blue ringsEnd to end. Streamlined. Integrated.

These are the words you see listed on the side of the box when shopping for HR technology solutions. In fact, one cannot even call them simply HR Technology anymore as there are thousands of handy acronyms to use like: TMS- Talent Management Systems, TAT- Talent Acquisition Technology, SRS- Social Recruiting Systems and many, many more.

2012 (and late 2011) so far has been the year of the HR technology acquisition, and while I applaud the desire to present an effective solution for the myriad of problems that recruiters and HR Professionals face, I cannot help but wonder where it will end. The merger that sort of kicked things off this year, is the reason why. Salesforce wasn’t and isn’t an HR Technology platform. It will not BE an HR Technology platform, even though Jobscience, and TargetReef build apps and entire HR ecosystems on its AppExchange platform. It was built for business tech. From one end of the old periscope it may look like HR is influencing business tech, but in fact, my prediction is that business and operations will swallow HR Technology whole. 

And then what happens to the practitioners? The easy answer is that we suck it up and learn to read a PL (like oh so many sanctimonious bloggers have been warning us. HINT: it’s not that very hard), grab a seat at the fabled boardroom table and squint at the slides when they start saying hard things with numbers and whatnot. The hard answer is that when your expertise in dealing with the human component of your business is sucked into a vastly different but ever present part of the company (i.e. operations) the result is almost never a good one. From Bill Kutik’s recent column on HRE:

The most important thing about 1987 was that HR had no control over — and precious little access to — its own technology.

So with that dire warning, I’ll move on. End to end platforms sound great from a marketing perspective. If every vendor on the planet had their way we’d have vertical integration from the stratosphere to the bedrock of this planet. The reason we don’t is that it’s not really good for the consumer. It SOUNDS good to the consumer but when every system within in your HR function is attached and/or dependent on another system, you have the capacity for total failure. You also have a massive onboarding and support issue that can’t scale well in times of high growth. With the aforementioned business tech eats HR Tech scenario, this situation has the capacity to seriously hinder growth and could lock your company into a never ending relationship with a vendor, despite their five year plan’s alignment with your own.

It’s been pointed out by many that enterprise technology is showing signs of being strongly affected by consumer vetting and buying behavior. While many consumers will be familiar with the idea of using one suite of tools for productivity (let’s keep it simple and say Microsoft Office) many of the most informed consumers pick and choose among various apps, programs and services to custom tailor his or her experience. This results in process integration instead of technical integration, which for many users, basically means, they use the technology they way they want to, to accomplish their specific daily tasks. Why shouldn’t enterprise technology follow this lead? The standard excuse is that there would be corporate melee, in practice, it does appear to work in team settings.

When I see vendors, service providers and analysts talking about one great system, end-to-end, what I hear is a few tried and true old sayings:

“You can’t be all things to all people.”

“Too big to fail.”

“With great power comes great responsibility.”


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