What do you need to look for in order to get the real benefits from innovation in your outsourcing engagement? Hint: Think architecture.
By Christian Baader and David Ludlow
The theme at last month’s HROA Gala Awards ceremony was “Be Innovative,” raising the question of whether it is reasonable to expect technology-induced innovation during a contracting economic cycle. And for the innovations that we do see, are customers and their providers effectively leveraging these new capabilities to deliver real business value?
There is little that technological innovation has not touched today, as evidenced in the rapid growth of what is commonly referred to as Web 2.0 technologies—items such as wikis, blogs, communities, RSS feeds, rich Internet applications, cloud computing, web mashups, and the like. As an industry, we have indeed reached new heights with rich Internet applications—fully dynamic and responsive applications that can combine transactions with contextual information to improve decision-making on the fly.
Collaboration itself has risen to new heights as capabilities such as wikis, blogs, and social networking have found a place within the corporate business environment. Employees are now able to quickly find subject matter experts to assist in projects, to select courseware or learning paths based on the rankings of instructors or content authors, and to subscribe to RSS feeds on desired topics to stay on top of high-priority issues.
Traditional HR processes are being redefined through technology innovation as well, and best practices from CRM and supply chain management are making their way into HCM processes, as evidenced in new processes around managing the talent supply chain for an organization.
Recruiting is now commonly extended to external networks, and the task of vetting candidates’ backgrounds and sourcing other details is fully automated and managed in the clouds. The performance review process now commonly incorporates feedback from a variety of individuals, enables recurring and continuous communication between employees and managers, and interacts with learning, succession, and compensation processes in real time to drive the actions and behaviors necessary for optimal business results.
With increasing frequency we’re seeing service providers deploying these emerging technologies enabled by the evolving capabilities of their technology providers. Leveraging service oriented architecture (SOA)-based web services to link external transactional processes with various services in the “cloud” such as automated background checking or resume parsing is commonplace today. Next-generation self-service and the integration of an employee interaction center with the HR administrative applications can fully enable a tiered HR-service delivery model that fulfills the promise of handling transactions at the level where it is most efficient for the organization.
HRO service providers also routinely deploy technologies in conjunction with HR applications to facilitate knowledge access and management and to document management systems, business analytics capabilities, and comprehensive search engines to ensure rapid and increasingly contextual information access to support transactional processing. Another hallmark of best-in-class HRO providers is offering a consistent user experience across all delivered processes to facilitate end-user adoption and ease of use.
But clients and providers should be aware to not get seduced to make innovation an end in itself. Cool stuff with no return is just that: cool stuff. Yes, you can deliver services through multiple channels. Yes, you can embrace the many Web 2.0 features of technology, but to get real business value out of the equation, you need to ensure that in the end these technologies are enabling effective service delivery across the organization.
Adoption is the first hurdle. Seek out services that enable consistent user experiences and support the full, end-to-end processes across retained and outsourced services if innovation is to thrive in your outsourcing engagements.
And for earning the seat at the table, pay attention to the architecture of your service delivery platform: Its consistency is key for seamlessness—from a user experience and end-to-end business process point of view.
David Ludlow is vice president, HCM Solution Management for SAP Americas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian Baader, vice president BPO for SAP Americas. He can be reached at email@example.com.