it comes to HR technology and service delivery, HR organisations are shifting their focus from cost savings to strategic business alignment, process improvement and employee engagement,” Card says.
Technology is increasingly becoming and important part HR’s role and responsibilities, and industry practitioners can expect some trends to emerge in the coming years. So where to in 2016?
Make way for mobile
Smartphones are quickly becoming a permanent fixture of life and work, and the world is quickly being broken down into app-sized chunks. Mobile is a must-have, say half of IGS survey respondents. And this makes sense: Companies are going after digital natives who expect to be able to use mobile in their job functions.
Apps can be great, but they present challenges for businesses. Considering many organisations have a Bring Your Own Device policy, it’s difficult to find a system that works well across all devices and mobile operating systems. Factor in Australia’s lagging broadband infrastructure and you can hit a wall. Security is another concern, as more businesses are becoming cloud-based.
However, there are unique opportunities for companies that work through the kinks. A mobile-enabled workforce is a responsive workforce, and HR can get creative with the metrics and processes they implement. Imagine instant feedback loops, timesheets that automatically sync with payroll or recruitment with QR codes.
If sourcing a new HR software system all alone sounds daunting, there is good news. More websites are popping up that offer user- or expert-reviewed recommendations to help potential buyers find what they want.
Sites such as G2Crowd and Software Advice let users rate and comment on technology solutions ranging from all-encompassing to niche. Social networking sites are also a great resource to fish for information about vendors from past and present clients.
“In short, with enough poking around, you can likely find someone just like you working for a company just like yours already using the software you’re considering,” says Bill Kutik, an HR technology columnist.
Nothing beats first-hand knowledge when it comes to judging vendor credibility or testing references. Vendors are limited in the features they can showcase during product demonstrations or trials. This means it’s easy to see what the technology can do, but not so easy to gauge how useful these services are to the business and employees. Therefore, best practice is to treat the vendor search like a candidate search: see what others are saying, ask for references and test before you buy.
“It’s important to keep in mind that, in many cases, you’re not just buying software — you’re also buying a relationship with the vendor and its employees,” says Martin Burns, PwC’s direct sourcing and technology channel lead in an interview with HRE. “If your experience with the vendor doesn’t start off well, it isn’t going to get any better.”
Avoid technology for technology’s sake
Regardless of function, HR needs to resist the allure of the bright, shiny new piece of technology. Consider long-term needs as well as more immediate goals, and assess whether the system can evolve with the company.
“New technology alone will not bring the kind of transformation many HR organisations are seeking,” Card says. As a first step, she recommends companies create a comprehensive HR technology delivery strategy that includes a strong business case and roadmap to help manage the phase-out of old systems and implementation of new ones. “The real benefits of these systems are realised only by enterprises that carefully redesign processes to work smarter with new technology, rethink HR roles and skillsets, evaluate service delivery models and plan for the impact these changes will have on those who use HR information,” Card says.
When selecting the vendor, focus on fit rather than flash, because it’s no use spending money on a system that isn’t needed or won’t be used.