Guess Who’s Looking At The HR Tech Market? Microsoft.

By Josh Bersin, Author | Published December 20, 2018 – Updated January 1, 2019
[From JOSH BERSIN, Insights on Corporate Talent, Learning, Leadership and HR Technology site]

Over the last few months, I’ve been spending time with Microsoft, and the company is doing some interesting things in the HR Tech space. In this article I’d like to give you some background, and share why I believe Microsoft is going to have a big impact on the market.

First point:  Microsoft is on fire right now, and your IT department knows this.

First, let me start by saying that Microsoft has entered one its company’s hottest product cycles in years.

In the latest quarter, Microsoft’s revenue increased by 19% to $29.1 billion, and operating income increased by 29% to $10 billion. This growth is based on many things, not the least of which is the tremendous change in company culture leading to one of the company’s most innovative product cycles in years.

Microsoft Financials in Context (CB Insights)

I’ve been following Microsoft since my days at IBM in the 1980s, and it has always been a powerhouse. Yes, it had rough periods over the last 40 years, but today it generates more than $8 billion in cloud revenue and products like Office 365, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn and Dynamics are all growing at double-digit rates.

Microsoft Teams:  Messaging And More

Microsoft Teams, a product I believe could re-invent the way we work, is already in use by 87% of the Fortune 100 and is the fastest-growing app in the company’s history.  While products from Google and Slack are exciting to many, Microsoft still owns the enterprise, and the new Microsoft Modern Workplace is amazing to see.

Not only does Microsoft Teams provide messaging like Slack, it automatically transcribes and translates video and audio, it serves as a meeting platform, and it is going to be positioned as a replacement to Skype. I’m sure your IT department has plans to roll it out.

(More on this later, but if you really want to understand it, read this article – it describes how Microsoft Teams was built.)

Second point: Microsoft understands HR.

While Microsoft doesn’t specifically sell to HR today (its sales teams focus on technology, tools, and industries), the company really understands this space.

Satya Nadella’s book, “Hit Refresh,” is one of the most important books you can read about corporate culture, leadership, and learning. In many ways, it is a manifesto for the new world of work, and many of the principles are appearing in Microsoft products.

Just as Diane Gherson, the CHRO of IBM, has played a huge role in transforming the HR profession around topics like agile, AI, and careers, Kathleen Hogan, the CHRO of Microsoft, is doing the same in the areas of culture, leadership, and learning. The company recently hired Karen Kocher (ex-IBM and ex-Chief Talent Officer at Cigna) to lead an initiative for 21st Century Jobs, and many others in Microsoft are looking at ways to reinvent learning.

So the DNA of Microsoft is now focused on the empowerment, development, and inspiration of people.

Third point:  Microsoft is already in the business applications market with HR solutions today.

Microsoft Dynamics, which includes financials, ERP, CRM, manufacturing, and other applications for front-office workers, is over $1.3 billion and grew by 61% in Microsoft’s fiscal year 2018. Its new versions are AI-enabled are in use by companies like Chevron, H&M, and many large and mid-market companies around the world.

(Note: Workday’s revenues are around $2.1 billion and growing at 36% YTY, so Microsoft Dynamics is more than half the size of Workday with almost twice the growth rate.)

While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is not an end-to-end talent platform yet, the company is investing in this area. Microsoft recently introduced Microsoft Attract (ATS), Onboard (an innovative onboarding and onramp tool), and Core HR.  (Core HR is a very light employee record-keeping system today.) Dynamics is tightly integrated into the Microsoft 365 suite, Microsoft Teams, the Microsoft Graph (integrated directory and organizational networking), Workplace Analytics (the company’s leading product to analyze your daily interactions at work), and other Office tools are integrated.

There is a reason to believe Microsoft can thrive in HCM space. HR technology is moving away from the back office and getting closer to employees, moving “into the flow of work.” While SAP, Oracle, and Workday aspire to be a “system of productivity,” Microsoft is already there. So as Dynamics 365 for Talent matures, the product could be more integrated into your desktop than almost any competitor.

Think about the needs of front-office workers (retail, hospitality, service). They need the same types of HR and learning tools that office workers need, yet they often don’t have desks. Microsoft’s products can deliver applications to these workers through the wide array of Microsoft mobile and collaborative products.

And there are a lot of Dynamics customers. While the company does not disclose customer counts, my estimates are that there are more than 50,000 small and medium businesses using these products, so there are many HR departments Microsoft can reach. And most of these customers don’t have much HR technology to replace: most are primarily using payroll as their core system.

