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HR Technology Conference Wrap Up – An Australian perspective

By / October 14, 2013 / , / 1 Comment

What an amazing few days it has been attending the 16th Annual HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas.

The size of the event was as I expected – huge! With 8,000 attendees from 30 countries with 303 vendors on the exhibition floor – up from 257 last year.

The event was a good chance to catch up face to face with so many people – including folks who I have only known online such as Jason Averbrook, Steve Boese, Thomas Otter, Lexy Martin, Wes Wu, and Meghan Biro.

We had a fairly large contingency from Australia with 13 attendees and exhibition teams from eeStrategy (Remunerate rebranded), Talent2 and PageUp People. At the same time I met many new people and have a stack of business cards, at least 5cm high, to review over the next few days.

Closing Keynote

For me the highlight of the event was Jason Averbook’s closing key note on Wednesday morning.  Those that did not stay missed an incredible session.

Jason took the audience on a bit of retrospective and at the same time challenged the audience to change where we are heading.

He highlighted that we have gone through several transitions of the definition of HR (Personnel, purely Payroll, Human Resources, and Human Capital) and a similar number of technology transformations (punch cards, mainframes, client/server, browser) but fundamentally many times nothing has changed about how HR services are delivered.

Many of Jason’s messages were similar to those covered at the AHRI HR Technology Event, the ATC and SuccessConnect. This indicates to me that Australian business is at the same level in transforming itself due to the disruption of technology in the work place.

This is why many of the other sessions and vendors were not as eye opening as I had hoped.

This is not a bad thing. Instead it means Australia holds its own in areas of technology adoption and transformation of business operations.

We still have a long way to go and there is significant international competitive advantages for organisations who can make these transformations quickly.

He proposed, and I completely agree, that every HR Technology Strategy needs to have the following on its roadmap:

  • Consumerisation – Consumers today have better technology than businesses for the first time ever!
  • Configurability – You, the HR Technology practitioner, not the vendor should be able to configure and maintain your systems.
  • Globalisation – Every business needs to think global – you can no longer have a primary instance and then a ‘global’ one. Not as big a deal for Australian organisations but a mind shift for US centric ones.
  • Integration – We need to move away from point to point interfacing to a strategic integration arrangement.
  • Intelligence – Start your projects by thinking about what analytics and intelligence you want from the outset.
  • The Cloud – It is just a delivery mechanism but realise the cloud helps drive agility.

Jason also says we need to incorporate WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) into our activities and the ‘me’ is employees and managers. We need to design processes and systems around what they need.

He had highlighted that the top features that are delivered to employees by our technology platforms were things employees don’t use that often. How often do you change address, bank accounts, change marital status etc? Not that often and we wonder why employees don’t like using HR Technology.

Jason extended the idea of WIIFM with a discussion on user experience and in his eyes the key to changing HR.  Jason believes we need to have someone in each HR organisation dedicated to user experience.

Jason’s final message to the room is HR does not do ‘simple’ very well.  We need to start thinking simple, a play on Apple’s Think Different advertising campaign from the late 1990’s which helped them transform.


The exhibition hall was large with some 303 vendors. I took time to visit with as many vendors as possible.   Some of the smaller stands ad interesting technologies, but also lots of “me too” products.

Vendors providing recruitment technology out numbered all other vendors by a large margin, especially video interviewing and employee referral tools. At the AHRI National Convention in August I felt the same thing about learning technology vendors.

Which got me wondering.  Is the US market more about buying talent and Australian about building talent? Over the years I have seen lots of very interesting recruitment tools never take off in Australia, whereas learning has always been popular. Something for further consideration at another time.

A sampling of some of the interesting tools are outlined below, some new, others old but all peaked my interest.

Modern Survey – Provides several survey tools to measure employee performance linking back to company performance. What stood out for me was the very nice user interface and deeply embedded analytics tools helping you assess the impact of different HR programs.

Clear Company – Clear Company are doing some very cool things helping employees align goals across the organisation. With a great user interface (user experience) encouraging employees to share, engage and align their goals. They offer modules across recruiting, on-boarding, performance and goals.

Macromicro – Provides some innovative tools for the visualisation of your organisational structure, relationships and patterns. The visual side of this tool was one of the more unique approaches I have seen in a long time.

Hunite – One of the Awesome Technology for HR award winners Hunite provides a mobile user experience overlay that aims to deliver information from all of our dispirit systems into a single mobile application. The only issue I can see with such a tool is the integration aspects that need to be solved to fully achieve their vision.

Jibe – Another Awesome Technology for HR award winner showed how analytics can be embedded in the application to delivery those actionable insights everyone keeps talking about. I had a chance to chat with Andrzej Lawn CTO & VP of Engineering and was impressed with his views on what they need to do to deliver real analytics to their customers.

Blissbook – Is doing something very different, taking boring hard to read employee handbooks and making them amazing. Blissbook provide organisations the tools to create stunning cloud based handbooks without the need for an expensive creative team.

Backoffice Associated – Not sexy, or creative, but data quality and migration can be a massive issue in HR Technology circles these days. BackOffice Associates is a provider of data migration and information governance solutions that really opened my eyes. There were a couple of other vendors providing integration platforms, including CloudMills.

SPARCET – We all know engaged employees perform better and hence help drive profitability. SPARCET, one of many vendors in this area, providing employee recognition and engagement tools, seven of them, to help build engagement platforms. Again a really well thought out user interface which I can see employees wanting to use.

Wrap Up

Overall the event was amazing.

Like most of these events there is never enough time to see or do everything. There are so many other sessions I attended that all deserve a post on their own, such as Lexy Martin’s survey results, IBM’s Watson, Lisa Rowan’s discussion of Social and HCM to name a few.

The most rewarding part of the event were the hallway discussions with so many different people. I would highly recommend anyone from Australia attending the event next year, again in Las Vegas.