Because these advanced technologies are relatively new, there is a fair amount of research, exploring, and experimenting taking place. Rather than buying HR software for a specific advanced technology feature, it would be wise to look at the underlying direction the vendors are heading towards to ensure it aligns with the longer-term direction your own company is headed in, writes Rob Scott.
I often think of the emerging digital work environment like a pristine Alpine ski slope. It looks pretty and inviting but at the same time a dangerous place to be if you are unskilled and even then, for the experienced skiers, there are uncontrollable elements like poor visibility and avalanches which can result in disastrous outcomes.
Advanced Technologies are becoming a necessity for effective Digital Environments, however choosing the right technologies is an important buying decision.
From an analogy point of view, modern people technology platforms are in many ways like the pristine ski-slope. From a distance, they can look exciting and inviting to use, especially with the emerging advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain that are on offer. These new technologies have significant muscle and capability to power your people agenda, catapult you to new levels of insight using data analytics and give you productivity improvements that will impress any ski coach.
But for the inexperienced people software buyer, the pitfalls may not be obvious. And once you start down the slippery icy slope, the question is will you stay in control or land up with your skis wrapped around your head?
Because these advanced technologies are relatively new, there is a fair amount of research, exploring, and experimenting taking place. Rather than buying HR software for a specific advanced technology feature, it would be wise to look at the underlying direction the vendors are heading towards to ensure it aligns with the longer-term direction your own company is headed in.
Be aware of the terminology used by vendors. Terms like ‘Automation’ do not necessarily mean its powered by an ‘Advanced Technology’.
Say for example you are a leading-edge company, wanting to be ahead of the curve in people technologies – would you want to invest in an HR software vendor focused on Machine Learning or Blockchain? The answer is not always obvious, but it would be helpful if you could understand the outputs or impact areas of these technologies, that would allow you to understand the vendor’s key motives and it would provide some indication of how fundamentally they are changing the underlying software.
Knowing that your organisation is shifting towards e.g. ‘Personalisation’ and ‘Analytics’ you could then focus on vendors who are more focused on Machine Learning, as it would be this Advanced Technology that will help you achieve your goal, rather than Blockchain in this example.
I’ve recently developed an Advanced Technology Index (ATX) for 19 Global and some Australian vendors which includes a visualisation of where vendors are putting their Advanced Technology efforts. There are several interesting observations:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Advanced Automation (AA) are the big focus for vendors
- Machine Learning is having significant impacts in ‘Personalisation”, “Analytics” and broader Talent Management
- Advanced Automation, things like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Advanced Workflow engines are heavily focused on Process Enhancement activity as well as User Interface (UI). What this really means is the technologies are positioned to improve typical HR process management. However, we are seeing AI technologies also being applied to the Process space by some vendors – these advanced tools will drive fundamental change in the way Processes are dynamically modified based on individual and team behaviour.
- The large Global vendors such as SAP SuccessFactors, Oracle HCM and Workday are well ahead of the other players. This is because investment in Advanced Technologies is high in terms of financial capital as well as human skill and time. Many of the smaller vendors are partnering with specialised vendors to plug-in advanced technology features.
- Blockchain is still being researched extensively, which would imply that this is a potential future growth area, but there is still a high level of uncertainty in its application for HR software.
Advanced Technologies by their very nature can change the fundamental design of software. Understand how this impacts software deployment and other data sets that may be required for it to operate as promised.
The bottom line is to ensure you do enough investigation into a potential vendor’s advanced technology direction before buying into their products. There is a lot of marketing hype and ‘smoke n mirror’ messaging regarding these tools. But, armed with a clear people strategy and vision you will be able to seek out those vendors better aligned to achieve your goals.