(By the way, Microsoft has invested very heavily in AI, building an entire business unit focused on this technology. Dynamics 365 AI is already enabled to provide intelligent alerts for sales, customer service problems, and market changes. Imagine how this technology could be applied in areas like employee retention, fraud, or engagement.)

Fourth point: Microsoft has an amazing sales and partner channel.

Over the last 30+ years, Microsoft has heavily invested in its sales, reseller, integrator, and educator channel around the world. While most large application vendors have a small number of dedicated resellers and consultants, Microsoft has thousands.

My office productivity software, for example, all comes from a large Microsoft reseller – and this particular company is one of the most service-oriented providers I have ever done business with. So as the company rolls out more products in HR, there are literally thousands of integrators to help make it work for customers.

Fifth point: Through LinkedIn, Microsoft has a very strong reach to HR buyers.

While Microsoft did not traditionally sell to HR, LinkedIn always has. LinkedIn, which is now over a $5 Billion business growing at 38% YTY, is rapidly expanding into almost every area of the HR technology landscape. LinkedIn Recruiter has become a standard tool for almost every talent acquisition professional. LinkedIn Learning has more than 14,000 corporate customers and is growing at double-digit rates. And the company’s recent acquisition of Glint gives LinkedIn (and Microsoft) a leading platform in the market for employee engagement, analytics, and performance management software.

Today LinkedIn is being run as a separate business, but I know the teams are talking. It’s only a matter of time before sales teams start cross-selling products and the Dynamics tools and LinkedIn tools start to come together. Already LinkedIn has announced deep integrations into Office for candidate scheduling and resume generation. More such integration is in the works.

Sixth point: Microsoft has some amazing core technology to take a lead.

Finally, I think Microsoft has moved to where the market is going.

First, as I’ve discussed frequently in the last few quarters, the HR technology market is exploding with innovation and quickly moving “into the flow of work.”

Consider the fact that today you can use Teams to author videos, share them, translate them, and intelligently recommend them to others. While this is not a full-fledged Learning Experience Platform, it’s awfully close. And companies like EdCast (micro-learning) and Disco (recognition and rewards) are already integrated into Teams, with more to come.

While companies like BetterWorks, Reflektiv, CultureAmp, and hundreds of others build better tools for feedback, goal setting, and surveys, they all have to reach your employees. Why not plug into Teams? I think this will happen faster than you may think.

Second, think about Microsoft’s potential solutions in core HR. Yes, there are lots of HR platforms in the market today, and most have taken years to mature. But none really integrate data from your organizational network (with the exception of ADP’s new Lifion) to really model, analyze, and improve your company like it really works. Most are built as hierarchical management systems, designed to manage people as “holders of jobs” in “hierarchies of job titles.”

Microsoft Graph Is Essentially A Graph Database

As most of you know, this is not the way companies work – we work on projects, teams, and programs. By leveraging the Microsoft Graph and Microsoft Teams, the company could build its core HR system into a true “system of record” of your network, storing data on network use, behavior, and real team activity. (I’m not saying Microsoft has announced this today, but I can see this coming over time.)

Third, think about Microsoft’s strengths in analytics, reporting, and AI. Tools like Excel (perhaps the most powerful user analytics tool ever invented), PowerBI (a similarly powerful analytics tool in the cloud), and Workplace Analytics (probably the leading tool for organizational network analytics) – all connected to your core HCM and business application system. Every interaction, survey, comment(feedback), or employee project can be analyzed and viewed by Microsoft tools. All the company has to do is add some application functionality, and believe me they’re thinking about it.

Microsoft Workplace Analytics:  ONA for Every Employee

I visited one of our largest insurance clients a few months ago and they told me they are using a Graph database (Neo4J) to model their customer service organization with more than 70,000 employees. By looking at interactions as well as talent data they have identified new drivers of customer service, retention, and productivity they had never seen before. And all this is based on capturing and analyzing “network and interaction data,” not just “talent transaction data.” Microsoft’s products store all this data, and they have the analytics to make sense of it.

HR In The Flow Of Work Is Here

While I’m not here to promote Microsoft in particular, I see the writing on the wall. As HR in the Flow of Work grows in importance and Microsoft Teams and Office 365 grow, it’s more important than ever that HR technology buyers look at what Microsoft is doing. We’ve had a series of CLO and CHRO meetings at Microsoft recently, and they’re seeing things they like.

The integration points between Microsoft and LinkedIn have barely even been explored, but just think about the possibilities.

