HR Tech Video Recap: Getting a Grizzly Bear into a Refrigerator (while enjoying some Alpo)

October 25, 2013 Michael George

HR TechHave you ever wondered where the phrase, “We eat our own dog food” came from?

According to the book Inside Out: Microsoft in Our Own Words, the phrase came from Microsoft’s Paul Maritz. Maritz had seen an Alpo dog food commercial where actor Lorne Greene told viewers that Alpo was so good he…(raises fork full of dog food to his mouth)…fed it to his own dogs!  Greene didn’t actually eat any Alpo, but Maritz used the phrase in an email calling for Microsoft workers to use their own products more.

I’ve heard a number of twists on the theme, including “We drink our own Champagne,” which seems a bit more palatable.  Many of you reading this will recognize this as something that gets thrown around where you work.  You might also quietly admit you’re not eating quite as much of your own dog food as you’d like.  It’s an odd thing, but many companies don’t use their own products, nor do they practice what they preach to their customers.

At Appirio, not only do we run our business 100% in the cloud, we really do use collaboration, social and mobile as a way of life.  For this post, I wanted to show a little of what that looks like and bring you into an HR Tech recap discussion I had with Jason Averbook, Wes Wu and Bryon Abramowitz.

The 30-minute video below is a recording of a Google Hangout where we discuss what we took away from HR Tech this year and how it will impact the future of HR and HCM technology.

Since many of you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, below are a few timestamps that will take you to some of the more intriguing points in the discussion that may be of interest.

(1:00) Wes differentiates between what was cool at the show and what was best.  The cool was big data visualization and best was the continuing consolidation of end-to-end processes and systems in true talent management platforms.

(1:57) Bryon confesses that this was his 9th year attending HR Tech but was able, for the first time, to see the show through a different lens (not as a buyer, or recommender of tech).  Byron was impressed by Hunite, with their Enterprise Mobile User Experience Overlay.

(3:03) Jason was impressed that edge vendors with embedded video, mobile and social tools are  coming into the mainstream.  He believes this is being driven by new private equity and venture investment in the space, which is rekindling an era of innovation aimed not at HR, but at managers and employees.

This is encouraging for the HR landscape as the past several years were more about market consolidation than innovation.   We believe market consolidation was necessary to advance technology in the space, but dramatically slowed the pace of innovation.  This new round of innovation seems to be less about style and more about substance.  Spinning baseball cards and flash-enabled dashboards were developed because HCM vendors had newfound capabilities, not because they anticipated, or delivered real HR or business value.

(6:18) Big data continues to be a topic of conversation in the space.  All agreed that we are still figuring out how to put all of this “big data” to work for us.  One of the reasons we continue to struggle is that we are still thinking about big data within the context of reporting.  The opportunity is for HR to reimagine what’s possible with both structured and unstructured data.  The issue remains whether HR has the skills necessary to build the right models and begin to utilize the amount, depth and type of data that is now being collected within and across the HCM technology ecosystem.

(8:03) Social – Wes reminds us that we were talking about “social” in HR five years ago.  Yet, today we haven’t really advanced social beyond recruiting, with some incremental advances in social learning.  For most organizations, the social we have today was implemented by the IT organization and not really influenced by HR, leaving the killer HR social use cases still to be determined.

(9:10) Gamification – Bryon raises an interesting point about HR using Gamification.  While HR has made some strides here, and it seems like a natural fit for HR to drive (incentivizing employee behavior), he wonders if Gamification is a solution in search of a problem.

(10:02) Stop rolling out modules and start deploying solutions.  Jason reminds us that taking things like social, mobile and big data and embedding them into transactions and processes is where (and when) these kinds of technologies will begin to add real value.  If we continue to treat these functions as “bolt ons” they will inevitably topple an already precarious technology stack.

(10:35) Mobile – Going into the show I thought I would see many more native mobile applications.  Not “mobile accessible” but built for mobile from the ground up.  While some vendors, like Workday and Cornerstone OnDemand, have made incredible advances in mobile, it seems the broader market may be lagging a bit here.   As Jason points out, CIOs are asking, “How do we get mobile working?”  For us, this is a key component of evaluating the long-term value of any HCM investment, as we move towards creating Workplace 2020.  And even more important here is that mobile capabilities cannot be limited to HR, but must be aimed at meeting the needs of the workforce.  This means nothing less than consumer-grade applications will do, as today’s workers demand the technology they use on the job equals what they use in their personal lives.  What is clear is that vendors must move from “mobile in mind” to “native mobile” design to move this next generation of HR tech users from adoption to addiction.

 (18:55) For Appirio, our goal at HR Tech this year was to help HR leaders make sense of the sea of technology solutions on display and showcase how some of our customers have successfully created and executed their HR and HR technology strategies.  We talked extensively in our booth about Workplace 2020, which is our vision of how to harness these emerging technologies to meet the needs of a workforce that is rapidly becoming more mobile, generationally diverse, and globally dispersed than ever before. Many conversations turned to how a Social Intranet can accelerate the use of cloud, mobile and social technologies to expand the delivery of HR information to employees using a set of robust tools that provide anytime, anywhere access to organizational information, knowledge, expertise and tools—all designed with the employee experience in mind. (Download the Appirio Social Intranet eBook to learn more.)

One thing became clear in our discussion – HR is out of excuses.  Continuing to make decisions for the 1% (those that might not get the technology, or those that might abuse it) can no longer be justified.  To begin moving toward Workplace 2020, it is time for HR to put digital natives on project teams.  Digital natives are those who have been raised on today’s technology and are wired for the future of work.  If we are unwilling or unable to do that, we are at risk of wasting another generation of technology.  It is truly time to reimagine what’s possible.

(24:50) What’s changed and where are we going?  What has changed is consumer-grade expectations driving the employee and manager expectations.  The consumer world is leading where business is going.  Consumers easily absorb changes – they don’t need change management efforts.  In the consumer tech world, the change management spend is $0, yet adoption is tremendous.  Here, Wes makes a great point: “From the day I got my first Blackberry at work, eight or nine years ago, not much has changed in the world of business tech, but the rest of our lives are radically different.”

And Bryon brings the point home by remind us that nobody needs training on how to buy things on, yet the site processes billions of dollars of transaction from people all over the world.  Yet, when we ask managers to take on the responsibility of say, giving an employee a salary increase, we need to send them to three days of training, create reference guides, etc. and still worry whether they can actually do it.  Byron asks, “Is this a failure of the technology or an unwillingness of HR to trust managers can do what they need to do?”

(28:40) The Future of HR Tech

Every year is an opportunity to see what’s new and this year was no different.  Bill Kutik has done a fantastic job in creating the world’s top HR technology event.  With new investments coming into the HCM technology space, we expect innovation to continue to ramp significantly and existing entries to continue to mature.

While we are all excited to see what HR Tech will bring in the post-Kutik era, Jason captured the moment by saying he can’t to see what tomorrow brings!


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