Things are finally beginning to settle down after a busy and exciting week in Las Vegas. I had the privilege of attending my first HRevolution ‘unconference” event on Sunday, then participated in all of the goings-on at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition, along with HRchitect colleagues Matt Lafata, Tiffany Appleby, John Hinojos and Brandie Hurtado. Here is a collection of the major takeaways gleaned from conference sessions, vendor briefings, booth conversations, and random interactions during those four days:
- Thanks to Bill Kutik, David Shadowitz, and LRP for continuing to run a great event – every year execution gets better.
- It was a stroke of genius to team up with HRevolution to hold their unique format the day before – this was a great example of collaboration that really added value. Thanks also to Jeanne Achille and Devon Group staff for their management of the Press Room – quite a feat given the number of analysts, vendors and briefings that they had to coordinate!
- Kudos to the event sponsors who did their part to make life easier for attendees – from food to parties to wifi, it was all noticed and appreciated (though I wasn’t able to squeeze in one of those coveted chair massages—bummer!).
- HRevolution is a unique interactive format that everyone should experience at least once – trust me, you’ll want to go again. The emphasis is on dialogue, interaction and small group collaboration to advance the HR function – a very refreshing change from the usual passive “talking heads” conference experience. Congratulations to the HRevolution planning team (Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Crystal Peterson) for making this happen!
- Energy and activity levels set new highs – perhaps the change of venue to Vegas had something to do with it. One of the best things about HR Tech is the number of parties that take place after formal show hours that enable the interactions to continue. In Chicago this required significant cabbing to get from party to party. In Vegas, it was all at the Mandalay Bay – a significant plus. Regardless, the energy level and “buzz” in the Exhibit Hall was noticeably up from last year, doubtless fueled by the large number of vendors and new product announcements.
- Mobile & Social were front page – Workday and PeopleFluent led the way with very impressive demonstrations of iPad apps, and it is clear that tablet PCs have the potential to enable significant adoption of manager-driven HCM processes. However, as Joel Cheesman pointed out during his opening keynote at HRevolution, the vast majority of “rank & file” employees and candidates do not use tablets or smart phones – therefore, organizations must develop a more pragmatic strategy for communicating and interacting using SMS (texting), especially for particular job categories, industry segments, or geographies.
- Customer feedback on vendors is pretty grim – lost in all the buzz over cool new technologies and product announcements was a warning message to the vendor community – service and support are not meeting customer expectations. The clearest example of this was during the Talent Management panel, where over 72% of text poll respondents gave vendors a grade of C, D, or F on the quality of service & support – and only 5% gave an A grade. Unfortunately, these scores continue to be in line with other research (e.g., Bersin & Associates “2010 Talent Management Customer Satisfaction Survey,” CedarCrestone’s “2011 HR Systems Survey”), indicating little response from vendors on this issue. Panelists indicated three main failings from their TM vendors – 1) Vendors are not keeping commitments made during the sales process – therefore, customers need to beef up SLAs and take a contractual approach to ensuring their needs are met, 2) Vendors need to improve the process of gathering business requirements to ensure that their solutions are more configurable and meet the needs of a broader cross-section of companies, and 3) Vendors tend to overstate their global capabilities – in the words of one panelist, “Don’t say your app is global just because it has global customers.” HRchitect first pointed out the importance of vendor service and support in our 2008 report “The Suite Life of Integrated Talent Management,” and we hope that vendors take this feedback from customers as a serious call to action. The fanciest technology in the world means very little if a client does not feel they are getting the support they need in order to make the vendor solution work.
- HCM implementations are just plain hard work – this message came through loud and clear in multiple customer sessions. Regardless of the technology, a project team needs to execute the basics in order to be successful:
- Knowing the business – not just the business, but the models that drive the business
- Knowing the workforce – demographic and cultural variations
- Knowing the key jobs and the characteristics of top performers in those jobs
- Clean, accurate data – there must be processes to cleanse the data in the first place and keep it clean
- Change management, change management, change management – critical to ensure user adoption – consistently under-budgeted in most TM implementations
- Strong project management is critical – every HCM implementation needs a leader who has the vision, can communicate it to stakeholders, and can keep all the moving parts on track
- The HR Tech show has become overwhelming – the sheer size, number of vendors and activities has reached a point where it is easy for attendees to be bewildered by all the similar marketing messages and vendor claims. In the weeks leading up to HR Tech, many HRchitect clients asked if it was advisable for them to go. We told them to attend, but cautioned them that it was very likely that they would be overwhelmed, and that they should talk to us after the show to recap what they had experienced and help them separate “fact from fiction.” To a person, these clients came by our booth and validated the overwhelming nature of the show.
So, how was your experience at HR Tech? Whether you agree or not with what is written here, please comment on this post. If you were bewildered by all the messages and options and want some help sorting it all out, please let us know. We’d be happy to talk with you before you make any decisions about HR technology purchases, changes or upgrades. In the meantime, we are already looking forward to HR Tech 2012 in Chicago!