Imagine a world where the tools you use to get work done are also coaching you on what you need to learn, giving you tips on your goals, providing nudges to be more engaged, and providing tips and guidance on your wellbeing and capabilities as a manager. And behind the scenes, all this data is being stored, analyzed, and intelligently used to make your work life better.

This is really the next big thing in HR technology, and Microsoft is in an amazing position to help. Let’s see what comes next.

Healthcare firms go for the hybrid cloud approach with compliance and connectivity key

Commentary by James Bourne, Editor-in-Chief, TechForge Media for Cloud Tech News
18 February 2019, 14:02 p.m.

 

It continues to be a hybrid cloud-dominated landscape – and according to new research one of the traditionally toughest industries in terms of cloud adoption is now seeing it as a priority.

A report from enterprise cloud provider Nutanix has found that in two years’ time, more than a third (37%) of healthcare organisations polled said they would deploy hybrid cloud. This represents a major increase from less than a fifth (19%) today.

The study, which polled more than 2,300 IT decision makers, including 345 global healthcare organisations, found more than a quarter (28%) of respondents saw security and compliance as the number one factor in choosing where to run workloads. It’s not entirely surprising. All data can be seen as equal, but healthcare is certainly an industry where the data which comes from it is more equal than others. Factor in compliance initiatives, particularly HIPAA, and it’s clear to see how vital the security message is.

Yet another key area is around IT spending. The survey found healthcare organisations were around 40% over budget when it came to public cloud spend, compared to a 35% average for other industries. Organisations polled who currently use public cloud spend around a quarter (26%) of their annual IT budget on it – a number which is expected to rise to 35% in two years.

Healthcare firms see ERP and CRM, analytics, containers and IoT – the latter being an evident one for connected medical devices – as important use cases for public cloud. The average penetration in healthcare is just above the global score. 88% of those polled said they see hybrid cloud to positively impact their businesses – yet skills are a major issue, behind only AI and machine learning as an area where healthcare firms are struggling for talent.

It is certainly an area where the largest vendors have been targeting in recent months. Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced in September a partnership with Accenture and Merck to build a cloud-based informatics research platform aiming to help life sciences organisations explore drug development. Google took the opportunity at healthcare conference HiMSS to launch a new cloud healthcare API, focusing on data types such as HL7, FHIR and DICOM.

Naturally, Nutanix is also in the business of helping healthcare organisations with their cloud migrations. Yet increased maturity across the industry will make for interesting reading. The healthcare IT stack of the future will require different workloads in different areas, with connectivity the key. More than half of those polled said ‘inter-cloud application mobility’ was essential going forward.

“Healthcare organisations especially need the flexibility, ease of management and security that the cloud delivers, and this need will only become more prominent as attacks on systems become more advanced, compliance regulations more stringent, and data storage needs more demanding,” said Chris Kozup, Nutanix SVP of global marketing. “As our findings predict, healthcare organisations are bullish on hybrid cloud growth for their core applications and will continue to see it as the ideal solution as we usher in the next era of healthcare.

“With the cloud giving way to new technologies and tools such as machine learning and automation, we expect to see positive changes leading to better healthcare solutions in the long run,” Kozup added.

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash
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What is the next evolution of Process Robotics?

The Feb 15, 2019
The By Simon Shah, Chief Marketing Officer, Redwood Software

The use of software-based robotics and automation to carry out common tasks that make up the plethora of business processes is what we’ve been doing in one form or another at Redwood for 25 years. But the nature of RPA is not one that is static, it’s one of continual evolution.

For RPA users, it means the way they assess the potential costs and benefits of deploying RPA has changed – it’s no longer good enough to simply be able to remove the human effort from a single process, or set of processes.

Newer RPA alternatives, however, has ushered in new capabilities that allow businesses to robotize as many or few back- and middle-office tasks as are required – whether that’s a focused function, or end-to-end automation. The key point is to provide that flexibility and to do so more easily than ever before. And without the need for unnecessary human input or significant resources.

To achieve this, robotics solutions need to encompass some core capabilities and characteristics:

  • They must be easily scalable in a linear way. Getting locked into a cycle of hardware upgrades and software licensing requirements isn’t going to help you bring down TCO or deliver against your automation targets.
  • They must use a transparent, predictable pricing model – not being able to accurately predict robotics and automation costs is bad for the industry’s reputation and bad for customers.
  • They must incorporate ready-to-use process components to allow the business to create automated processes while eliminate significant development and maintenance costs.

