Who Is the Real Buyer of Your Next HR System?

October 27, 2014 Ray Rivera


Much to our credit, the HR profession is fond of oversimplified answers to persistent problems. A decade ago we tried to find that one magic metric that could tell us everything we needed to know about the value and effectiveness of our HR investments. Imagine if there was something equivalent to a stock price for HR?

We’ve gotten over that. Now we are keen to find that one magic HR systems architecture that will soothe all possible pain points between now and 2025.

A trick question…

Architectural differences in that past tended to be based on whom the vendor thought the user really was – the IT department, the HR analyst, or heaven forbid, the employee.

Yet before we start chafing vendors for all their alleged shortsightedness, let’s remember that the question of who is the user really is a trick question, since all workers today are users.

But as most organizations assess the HR systems they have right now, they find their existing architectures were developed under the idea that you get to pick only one user, and that one was almost always the IT department.

HR should not fall for that kind of oversimplification, because that’s just not the case anymore. HR cares a lot about data and wants better ways to collect and analyze it. But the IT department could care less about HR’s data, as it represents just another albatross around IT’s neck.

Workers want HR technology out of their faces. But HR still wants to push more tech into workers’ faces. And in general workers want HR to be direct access (or what we used to call “self-service”) unless there’s a problem, and then they’d rather go to the internal crowd. Failing that, they want a live person, now!, not a repurposed IT ticketing system.

So less really is more. And agile is better than big and monolithic. But in the world of enterprise software, customization is a bad word, and configuration is going to be based on either what’s easier for the IT department or what the implementation team can deliver by the go-live date. Same with nugatory SQL vs non SQL debates and the like…it is going to come down to how much tolerance IT has for HR’s data problems, which will all know is not a whole hell of a lot.

…With a trick answer

As Workday Rising nears, we are finding it really easy to go on and on about this architectural arms race, and that’s because the trick question about who’s the user also has a trick answer.

And here’s the trickiness: the HR system of record is always going to be different from the system which workers use to actually get work done.

If you doubt that, then challenge yourself and try to name one single HR solution that your employees voluntarily use as their work environment of choice, one where they choose to collaborate. The rift between system of record and system of choice is going to get only more pronounced as the consumerization of the workforce becomes even more pervasive.

Give them a rich worker experience and they’ll give you the best they’ve got

Put simply, the buyer of your next HR system is going to be your workforce, who are going to demand a rich, high-definition, unobtrusive, trust-driven tech experience, a far cry from what most businesses have now.

And there no signs that any vendor offering is going to be able to offer something completely satisfactory out of the box for a long, long time. Any architecture is therefore going to have to support both the system of record and the system in which your workers really work. It is going to have to be an open system because the workers are driving it, not a closed system which is specified by an IT bureaucrat for other IT bureaucrats.

Your workers are in control of your tech destiny now, especially with regard to HCM. Give them a rich worker experience and they’ll give you the best they’ve got. Give them oversimplified tech answers to trick questions and they’ll take their talent to where the real experiences are.

We’ve got a lot of destiny to create. Let’s connect at Workday Rising.


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