HR Tech: Why customers should be at the centre of every software investment

HR tech customers increasingly approach suppliers with a list of 'wants', rather than trying to fit around the technology

Workday’s VP of product strategy for EMEA, Mark Judd, used to be one of the cloud-based software vendor’s customers. Now he’s advising HR and IT professionals on how to invest in HR technology to achieve true business transformation. He speaks to Personnel Today about the customer-supplier relationship. 

At the latest HR Tech World conference in Amsterdam last month, delegates were keener than ever to hear customer stories.

With new HR technologies being released all the time and the pace of change accelerating, it was important to hear who had “been there, done that”.

Mark Judd, EMEA vice president of product strategy at software company Workday, was able to see their concerns from both sides.

He joined the company this year after a long stint in HR, industrial relations and consultancy, most recently as HRIT solutions director at Rolls-Royce.

During that time he had been a Workday customer and had overseen numerous major software implementations, so can empathise with HR departments’ concerns and questions when investing in technology.

“As a customer, a huge amount of decision-making around technology investment is about chemistry,” he says.

“Selecting the provider is only about a third of the process. The first is often a debate about whether to use cloud, and the other part focuses on transformation – looking at processes to see how you can make the business more agile.”

Drive the decisions

Actively engaging with the software provider rather than allowing the technology to shape decisions is crucial, he adds.

“Customers like to feel they’re part of the overall framework. It should be ‘What do you want to do, what sort of business do you want to be?’

“HR needs to lead that thinking. It also needs to think more broadly about transformation than pure technology.”

A recent report into the state of digital transformation found that companies still have some way to go to catch up with their tech-savvy customers. Judd believes that some companies are leading a charge in this direction, however.

“Some of the early adopters are looking at advances in self-service, the use of apps and mobile access,” he says. “There has been a big push for us [at Workday] to introduce chatbots or other tools that will drive advances in business processes.”

Many of the challenges faced by HR teams derive from business structures and outdated processes, he adds.

“Businesses want corporate agility but there’s still a lot to do on the process side and the design of the HR function itself.

“Many businesses are still de-federated, with teams that have never done things in the same way and can’t run as a single organisation, but would like to.

“There’s also a trend towards the movement of work as well as the movement of people. Activities such as manufacturing and software design can happen across different locations.”

Added agility

What’s making a difference now is that they can see change a lot more quickly than a decade or more ago when an HR technology implementation would take years. Now it’s more of a “quality, controlled explosion” than a big bang that sends shockwaves across the business, he says.

“Transition to the cloud can be done in shorter timescales now, so CEOs can get the single view of their workforce they’re asking for. It’s more affordable too.”

And as with many companies showcasing their technology at the HR Tech World forum in Amsterdam, data and how to get the best out of it was a key theme for Workday.

The company now offers customers the chance to benchmark aspects of their HR activities against other customers by analysing millions of aggregated data points.

Judd adds: “Users want to know the outcomes of their activities, and the insight generated from bringing together multiple data points. This could be supporting an employee with career progression, helping a manager with performance management comparisons, or showing specialists where their retention risks or talent opportunities are.”

Getting HR transformation right and driving return on investment requires there to be a solid team in place, he concludes.

“You need certain things in place such as good governance. Centres of excellence can really drive the agenda forward – they see it as an opportunity. Finally, find the right sponsors for your implementation, and foster a good relationship with IT because this isn’t just an HR change.”

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