Crucially though, what sets RPA apart is the ability to truly augment – rather than simply replicate – the work of humans. The notion of a cobot – a collaborative robot – is technology that’s designed to enhance human capabilities, to enable us to do more, not to replace people entirely.

The definition of RPA 2.0 is likely to vary a little in the technical specifics. For example, does it need to involve artificial intelligence or machine learning? That depends who you ask. But what it should mean to businesses is scalable, predictable process automation without the need for third-party add-ons, sprawling technical development teams or the doubt caused by opaque pricing practices.

Where each nascent piece of technology fits into that picture – and how they can best be combined – is still being worked out. But with a focus on measurable outcomes, businesses can ensure they’re always getting the best out of their robotics solutions.

If RPA was replicating human effort, robotics is all about augmenting it.

7 Key Technology Trends Emerging in the Travel Industry for 2019 (Videos)

Via Refine.com, a revenue management blog | No date

For businesses in the travel industry, as well as their customers, technology plays a vital role. It has the capacity to increase the efficiency of business operations and also improve the customer experience, but it is critical that hotels and other companies keep up-to-date with the emerging technology trends so they do not fall behind competitors. In this article, you will find details about seven of the most important tech trends in today’s tourism industry.

1. Internet of Things (IoT)

One of the most exciting emerging technology trends is the Internet of Things (IoT), which involves internet-based inter-connectivity between everyday devices, allowing them to both send and receive data. Already, we are seeing examples of its role within the travel and tourism industry and this is only going to increase.

For instance, IoT technology can be used in hotel rooms to provide customers with a device that connects to everything from the lights, to the heaters and air conditioning, allowing all to be controlled from one place. In airports, meanwhile, luggage cases can be installed with sensors that will alert passengers when they pass by.

Example: Smart technology smarter airports

 

Find more detailed information about the ‘Internet of Things’ in the travel industry in the article “How the Internet of Things (IoT) can Benefit the Travel Industry”.

2. Recognition Technology

Finally, recognition technology is especially interesting within this list of key tech trends, due to its potential for removing friction from purchases and making interactions seamless. The technology itself includes finger print recognition, facial recognition, retina scanning and various other biometric identifiers.

Such technology is already being used in some hotels to allow access to rooms via finger prints, or to allow for semi-contactless check-outs. However, in the future, it is hoped that this technology may be able to allow for customers to pay for meals in the hotel restaurant simply by walking through the exit.

Example: Facial Recognition Check-in in Marriott China

 

Find more detailed information and examples about facial recognition use cases in the travel industry in the article “4 Ways Facial Recognition Can Be Used in the Travel Industry”.

3. Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality has exploded in recent years, with increased availability of virtual reality headsets as home entertainment products. While much of the excitement has focused on video games, businesses and marketers have also made use of the technology, especially in terms of interactive 360 degree images and videos.

It is one of the most promising tech trends for tourism-related companies, because it allows them to digitally transport customers to a virtual recreation of a specific place. This affords hotels the opportunity to showcase their rooms, reception areas and even local tourist hotspots on their website, in order to encourage bookings.

Example: The world’s first Virtual Reality travel search and booking experience

 

Find more detailed information and examples about how virtual reality can benefit your business in the article “How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Travel Industry”.

4. Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality, but involves augmenting a person’s real surroundings, rather than replacing them. One of the major plus points of this particular technological trend is that it is cheaper than VR, with users requiring only a smartphone or tablet device which has access to the internet.

Through graphical overlays, those in the tourism industry can greatly enhance the customer experience, providing customers with valuable information or even pure entertainment. For instance, apps can allow for photographs to be augmented through filters and effects. Details about local destinations can also be displayed as a customer points their smartphone at them, providing information at the exact time that it is most relevant.

Example: Augmented reality within the hospitality industry

 

Find more detailed information and examples about how augmented reality can benefit your business in the article “How Augmented Reality is Revolutionising the Travel Industry”.

5. Robotics

Even a decade ago, the idea of robots being deployed regularly within the travel industry would have seemed like the work of a science fiction writer. Yet, it is becoming increasingly prevalent, with artificially intelligent robots, often equipped with speech recognition technology, being used in place of information points by chains like Hilton.

Robots are also utilised for a variety of other reasons. For example, in airports, they can be used to detect concealed weapons, while some manufacturers are also using robotics to create luggage cases that intelligently follow you. Moreover, travel agents are using robots for pre-screening, making waiting times more productive for customers.

Example: Autonomous Security Robots

 

Find more detailed information and examples about robot use cases in the travel industry in the article “Robots in the Travel Industry: 8 Real-World Examples”.

