Cloud computing is changing the workplace – not just in the way we work, but in the way organizational functions operate. IT is not exempt. In the Cloud-based world, the role of IT has fundamentally shifted – but not diminished.

All organizations should have a clear HR technology strategy and defined vision, whether it’s focused on a continued investment in on-premise technology, or moving to the Cloud. Cloud technology is enabling HR departments to make technology decisions that suit their strategic direction, regardless of whether it’s within the best interest of IT departments. While this is an obvious detriment to IT, IT departments need to examine how they can evolve into “Service Delivery” organizations. Also, they must find a model that enables them to serve their organizations through operational excellence once the Cloud transition is complete.

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What is an HR Technology Strategy?

Quite simply, it varies from company to company. However, a solid HR Technology strategy should incorporate a vision of where the organization wants to go from a HR perspective and a roadmap of how to get there. Based on the existing landscape, the roadmap may involve a phased approach—meaning, the gradual introduction of Cloud technology for processes not currently serviced by existing on-premise software. And this transition would happen before replacing on-premise software.

Some key points for designing a strategy may include:

  • Identify weak areas to enhance operations;
  • Seek transformation across the board, if required;
  • Ensure all areas are covered in the long-term roadmap (core HR, talent management, analytics, self-service/mobility);
  • Look for process improvement alongside technology investments;
  • Ensure business and executive buy-in.

For a real life use case on this topic, I recommend checking out the The Secret of Driving Cultural & Strategic Transformation through HR by David Bowes.

A Self-preservation Society

IT departments, like all others, are invested in self-preservation. And that’s a major barrier to the adoption of Cloud technology.

There’s going to be a shift in the skill set and role of IT departments. Only those whose livelihood depends on providing traditional types of technical services will resist the inevitable adoption of Cloud. Those that have the capabilities, or the vision, to transform their IT services into a team that supports business objectives will help accelerate the benefits that organizations can get from the Cloud. And since service delivery skills are more common-place, this will drive down IT costs for organizations. Finally, since Cloud services are OPEX rather than CAPEX, a portion of the costs of Cloud services would be covered by a reduction in IT costs.

Do We Need IT Anymore?

In fact, any move to exclude or alienate IT would be to the detriment of the organization. There are numerous reasons why IT is needed; IT can offer immense value during the transition to and support of Cloud technology and services. However, most organizations will opt for a streamlined IT department. Yet the challenge will be to streamline to a sensible level. 

How can this be done? First, organizations need a clear and concise HR Technology strategy, and IT can play an “enabler” role by driving this initiative. By creating this type of Technology strategy (which is applicable to other line of businesses apart from HR), HR can define exactly how technology and service will meet their long-term objectives.

Organizations must also define how IT can play an integral role in supporting those activities. Despite being a business-centric solution, implementing HR technology – whether in a hybrid model or a full Cloud HCM scenario – requires support from IT. Therefore, organizations should not exclude IT from their strategy. It’s vital that integration, security, procurement, governance, risk management, cost analysis, support, and managing implementations from a technical aspect, are recognized and considered within a technology strategy and within the role that IT will play.

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Agile Support

Organizations must have agility and streamlined management of the ongoing innovations that are introduced by their Cloud systems. IT can play a critical role in providing the agility needed to support change when new features and functionality are introduced.

Not all new functionality is critical to the business processes, so IT needs to align new features with the business, and manage the introduction of these features along with training and change management. Managing regularly releases – quarterly or otherwise – is no simple task, and requires time and technical understanding in order to properly evaluate what those new features mean to the system operation and the business use case.

Since IT has a strong role in providing similar services to the organization, this should be a fairly painless adjustment.

Cloud for Businesses Means Time for IT

Increased ownership and maintenance of Cloud solutions by business-process owners provides IT with an opportunity to invest time and effort in more strategic initiatives; it moves IT personnel away from everyday support and maintenance of systems. For example, instead of investing time in server maintenance, an IT team can extend a Cloud-based application with functionality that enables the business to be more efficient in a particular process. Another example is that IT can switch to managing business processes, such as a hiring action or employee termination.

