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HR Technology Conference- Closing Thoughts

Originally posted: October 5, 2009 on TrishMcFarlane.com

Last Friday I was able to participate in the final day of the HR Technology Conference in Chicago.  I’ve shared some of my thoughts on the benefits of attending the conference from the perspective of networking and today I’d like to share some ideas about the sessions I was able to attend and some general thoughts on the conference:

The morning tweetup was well worth getting up early to attend.  The highlight was not only meeting Naomi Bloom , but actually having the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with her.  She is the Managing Partner at Bloom & Wallace and a renowned thought leader in HR Technology and Talent Management.   Naomi not only shared her thoughts on what companies like Oracle will have to do in the near future to remain competitive, she talked about the talent management suites and challenges they face,  and the future of HR and how we can learn by looking back at how far we’ve come.  She also talked about HRevolution and what can be learned in that type of environment.  She was truly inspiring and although I thoroughly enjoyed her keynote closing, it was this intimate conversation that left me with the impression that I had just been given a wonderful gift by just listening to her and learning from her. 

Mike Krupa and I sat in on the “Metlife Tackles Workforce Analytics- Twice!”session.  Nick Schaffzin, who is part of HR Global Operations for MetLife, and Brian Kelly, President of Infohrm, were the speakers.  For me, Nick’s honesty about the process MetLife went through in order to provide reliable analytical data to human resources and line managers was very refreshing.  He shared that they initially implemented PeopleSoft but the complexity of the reporting made people reluctant to use it.  He then began working with Infohrm to simplify the tools that both HR, leadership, and other managers could use.  It was clear that this relationship was providing the service and the tools that MetLife had been looking for.

The system they put in place allows them to measure analytical data on many different criteria. What I found most interesting was that while the new tool provides very detailed reporting capabilities, at the end of the day only a small number of people are using those reports even though they have the capability to make the reports available to a much larger group of managers.  Nick said that they run the reports then move the data to excel so that the leadership can better understand the reports.  That’s when it hit me.  Even if human resource professionals are learning as much as they can about technological tools to help show ROI, manage the business, or attempt to break down the silos between departments like human resources and accounting/finance, it’s only going to work if everyone is trained. 

Without getting the buy in of leadership and making them understand the benefits of the technology, they will still need it reverted back to a simpler format.    Personally, I would rather push leaders to learn about the new technology and break out of their comfort zone.  Otherwise, I don’t see much point in spending the money on portals or dashboards to deliver data that no one wants.  It was a good session and certainly made the participants think.  For me, that is really why HR professionals would go to the conference. 

After talking with many of the conference attendees about the various vendors at the show, the commonality in our conversations was how much the vendors tended to look alike.  Especially in terms of the Shootout, I heard there was little difference in the tools and what they could do.  You can read more about the Shootout over at the HR Capitalist where Kris Dunn did a great job of giving all the details on the four vendors who were competing.

The one thing I didn’t hear about was the quality of delivery behind the various vendors.  I have recently looked at numerous vendors for a survey analytics tool.  Several were similar, several were far below par, and several did not give me confidence they could even deliver what I was looking for.  When the decision was made though, it all came down to the vendor’s ability to demonstrate a strong track record of delivery.  Many had a dashboard.  Many could do a survey and run reports.  Few seemed to be able to assure us that they could complete the project as it was needed. 

I hope to be able to attend the HR Technology Conference next year and that will be one thing I look for as I speak to the vendors.  How do you convince me not only what you can deliver, but what you WILL deliver?

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