6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Away from robots, artificial intelligence is being used in other ways too. Perhaps the most obvious use within the travel industry is for customer service purposes, with chatbots possessing the ability to deliver rapid response times to problems or queries. It is also able to continuously learn from interactions with customers.

In addition, hotels and other companies operating in the tourism industry can make use of artificial intelligence to accurately and continuously sort through data. It will be able to draw conclusions about business performance or trends associated with customer satisfaction, and even intelligently manage inventories.

Example: Create Your Bot Booking Travel

 

Find more detailed information and examples about artificial intelligence use cases in the travel industry in the article “How Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Travel Industry”.

7. Big Data

In the modern tourism industry, big data is a fact of life, and almost all companies that are successful employ their own data collection techniques. One of the biggest uses for this data is to improve personalisation, with travel companies using the information they gather to make specific adjustments to their offerings.

Another valuable use for data is to analyse current business performance. In particular, hotel owners can use big data for revenue management purposes, using historic occupancy rates and other past trends to better anticipate levels of demand. When demand is predictable, pricing and promotional strategies can also be optimised.

Example: Big Data and predictive analysis

 

Find more detailed information and examples about big data in the travel industry in the article “5 Ways Big Data Can Benefit the Travel Industry”.

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Innovation reboot: Small, practical digital transformation initiatives preferred

 

By Tim Scannell, Director of Strategic Content, CIO Executive Council | NOV 29, 2018 2:30 AM PT

Innovation remains one of the key drivers of digital transformation, but today’s initiatives may be smaller and more targeted.

While corporate-wide innovation labs and blue-sky hack-a-thons were all the rage over the past few years, the coming trend for many companies might be innovation with intent and smaller, more pragmatic projects that have significantly less glitz and glamour but a better chance of success.

Innovation plays a key role in driving digital transformation in business today. Everyone knows that, right?

Nearly 90 percent of the IT leaders who took part in the 2018 State of the CIO Survey, released earlier this year, admit the CIO role is becoming more focused on both digital initiatives and innovation. Dig a little deeper into the study, and you’ll find that 37 percent of the top IT heads point to innovation as a way to identify which parts of the business can be transformed using digital technologies.

No doubt the results of the coming 2019 State of the CIO research, to be presented in a January CIO Executive Council webcast, will show similar and more supportive figures when it comes to the adoption and use of innovative technologies and tactics in the enterprise. Clearly, innovation is a top line item when it comes to technology and business investments.

Before you carve out a piece of your 2019 budget for innovative activities, however, you should be aware of one thing: The definitions for innovation, as well as the scale of projects, have changed considerably over the past couple of years. Those show-stopping company-wide epics that were exemplified by such companies as Toyota Financial Services (TFS) and its hack-a-thons, internal competitions, and dedicated innovation lab have shifted somewhat south in favor of smaller single-spotlight productions.

Where before the effort was to innovate to the max, today’s initiatives are more likely to be more modest and lean toward innovating with intent. In short, a lot of the smart budget money will be spent on projects that are framed with a more thoughtful and even surgical approach to innovation.

“I tend to take a more pragmatic view and try not to get bogged down in big initiatives that get your name in the paper, but nothing ever happens,” notes Ed Winfield, who has been the CIO for Maricopa County, Arizona, for little less than a year and is a passionate advocate for small and more meaningful approaches to innovation.

ed winfield photo Maricopa County, Arizona
Ed Winfield, CIO for Maricopa County, Arizona

While he may sound a bit folksy at times, Winfield is no rube when it comes to digital transformation and the ins and outs of championing IT initiatives in state and local governments. Previously, he was CIO for Wayne County, Michigan, the 19th-most populous county in the nation that includes the city of Detroit. While there, Winfield orchestrated an upgrade from an aging legacy system to cloud-based systems and deployed more data analytics to help state services run more efficiently — all under the cloud of tight budgets and economically challenged environment. In fact, these efforts and results were acknowledged when Winfield was recognized as a 2016 Top 25 Doer, Dreamer and Driver by a respected government IT online publication.

The challenges at his new post are no less daunting, since Maricopa County is the fourth largest U.S. county by population and one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Rather than jumping on the smart cities bandwagon and pitching high-speed fiber and pervasive wireless connections for every nook and cranny of the county, Winfield prefers to take a breath, listen closely to his constituents, and focus on small projects that are scaled to deliver positive but sometimes less dramatic results.

“I don’t view what we’re trying to do in becoming a digital county as some type of massive endeavor,” Winfield explains. “We can make significant forward progress with small innovation projects.”