Whatever it may be, IT can modify its value proposition to the business and remain relevant – and in some cases become more relevant. The role of being a helpdesk for system or network issues must be replaced with that of a business partner; such a partner can provide guidance, advice, and management of business software initiatives. When required, IT can also continue to provide those technical services for data integration and user management.

Summary

In reality, many of the themes above are not HR-specific. On the contrary, there are universal truths that can help make IT a real provider of 21st century Cloud services. It requires a move away from hardware and system maintenance towards standards, compliance, and enablement. Service delivery is a continued focus, and this model shifts from system services to customer services. It’s a shift in the type of services, really, but one that builds on the strengths and skills that IT has. And it’s a good change.

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3 Comments

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  1. Michael Herzog

    Hi Luke,

    thank you for your blog post! I have one question about this topic. I’m a software engineer in Germany and at our place, you perceive sometimes an immense distrust and rejection about cloud technologies. Especially in HR-context, many colleagues of personnel departments can’t imagine an external data storage of sensitive personal information. A very typical argument against a cloud solution is, that data security/protection and audit-proof storage can better guaranteed in on-premise solutions. So even if you have a good use case for cloud technologies in your company, you often have no chance to draw interests. How should i explain this? Sometimes Cloud is almost like a taboo! Can you recommend some arguments or strategies, how to reduce these prejudices/concerns?

    Regards

    Michael

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    1. Luke Marson Post author

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comments. Regarding security, actually I would say that cloud security is much more secure than on-premise security. Apart from instances I have seen where blanket high-level authorizations are provided, a cloud company (e.g. SuccessFactors) has a significant security budget that even the most budget-rich organizations wouldn’t put aside for security of their systems. I’ll SuccessFactors as an example as I am familiar with their setup. They have significant physical security, as well as intruder-detection and perform regular self-hacking activities to identify any holes in security. They have database and secure transfer security, as well as adhering to over 7 globally recognized security standards. This is just a high-level explanation, but I’ve never come across organizations this secure.

      Put it this way: how much would the Cloud world collapse if there was just one data breach in their data center? A lot is the answer! They simply cannot afford to have any data mishaps.

      Best regards,

      Luke

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      1. Chiara Bersano

        Luke, hopefully you will not mind my jumping in the topic… 🙂

        Michael, I have often heard this debate, with many customers (when I worked as an internal at some large corporations, I remember vividly the on-going debate). It is particularly relevant in Germany, given extensive data privacy regulations, among the most stringents existing.

        Cloud should not be a taboo, but should be looked at pragmatically. There is a lot of confusion about what is data SECURITY, and what is data PRIVACY (I’ve blogged on the topic here and on my private blog). Given that these are two different things, you need to verify both separately.

        On one side, data security is about authorizations. Within an On Premise world, it is about the triple authorization approach (what records can be accessed, whose records can be accesses, how they can be accessed), overlapping the Org.Structures if needed. The physical/virtual access to the facilities is then controlled by a different group, internal to the corporation: usually a combination of general services and IT.

        In the case of cloud, SuccessFactors has a similar (though handled differently) approach to the what/whose/how; at the same time, the physical security is approached in a professional and extensive way, including hacking protection – with a budget that exceeds what even large corporations can devote to the topic – in a transparent way.

        On the other side, is the data privacy topic. While there is no easy answer here, because legislation is changing regularly, the regulation is about how the data is handled, and the ultimate accountability remains in my opinion with the corporation (the “right to be forgotten” was recently discussed…), and is usually covered by the Binding Corporate Rules. There is no reason why this should be different in the Cloud – with the added verification of where the data will be resident to avoid incurring in issues with the unwanted or un-expected onward transfer rules.

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