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HR is from Mars and IT is from Venus: But you still need to communicate!

HR software used to be primarily about managing payroll and employee information. Often it was just another part of an organisation-wide Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP) that was tightly controlled by the IT department.

With the introduction of cloud-based solutions such as SuccessFactors, HR professionals now have tools that align people and processes with business strategies, identify and retain high performers and plan for future workforce requirements.

This shift to user-friendly, simple to deploy cloud software has put the power in HR’s hands. The HR department can now select standalone talent solutions based on their own needs, not the organisation’s technology landscape. With this focus on the people and the experience of the end user, the IT department is often cut out of the loop.

To the HR department, this might seem like a good thing. After all, IT people are not focused on how to strengthen an organisational culture and get the best out of people. They will just want to turn it from an HR initiative into an IT project. And since the product is cloud-based Software as a Service, keeping the technology running is the vendor’s responsibility. So there’s no need to even tell IT what you’re up to, right?

Not necessarily.  If your organisation has a CIO focused on business value instead of technology, which many organisations these days do, then that approach is potentially shooting yourself in the foot. While IT people may not have HR skills, they often do have a wealth of experience that the HR team can leverage in order to get the best outcomes. And that goes further than the obvious integration requirements – you won’t make many friends in the IT department if, without discussing it with them first, you buy a standalone talent management system that needs complex integration with your payroll or HRMIS.

There are other areas in which IT’s expertise can be of invaluable assistance to you in the HR department. As an HR professional, you will often start with an idea of what you want to achieve – perhaps better aligned and more consistent evaluation processes, or better engagement from staff in their goal setting.

When evaluating vendors, however, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options. But not only that - every option has different implications. Choosing a best-of-breed tool might solve a short-term problem, but a suite of integrated solutions rolled out over time might be a more strategic investment. And is there agreement on the requirements and problems that need to be addressed to begin with?

The IT department will likely have been through this process of defining and documenting requirements and evaluating solutions many times before in other areas of the business, and will therefore be able to provide a framework and process to support it.

They will certainly have dealt with many vendors in the past and will understand the commercial and licensing side of actually purchasing software. And they may even be able to assist with building a business case. If additional capital expenditure is needed, a proposal that shows what a solution does and how much it costs may not be enough to get approval from an executive team or CFO.
Articulating the issues being solved and the value that will be realised preferably in financial terms is something that should be done before any significant IT investment. This will increase the likelihood of the executive fully supporting it, so it makes sense to talk to the IT department about the best way to build that case.

In the end, talking to IT before going out to market for a new talent management product can be a useful exercise, even if it seems at times like they are speaking an entirely different language. As long as both departments are looking to get the best outcome for the organisation there is usually more to gain than to lose.

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