However, the county does have a range of ongoing projects that look at such things as smart highways, smart traffic light management, and other smart initiatives that are interesting. There is a group called the Institute for Digital Progress that looks at innovation from a regional business perspective as it tries to position the county and surrounding areas as a “smart region.”

Even before the ink had a chance to dry on his new business cards, Winfield mapped out a plan for an all-digital county that serves as an umbrella over a series of small and more-targeted projects that will be rolled out over the next few years that will collectively move the entire county from the restrictions of paper-based tangibility to a more flexible digital world.

“At the end of a three-year period, I would rather look back and say we knocked out a lot of small projects that really made a difference to the way we operate and potentially the way people interact with the county via web services or mobile tools,” he says.

That is exactly what Winfield is doing as he connects with different departments to plan for internal productivity improvements that include eliminating paper forms and moving toward digital signatures and online approvals. He also wants to improve the online services available to the residents of Maricopa County. In addition, plans are in the works to revamp the court system, both to eliminate paper and create an online dispute resolution system and totally automate case management.

Practical innovation

The trend toward more practical innovation is apparently catching on. In its 2019 predictions for enterprise digital transformation, Forrester Research notes that while business leaders championed large-scale initiatives in 2018, many of which focused on customer experience, efforts this coming year will shift to more pragmatic and smaller surgical initiatives. Purpose will become strategic priority, given the complexity and cost of larger and more expansive projects.

IT organizations and business stakeholders should strive to embrace the minimum viable product when it comes to innovation projects, says Mihai Strusievici, director of information technology, North America for Colliers International, a global real estate services company, in an earlier Digital Divide column. He advises other leaders not to pitch one or two large and expensive innovation initiatives that typically eat up a significant chunk of a budget due to their complexity and scope. Instead, spend money on a variety of smaller innovation efforts that are more focused and may have a higher chance for success or conversely have far less of a negative impact should one or two fail.

“Don’t only look for the big idea,” adds Pradip Sitaram, senior vice president and CIO at Enterprise Community Partners, an organization that brings together people and resources to create affordable housing and thriving communities for low- and moderate-income people. Instead of always looking for the home run, he says, making use of a baseball analogy, “you keep hitting a bunch of singles and doubles, and with the runs you get from those, you can achieve the amazing results.”

pradip sitaram photo Enterprise Community Partners
Pradip Sitaram, SVP and CIO at Enterprise Community Partners

A few years ago, for example, the business team and Pradip decided to automate the way people in the organization checked the performance parameters in their real estate portfolio to ensure compliance and efficiency. The tools used were able to quickly identify exceptions to the established parameters that fell outside established business rules that dictated a certain level of risk tolerance and boil the results down to a much more manageable subset of properties. While a great innovative first step, Pradip and team decided to piggyback on that success and take it a step further to see what innovation possibilities might be lurking outside the fancy technology and algorithms.

The solution was to empower the business stakeholders to proactively change the rules used by the tools to check against the parameters, without having to rely on IT to field suggestions and then make the changes. To do this, a system was designed that allowed business to insert rule updates into the system, which then created new logic to check against performance parameters across the company’s real estate portfolio.

“We didn’t set out to do something innovative,” explains Pradip. “All we did was empower people to use these tools more efficiently, with a different mindset.”

While he doesn’t see anything wrong with large-scale innovation labs from a culture-building and even a marketing standpoint, Pradip does not think highly visible efforts like this really drive grassroots innovation. For him, the recipe is simple: When things get tough, the tough get innovative.

The key to innovation is your mindset, he adds. It’s your willingness to think differently, to take a risk and try some new process or technology, and to see the world differently and not simply conform to established practices.

“I think some of the great motivating factors for innovation are constraints,” Pradip points out. “When you have budget constraints, when you have resource constraints, when you have time constraints.”

Constraints are not restrictions or barriers, but a gift, he says. “If you have constraints, you’re forced to think out of the box, to think innovatively and say, ‘How can I best make use of the limited resources that I have in time, money, and people to come up with good solutions?’”

To encourage, foster, and sustain an innovation culture, organizations and executives must understand and accept that every experiment will not succeed; every innovation exercise will not result in a revenue generating product or operating efficiencies, Pradip points out, adding that you will likely fail more than you succeed. Every exercise will deliver valuable learnings.

“As long as there is a culture that accepts that it’s OK to test and learn — to fail fast and learn quick — then teams will be more likely to venture out of their safe zone and the magic can happen,” he says.

