Are HR and IT friends or foes?

Linda Cooper, director of consulting with, argues that a
little communication between HR and IT could go a long way

HR and IT departments have a lot in common. Both are appreciated by the
board as essential to the organisation, and both are likely to be in the firing
line when things go wrong. They will also seldom receive praise when things go

With these parallels you may expect HR and IT to be brothers in arms, yet
nothing could be further fromthe truth.

IT people may perceive the HR department as an administration factory,
contributing little to their own needs except an improved ability at

At the same time HR people view the IT function as unhelpful. The IT team
may resist devoting time and resources to developing technology to support
constantly changing HR processes when they can work on a more interesting and
glamorous finance system that will catch the attention of the board.

If both departments spent some time discovering where and how effective
collaboration could add value to the organisation however, both would be more
popular with the frontline business functions.

The real task of the HR department is not routine administration, but to
facilitate strategies and processes that align personal and corporate
performance and drive performance standards up. But however elegant the design
of processes, the implementation is invariably stalled if it is paper-based.
Often beset by bureaucracy, real leverage is lost, given the impossibility of
getting good management information back to the top and centre quickly.

However, the IT people are probably right to resist building bespoke systems
to support changing HR processes. Their role in this case is to provide
invaluable intelligence by identifying and recommending outsourced HR systems

For example, 360-degree assessment is widely seen as a key process for
facilitating personal change but is still not widely implemented because HR and
IT have not understood how to collaborate. Conventional data collection methods
create expense and bureaucracy that is usually seen out of proportion with the
sustainable value it delivers to the business.

Were HR to explain its needs to IT, it could rapidly identify three or four
high-quality external suppliers of ‘state of the art’ web-based 360-degree
feedback technology with no need for any server installation or any further
support by the IT function. Web technology now provides universally available,
low-cost delivery mechanisms for assessment applications that massively reduce
the administrative burden of the process and provides high-quality, real-time
management information.

HR adds value by designing high quality processes; IT by facilitating the
technology support. By becoming allies, HR and IT can start delivering real
added value to the business.

Linda Cooper is director of consulting services at

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