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Monday, May 21, 2012

HR Tech and Classic Rock: Open Arms

As the Summer concert tours began to take shape, I couldn't help but notice Journey would shortly kick off their 2012 tour this July. I certainly wasn't surprised to see them heading back out on the road as they've experienced a definite resurgence over the last decade along with the likes of other power rockers such as STYX and REO. 

What got me thinking though was this wasn't the same Journey, nor had it been for quite some time. In fact, most of these legendary groups have undergone key personnel changes over the years primarily as a result of band members no longer able to coexist as a group. Just as remaining members of the band undertake the search for a replacement lead vocalist or bass player, organizations are going through similar selection processes- looking for their new lead singer (system of engagement) or new rhythm section (system of record) as a result of their current group (applications) not working as well together as expected. These new systems must ultimately welcome each others' data with open arms.

Yeah, I know. That was a stretch, but we can all agree it's more critical than ever for enterprise systems, regardless of function, to be open and able to share and consume data from other applications. Closed systems have no place in our world today. Solutions providers must demonstrate openness and the ability to integrate across the organization.

The HR Tech landscape has been in constant flux as a result of recent acquisitions. Niche players and best-of-breeds are finding their way into the organization. Unified solution providers are working diligently to expand partner networks and grow their ecosystems. Software delivery models have expanded the options the business now has in making technology decisions and changes in the way people engage with each other mean new types of data that can't be ignored.

Each of these trends is even more the reason why the systems you choose to run your business with must provide for multiple options to interface and share data with each other.

First, let's consider what this means for those organizations whose solution of choice recently fell victim to some level of acquisition within the market place. What do recent moves such as Salesforce's purchase of Rypple and Oracle's purchase of Taleo tell us about the need for a system's ability to be open. There weren't a whole lot of folks, outside of Benioff maybe, that were forward thinking enough to see that Rypple's social performance platform could have anything to do with CRM. And what would Oracle decide to do with it's new cloud purchase? The task at hand for these vendors is to determine how to provide integration points for their new band mates- both for their existing fans as well as new ones. As a consumer of these offerings, I'm looking for useful integrations that drive strategic value and not just done for the sake of saying we integrated the two solutions.

Secondly, the adoption of the social enterprise is changing the way we work and interact with others. An increasing number of organizations are now leveraging some form of enterprise collaboration tool to improve the connectedness of their employees. Whether it's a social goal in Rypple or employees giving praise to one another in Yammer, we're seeing new types of people performance data emerge within the workplace. This data, and it's ability to be consumed by your performance management system, is becoming increasingly critical if you're going to achieve a holistic view of your people. Many HR Tech providers have acknowledged the importance of this data and are now partnering with enterprise collaboration providers to deliver integrations between HCM and these new social tools. 

Finally, the ease of which organizations can adopt and leverage new technology has forced providers' hands in ensuring openness of their solutions. Lines of business are now more empowered than ever to make their own decisions when it comes to the software they use to run their departments. Upgrades, rip and replace strategies and moves to the cloud could eventually mean organizations are left with a group of disparate systems still very much in need of sharing data with one another. 

So what should you be looking for from your HR Tech vendors to ensure they're welcoming data from other systems with open arms:

1) Check out the partner pages on the web sites of solutions providers you're currently evaluating as well as those already in use within your organization. Vendors should be able to demonstrate a developing ecosystem around their solutions incorporating technology partners from various disciplines.

2) Ask about pre-packaged integrations and connectors to other commonly used solutions. This prevents you from having to build and maintain custom interfaces on your own. 

3) Ensure the vendor offers an API library for which to programatically share data between applications. Web services are an efficient way for different applications to interact with each other and can automate the movement of data between multiple systems. Web services should be made available at no additional cost and be packaged with application programming interface guides and sample code to help get you started.

It's time for your HR Tech to integrate it's new band mates with the same open arms Journey welcomed lead singer Arnel Pineda . Those that fail to forge these new relationships early on might find themselves playing to empty arenas.

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