Technology and the changing business and consumer cultures

While more restrictive budgets and the push to do more with less has a lot to do with the emphasis on more surgical and pragmatic approaches to innovation, the shift in business and consumer cultures due to the pervasive use of technology has also played a key role.

People, in general, have a different posture and cultural understanding of technology and what it can do, since it saturates their public and private lives, explains Winfield. Years ago, conversations on technology adoption and use around the topic might center on the impact — good or bad — on a person’s life or continued employment. Today, it is all about leveraging technology in small and incremental ways — whether it is cyber banking, online shopping, or eliminating a tedious task in the office.

“People are able to converse and maybe see how something might work and I think that’s the spirit of it,” Winfield says.

In this new world of practical “baby steps,” is there still some wiggle room for larger-scale projects and maybe a hack-a-thon or two as part of the overall innovation effort? Absolutely, says Winfield.

“We’re just getting underway, and I’m starting on the fringes, so we’ve got enough to do here in the short-term,” he says. However, “I’m not close-minded about the idea of some type of gathering or larger effort, but we’ve got to consider how it would move us forward.”

Pradip agrees, noting that hack-a-thons are useful because they usually establish constraints in time and the number of team members, which are great motivators. However, you won’t find more-structured corporate-led innovation labs and internal think tanks on his to-do list.

 

[ Learn the 6 secrets of highly innovative CIOs and how your CIO peers are defining and driving innovation today. | Get the latest leadership advice by signing up for CIO Leader newsletter. ]

Infographic: The death of passwords

Enterprises need to start preparing for a future without traditional passwords, according to LoginRadius.

 

By Alison DeNisco Rayome, Senior Editor – TechRepublic | February 8, 2019, 4:00 AM PST

Enterprises trying to keep customer data safe struggle with weak links in traditional authentication methods and employee practices, according to a recent infographic from LoginRadius.

Most people fall into one of two categories: They use one password for every account, or they use a slightly different password for every account. However, neither of these approaches are very effective, the infographic noted. While 10 years ago, people only had to keep track of a password for email and banking, today, the average business user must keep track of nearly 200 passwords.

Companies including Microsoft are making moves to replace traditional passwords with biometrics and security keys. Others are beginning to realize that commonly accepted methods for creating strong passwords are not actually effective.

SEE: Password Policy (Tech Pro Research)

Here is the full infographic:

the-death-of-passwords-v01-02.jpg
Image: LoginRadius

What to Expect: Top 2019 HR Tech Trends

By Dave Zielinski, Contributing Writer – January 8, 2019

 

In 2019 HR will see growing adoption of “nudge-based” technology designed to encourage productive employee behaviors, more scrutiny of artificial intelligence tools and increased use of specialized “point” systems, according to technology industry experts who spoke with SHRM Online.

The new year also will see organizations continue to transition their core HR systems to the cloud and employ more AI-driven technologies to automate communication between HR and employees.

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Here are the top technology trends experts expect to continue or emerge as HR turns the page to 2019:

‘Show Me’ Approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI)

HR technology leaders will become more diligent about keeping tabs on vendors’ AI tools, experts believe. The increased scrutiny will be due in part to highly-publicized cases like that at Amazon, where a home-grown recruiting algorithm was found to discriminate against women.

“We will see some push back on machine learning and AI next year [such as] testing its effectiveness and searching for potential bias,” said Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics for Alpharetta, Ga.-based HR research firm Sierra-Cedar. “With more organizations leveraging machine learning next year, there’ll be more data and examples on how any biases might be showing up.”

Sarah Brennan, founder and chief advisor of Milwaukee, Wis.-based HR consulting and research firm Accelir, said it’s important that buyers of AI tools look beyond vendor promises to ensure they’re getting products that do what they claim they can do.

“Don’t get caught up in the marketing hype,” Brennan said. “Make sure you ask vendors about their validation studies and use cases, because those with legitimate AI applications won’t hesitate to provide them.”

Sea Change in Engagement Measurement

Organizations are transforming how they measure employee engagement, and technology will continue to evolve to support that shift, experts say.

“We expect 2019 to be the first year that more organizations use nontraditional, technology-based listening techniques than they do the companywide annual survey to measure engagement,” said Brian Kropp, group vice president of the HR practice at research and advisory firm Gartner.

That development represents a significant change from just three years ago. In 2015 a Gartner study found 89 percent of medium-to-large organizations were using an enterprisewide annual survey to assess engagement, while only 30 percent were using nontraditional methods like analyzing employee movement data—tracking where employees spend their time via technology embedded in ID badges—or computer usage data that tracks how employees use e-mail, internal collaboration networks, websites and more.

