I spent the last couple of weeks attending two very different events – SuccessConnect, the SuccessFactors customer conference, and the Australasia Talent Conference (ATC). Across the six days there was a huge amount of content to consume. For example at times the SuccessConnect event had four concurrent streams running! In reviewing my notes from the events there are a few themes I wanted to explored in more detail.
Stormy waters ahead for HR
In the coming decade there are significant challenges facing both HR, and business. These challenges were constantly discussed during the events. The major ones being.
Agility and Speed
While there were lots of themes from the 2 weeks I want to touch on Agility and Speed.
Our networked world has meant we are now moving (for some they have already moved) from an environment of batch processing to one of streaming, ‘always on’.
An example SuccessFactors operates on a 90 day release cycle – every 3 months customers are receiving new features. They are not alone: fellow cloud based provider Workday operates on a 120 day cycle. There are many implications to this accelerated release cycle, some I will explore below.
Annual release cycles are too long
A SaaS/Cloud vendor is adding value to their customer on a more frequent basis allowing them to adapt to new technology and ideas as they emerge. However in Australia, HR/Payroll vendors have traditionally operated on one or two releases per year – one being around the end of Financial Year and the other approximately at the end of the calendar year. Vendors with an annual release cycle can take 12 – 18 months to incorporate new technologies and ideas into their roadmap. At best, we are still seeing vendors struggle to incorporate browser based technology!
On premise vendors are also at the ‘mercy’ of their customers to upgrade. Some customers choose only to introduce the tax impacting changes resulting in even less value being received from their investment in an HR/Payroll system.
The true cloud/SaaS competitors are delivering features to customers as soon as they are released. This constant release of features continues to add value to their customers. (If you are a vendor who is operating with many single tenanted hosted customers you are in basically the same situation as an on-premise vendor.)
One of the hardest processes in the deployment of technology is change management. People and organisations do not like change.
Releasing features rapidly is good – but customers still need to use them. This constant stream of new features means customers organisations need to adapt to incorporate them into their business operations. They need to learn how to introduce new features into their organisations as a constant stream instead of as a single annual batch. In the words of Kevin Wheeler from his closing keynote at ATC –“small and nimble is good.”
As a HR/HRIS professional how are you going to enable your organisation to make use of all of these fantastic new features? How are you going to move them from a world of batch processing to one of streaming?
System Selection and Implementation
Another area being impacted by the speed is software selection.
A typical HR/Payroll software purchasing cycle can take up to 12 months, with an implementation period of a similar length.
In a cloud environment following this timeline you will be ‘going live’ using a version of the product that might have gone through 8 different releases since you began your selection process. That is 8 sets of features that were not available when you began!
Organisations need to reduce the cycle time around purchasing decisions and then work towards implementations timelines that are shorter. This can only be achieved through the introduction of smaller faster deployments.
More so than ever organisations need to look at selecting a partner, not just a vendor based on features sets. The partner needs to have a clear roadmap and strategic vision aligned to your organisation.
All of this speed is changing the face of how we do business. To quote Thomas Otter who recently rejoined SAP, under the SuccessFactors banner – “The quarterly release business sharpens the mind. Less powerpoint, higher velocity. Some of this is due to the cloud delivery model, but there is a cultural element too.”
Are you embracing this cultural change?
Disclosure: I spoke at ATC and as such they paid for my travel and event ticket