Many of us can recall the excitement generated by the first Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS’s hitting the market in the late 1990s and early 2000s. After all, activities related to sourcing, screening, selecting and offering jobs to candidates was perennially a very manually intensive endeavor that also produced many false positives (unsuccessful hires) as well as false negatives (potentially great hires that were never brought into the recruiting process). The first wave of ATS’s proved to be extremely successful in the market due to the impact of their automation capabilities, with virtually all of the ATS market leaders back then either getting acquired and folded into larger HCM platforms, or continuing their path to amassing very large, typically global, customer bases today.
The pandemic has had many profound impacts on organizations and their workforces, particularly the need to manage workers differently. Fewer face-to-face interactions make it difficult to “read” employee sentiments and reactions, even with the assistance of artificial intelligence. Employers are faced with the challenge of managing engagement more closely given unprecedented levels of change in policies and corresponding practices.
In my recently published Analyst Perspective “Selecting an HCM System? Include the Tougher Use Cases in Evaluations,” I highlighted a few HCM systems use cases that have historically been under-supported across the vendor/product landscape. My view on “critical HCM use cases” is the same today as when I led global HR and HR technology initiatives: use cases flow from the business imperatives faced by nearly every organization and their associated workforce-related implications. These HCM business imperatives range from elevating organizational agility—which I define as the ability to rapidly respond to both potential business risks and opportunities with optimal workforce-related actions and decisions—to delivering a superior employee experience or “EX” which directly correlates with a great customer experience and therefore business performance, to continuously focusing on ways of improving employee productivity, as even modest productivity gains can translate into major value creation.
It’s no secret that many large organizations operate in a somewhat insular and siloed manner. This dynamic applies to corporate functions where value-creation from taking advantage of operational synergies could otherwise be quite significant. Historically, human resources and finance departments, for example, were among the operating areas known to closely collaborate only when absolutely necessary. Actually, the 1992 book, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," comes to mind when I reflect back on how I needed to navigate around a lack of integrated HR/finance data and processes when I was a global HR practitioner, especially since this was often exacerbated by the use of stereotypes like "people/people vs. numbers/people." The combination of these factors clearly created a sense of disconnectedness between the two groups. And having different definitions for commonly used business terms — like headcount and labor costs — as well as different methods for measuring and reporting on these items didn’t make the situation more manageable. But that wasn’t the whole enchilada of operational challenges when linking HR and finance: You also had to account for different processing and reporting cycles and cutoff dates, which often created hours of agonizing reconciliation work for the respective teams.
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One of the many things I learned while I was accountable for multiple HCM systems and tools deployments in my pre-analyst and advisor days relates to crafting what I referred to as a “winning business case.” In this context, I define “winning” as not just securing the funds, but actually realizing the expected benefits and ROI that underpinned the major elements highlighted in the business case. Critical to all this, as I came to learn after a couple of HCM systems implementations, was the ability to not only achieve but sustain adoption and usage.
"Configurable" has historically been used to describe the degree to which enterprise software, such as HCM systems, can readily adapt to a customer’s business and process requirements, ideally with no (or only modest) involvement from software experts or IT teams. The term will likely always have considerable value when evaluating HCM systems because, while not always top of mind with buyers, the level of configurability in applications is essential for achieving key strategic goals, such as elevating organizational agility. Configurability is the means, but when an enterprise can react or adapt to indications of potential business risks or opportunities with quick, decisive workforce actions and decisions, this is the true business opportunity in the configurability and flexibility equation. Organizational agility is one of the most reliable paths to sustaining competitive advantage. Think of the situation where a large consultancy has determined they can successfully bring a new service offering to the market. They must quickly and effectively execute a broad range of workforce-related activities including, in some cases, conducting a type of analysis or tracking some information for the first time. Their agility is clearly aided by having an adaptable HCM system.
Payroll management is one of the six major focus areas in the Human Capital Management research and advisory practice at Ventana Research. The umbrella term “continuous payroll” is used to connote the always-on nature of a modern payroll function and related demands of supporting technologies. It’s an appropriate term, especially considering that one of the most significant advances in payroll management in decades is “on-demand pay,” also known as earned wage access, which is as continuous as you can get.
Many organizations are having a difficult time selecting what they believe to be the “best fit” HCM system for their particular strategic workforce goals and priorities. This is due in some cases to the very different evaluation lenses or criteria used by IT and HR teams involved in the process. The former tends to emphasize technology-specific selection considerations such as whether the system meets well-defined usability, performance and reliability criteria such as number of clicks needed to navigate, speed of database calls or system uptime thresholds, respectively. In contrast, many users from HR and other non-IT departments seek freedom from “IT dependency” in influencing the way the system presents itself and meets their business requirements, also referred to as the system’s configurability by end-users. This is the essence of the Adaptability evaluation dimension in Ventana Research’s Value Index market reports.
There is a sea change happening in the Human Capital Management systems market. Historically, the predominant orientation of human resources departments has been about mission and goals from an employer’s perspective, spanning areas such as regulatory compliance, workforce costs, efficiency and effectiveness levels, and actions needed to improve skills and overall impact. This rather one-sided focus is now in the rearview mirror of many successful organizations. There’s a new orientation or operating lens as it relates to the enterprise’s workforce: “What does a worker need to be extremely effective but also have a high-quality ̶ if not positively memorable ̶ experience at work?”