“Companies have become more comfortable with scraping across employees’ calendars and e-mails to get a better understanding of current sentiment and organizational culture with the goal of improving engagement levels,” Kropp said.

Brennan believes engagement platforms will see the highest adoption rates among all HR technology categories next year. “For the first time there are good engagement technologies available for companies of all sizes and at all price points,” she said.

Rise of ‘Nudge-based’ Technologies

Kropp said HR technologies that suggest certain behaviors will grow in popularity in 2019. One such technology can monitor employee activity at a computer workstation. “It might send a message saying, ‘You have been at your desk for X amount of time and it appears you’re losing focus, so now might be a good time to get up and go for a short walk,’ ” Kropp said.

An example is Cultivate, software works as a digital coach for managers. It analyzes data from e-mail, internal collaboration systems and calendars to assess how managers spend their time interacting with direct reports. The tool then uses machine learning to give managers suggestions for how they might improve their team’s performance, such as spending more time with certain employees.

Rachel Ernst, vice president of employee success at vendor Reflektive, said there’s also an ongoing movement to embed performance management within the flow of daily work.

“The technology can now send automatic nudges to managers to remind them to give feedback to employees as well as deliver short videos to provide guidance on how to conduct review discussions or give effective recognition,” she said. “This keeps HR from having to send regular e-mail to managers to remind them of these essential tasks.”

Growing Importance of the HRIT Role

Sierra-Cedar’s 2018-2019 HR Systems industry survey found the role of the human resource information technology (HRIT) specialist is growing in strategic importance and Harris expects that trend to continue. In cloud environments these roles are 1.5 times more likely to be responsible for data security and technology configuration decisions than IT or functional roles, the survey found.

Harris said that it’s important for the HR staff to have specialized IT roles, even as other functions like finance or marketing don’t, “because HR touches everyone in a company and HR deals with more data privacy and integration issues than most other disciplines in the company.”

Faster Migration of Core HR Systems to the Cloud

A 2018 study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that 75 percent of surveyed companies now have at least one HR process in the cloud. Forty percent have core HR systems like an HR management system there, said Dan Staley, a global HR technology leader with PwC. Another 26 percent of respondents said they planned to move a core system to the cloud in the next one to three years.

“Moving a core system to the cloud is a barometer of how serious organizations are about that technology,” Staley said. “Large organizations with complex requirements like international payroll or union populations have resisted moving core systems to the cloud in the past because they felt the technology wasn’t mature enough. But with cloud products having proven themselves over the past decade, companies are now moving there en masse.”

Renewed Interest in ‘Point’ Solutions

More organizations will consider adding “point” or specialized technology solutions to their portfolios in 2019. These systems address individual areas of HR like recruiting, performance management or engagement and are often the target of innovation from small or emerging vendors. Brennan believes popular ones will be talent acquisition systems, chatbot applications for recruiting and answering employees’ HR-related questions, and engagement platforms.

“Few of the full-suite vendors have invested in the talent acquisition portion of their suites in the same manner as point system providers,” she said.

Point systems can now be more quickly integrated with broader talent management suites by using application programming interfaces (APIs). “Integrations that used to take six to nine months now take six to nine days with the right APIs,” Brennan said.

‘Push’ Recommendations from AI

The accelerating application of AI to workforce data will allow relevant information to “find” employees at the point of need, experts say. Cristina Goldt, vice president of HCM products at Workday, said AI will enable simpler navigation of learning and development options as well as easier execution of tasks like onboarding, benefits selection and IT service ticketing.

For example, Goldt said, a newly-promoted sales manager might benefit from this type of AI by being “pushed” recommended learning content for leadership training, suggested workplace connections and a list of potential mentors that went through similar transitions; a set of onboarding tasks that direct her to set up sales targets, enter forecasts and review the pipeline in a customer relationship management system; and a snapshot of team members to help her get to know them better.

Learning, Performance and Career Planning Converge

Vendors in the learning, performance management and career planning markets will “play more in each other’s spaces,” said Dani Johnson, co-founder and principal analyst of Red Thread Research, a HR research and advisory firm in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We’re seeing more learning vendors get into performance and more performance and career vendors operate in the learning market,” Johnson said. “One reason for the convergence is it’s hard to develop someone effectively unless you already know where they stand in regard to their performance and career plans.”

Johnson said there’s also a growing number of content-based point solutions in the learning market designed to integrate with internal communication platforms like Slack. “It’s about taking learning to employees rather than make them come to the learning,” she said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.

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