Catching up on my podcasts today while at home making lunch for my ill wife (I think I'll be next) and making enough noise in the kitchen to wake our sleeping infant son (doh!) recovering from a stomach bug, I listened to the most recent Bill Kutik Radio Show episode featuring Naomi Bloom (for the few of you not already subscribed to this cast, you may want to stop reading and listen now - http://www.knowledgeinfusion.com/ondemand/docs/DOC-7965).
Early in the interview, Bill asks Naomi about her take on where HR Technology is going, and the "sea-change" she sees now underway, and Naomi offers many thoughtful points from her position of truly unique insight.
Three very succinct points really got me thinking:
I think she's exactly right on all three of these points. But she's not only right for HR technology, but also very probably for every other functional business technology that's making a migration from client server to cloud-based.
- Multi-tenant SaaS environments offer a huge upside potential in their ability to aggregate data for benchmarking and analytics.
- The SaaS deployment model for vendors provides the ability to deliver HR-related content such as competencies that support the broader talent functions. SaaS vendors only need to do this once and can then support all of their customers.
- For vendors, tremendous opportunity exists to "crowd-source" to support customer service and product planning.
Much like recruiting conferences teach me about new ways to think about marketing (since both professions and disciplines have so much in common), HR technology conferences, especially the Analyst panel discussions at the HR Technology Conference, also teach me about where business technology generally is heading.
Increasingly, the content mediated via SaaS technology no longer originates with the end-user.
For example, in the past when explaining one aspect of our HRmarketer software to sales and marketing pros, I'd ask my interlocutor to imagine if those responsible for PR and Media Relations had a CRM to manage that work and imagine if it came "pre-populated" with nearly all of the contact information and intelligence they'd ever need, how useful would that be?
A year ago, that analogy was imperfect and required some imagination. Not now. Salesforce.com (software provider) acquired Jigsaw (content provider of business contact data) this year. These two had already been integrated, but clearly Salesforce sees a powerful market opportunity in the ability to provide a new CRM customer a pre-populated a prospect database with up to date information. Existing customers have a way to augment and clean their data now too. And the larger community of Jigsaw users keeps that data refreshed.
This one's really fun to think about. Today, it seems to be more vision than reality.
Going back to Salesforce, they do provide a "monthly usage" report to me as an Administrator that shows me how our implementation compares to other companies of our size across a range and functions.
And one of my favorite personal productivity tools, RescueTime, offers me a weekly email report of my workday efficiency as measured by the applications I'm using on my computer. It gives me an efficiency score compared to that of an average user.
Neither of these insights really moves beyond the realm of interesting to actionable though.
We launched our own benchmarking site this year for HR professionals based on a store of data we've been sitting on and building each month via our budget survey for the free HR Vendor Phonebook and Directory. It's interesting data. I like to imagine a 10 slide presentation delivered by a VP of HR to a CFO making the case for a budget initiative with one slide pulled from our benchmarking site... but we really don't know yet how it's been used.
Naomi's point about learning from your user base is a simple and powerful one. And it's easier said than done. We're now getting into deep into our own data to learn about the usage patterns of our software customers. Extracting genuine insight without being led down a dead-end path will forever be the challenge.
Deciphering "digital behavior," as a marketer and a sales professional has become a skill set I've set out to master. Reading digital behavior offers a gold mine of insight to help deliver innovation and value to current customers as well, right?
What do you see on the horizon? What should we expect from these marriages of content (from many and various sources) and function in our SaaS applications?
P.S. Looking forward to seeing you all at #HRTechConf. We'll be at booth #935 under the name HRVendors.com.