Navigo Blog

Speed, Agility and HR/Payroll Software

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.


  • Talent has been identified by CEOs in the 2012 IBM Global CEO survey as the number one source of sustained economic value.
  • In a combined Oracle and IBM report CFO’s identified a lack of talent as the number one HR issue able to financially impact their organisations over the next 12 months.
  • By 2014 47% of workforce will be born after 1980, and in the US 10,000 people will turn 65 every day for the next 18 years.


  • You don’t need to predict the future you just need to see the opportunity space.
  • Formal structures work well in a constant world, but do not work well in a chaotic world.
  • We need to organise business for execution and engagement.
  • Speak the language of your customers, align your direction with them.


  • In 2008 a dashboard was just metrics and numbers, in 2013 the dashboards contain metrics, goals, actions and results.
  • Analytics is the number one competency that we need to develop in our HR professionals.
  • 60% of executives say they have too much data & and not enough actionable information
  • The web is your resume and social networks are your reference.

Agility and Speed

  • Cloud enables things to happen fast.
  • Your business applications need to play nicely together, just like toddlers.
  • Smaller, leaner, networked firms to survive in the chaotic world that we are living.
  • Flexibility, agility, control, cost are drivers of software purchasing.
  • SaaS gave us agility but not flexibility.
  • Hiring managers want speed & quality not so concerned about cost, compliance or source of hire.


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.)

Feature Adoption

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


  1. Abhijit Gokhale

    Hey Michael, Right said. Agility and Speed is what we need to here in India too. We still working with the old defined way. Cloud is playing very important role now a days. Like cloud we also need some advanced hr/payroll software which will help to minimise the day to day work challenges also helps in managing the task easily. A really great information shared. Thanks.

  2. Michael Specht

    Hi Alex, Thanks for stopping by!

    You are exactly right – analytic activities needs to move beyond just providing numbers. At a previous organisation I did some work with found as soon as the HR team provided commentary on some key metrics suddenly the Executive team took notice. The metrics being reported did not change – instead now there was actionable and relevant commentary.

  3. Alex Hagan

    “60% of executives say they have too much data & and not enough actionable information” – interesting point, and that’s the real challenge, isn’t it? We’re overwhelmed with data lately – what we need to do is to synthesize it and get actionable insights from it. Too few organisations unlock the significant value of the data that they have about their own workforces, and their own operations. A great summary of a great event, Michael!

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