The cloud is dramatically changing the way businesses are operating. The host of benefits to HR include shared platforms for enhanced cooperation and collaboration, speed of delivery, reduced costs, better line management tools and access to constantly upgraded software.
The received wisdom is that many cloud solutions are easy to use and intuitive, which does away with the need for training. But Russell Francis, founder of HR video content-creation software company Velpic (Video E-Learning Platform in the Cloud), says that it’s not enough to make a product and expect people to pick it up.
“We have to make sure that the platforms we are building are simple to use, and hide unnecessary complexity and so far, we have had good feedback,” Francis says.
However, Presence of IT (PoIT), a company that specialises in implementing human resources, payroll and workforce management solutions, says that many of these cloud systems are being installed but then are being under-utilised.
The reason, says Enid Hughes, head of people practice at PoIT, is a lack of advice and training. “HR departments often go out on a limb and purchase a cloud-based system, but then they don’t know how to use it or get value out of it. There is a gap in understanding,” she says.
Hughes believes that HR needs to focus on getting the workforce engaged in using cloud-based systems. “It’s a cultural change that’s required.”
There’s a growing need to provide advice and assistance with enablement, says Hughes. “It’s not enough just to sell software.”
PoIT has been a long-standing partner of SAP, the leader in enterprise application software; and recently Mercer, the global human resource and related financial services consulting firm, announced that it is teaming up with the SAP group to provide advisory services to customers on cloud-based human capital management (HCM).
At the recent AHRI national convention, Dave Ulrich talked about HR competencies, says Hughes, and it was clear when he asked the audience that technology is not something a lot of people are comfortable with using.
“Our audience and customers at PoIT are HR, and it has an aversion to technology – they are ‘people’ people, so it is our job to help HR folk to understand their strategy and how it can be delivered through technology,” Hughes says.
Rolling out new technologies in large organisations is a slower procedure than it is for small businesses, which can be more agile. Aulay Macaulay is founder and managing director of Ento, a cloud-based workforce management tool accessible via smartphone, tablet or desktop. It is used in about 1500 workplaces in Australia. Initially taken up by small businesses such as cafes and restaurants to organise rostering, time sheets and general compliance, it can be rolled out rapidly, and the upfront investment is low.
“We have come in and seen legacy software, sold, implemented and then put on the shelf,” Macaulay. “But with our month-to-month payment model, it pushes the motivation back on us to justify the cost and ensure that it is working for the customer.”
Most customers, he says, have signed up to Ento without even talking to them. “Our key advantage is userability.”
Francis agrees that it’s a two-way responsibility when it comes to making cloud-based systems operational. “HR doesn’t have a reputation for being the most technically savvy but I see that as my problem. We have to build our systems as simple and elegant to use as possible so that HR can get the most use out of them.”