I was invited to participate in a roundtable of solution providers to unpack human capital investment trends driving venture capital innovation, private equity investing, and strategic mergers and acquisitions.
The temptation was to discuss the digital disruption of Human Resources, machines as talent, applications of Artificial Intelligence on business processes, People Analytics driving not merely actionable insights but measurable business outcomes out of the ocean of data we already have on organizational rank and file. I personally wanted perspective on whether innovation drives investment or vice versa; the old chicken-or-egg scenario.
Slightly more titillating would be flipping a favorite acronym. Is AI (Artificial Intelligence) really the goal, the opportunity? Or does IA (Intelligent Automation) offer more immediate, tangible, meaningful application?
None of that would have been earth-shattering or mind-blowing. Interesting, sure. But the buzzword around which the roundtable hummed, and which enables all of the above, was convergence.
The Convergence of Solutions
We may be nearing the end of an economic bubble, we bantered, where companies can afford to focus on growth and innovation; where budget dollars come easier and employers can afford to offer a better experience, to find better solutions to the same old problems. Belts might tighten again sooner than later, and organizations will need one throat to choke, one vendor to do more. Further, the ripening of People Analytics and Artificial Intelligence will require aggregation of disparate data in order for systems to talk, data to flow, insights to be derived, and informed intelligence to drive accurate decision-making.
I winced, I'll admit. Are we then going back to platform plays because it’s easier? Bye, innovation. Adios, sexy consumer front-end experience. Sayonara, UX. Best of breed dies a slow death on the platform vine.
Integrate for Outcomes
But wait! The conversation shifted... Can organizations achieve convergence another way? Of course they can they can. I violently support the need for a seamless, integrated, front-end experience for end users who don’t know or care what application they’re touching. Just as much as I passionately endorse a back-end configuration where data is handed off from one system to another, triggering workflows and populating datasets and firing off jobs as processes are completed. I’ll shout from the rooftop for normalized data, one dashboard to tell all, true analytics with meaningful insights.
The survival of Human Resources and its ability to show relevance relies on meaningful data tied to measurable business outcomes.
Convergence can be achieved with integration tools so organizations can choose best of breed or best for them solutions that truly meet the unique challenges of their business. When you select the most viable solution most applicable to your use case and implement it well, truly drive it to adoption and value, and understand how to tie outcomes to the bottom line of your business, you become relevant. You become a game-changer.
What if we leveraged innovation better?
Here was my challenge to the knights and dames of this roundtable: Customer Success is still an infant concept. I was hired to deliver on a mature Customer Success model nearly 10 years ago, where a trusted strategic solution advisor helicoptered over initial implementation; ensuring correct configuration of a solution to meet the organization’s needs; driving it like a sherpa up the slope of adoption and value; and recommending features, additional products, or augmentative services to get the engine to hum the way it should. I still look far and wide to find many SaaS companies bringing product to life the way they ought. It’s not all vaporware; some of us have truly game changing solutions we’re bringing to market incredibly well. Stop selling it and walking away, HR Technology.
I venture to guess too many organizations are seeing 40% of the value they should out of the solutions they select. Or pick a number out of a hat; it’s still too low. Implement correctly, drive to full utilization and feature adoption, define meaningful KPIs and measure them rigorously, enhance and reconfigure as the product and your business evolves, and stop the vicious cycle of throwing the solution baby out with the change management bath water.
Evolution over Innovation?
If investment follows innovation and not vice versa, we might consider giving organizations permission to better selection, implementation, and adoption of existing innovation. Give them the knowledge and freedom to select best of breed or best for you solutions. Achieve convergence of user experience and analytics through integration strategies, and truly shepherd programs with meaningful answers to current business challenges.
Perhaps the most innovative play of all is to use it all better.