People, Process and Technology – is IT the new HR?

I created People, Process and Technology as the title of this blog because I believe that all three are the cornerstone of business and society and most people have a home base. They return to that home base when pressured or threatened and this affects their behaviour.

For example my home base is technology. Our head of finance caused a problem on our core finance system on Friday at 6pm and my default reaction was – despite not having used that system in 6 months – to dive in and fix it. Rather than lever other people or some support process.

So I will fittingly start by discussing the technology dimension.

Technology

I was sat in a booth in Orlando at SAP’s business-focused conference last week, and the comments made by one my friends was really interesting. They were bemoaning the difficulties they were having, getting their management to implement SAP’s in-memory technology, SAP HANA.

The language used was interesting: “my management do not get the benefit” was the essence of it. It was late so I responded slightly too bluntly: “is it because you have not articulated the benefits to them?”. I probably could have put it better but the semantics are there: technology is an enabler for making People’s lives easier through Process change. To invest in tech, we have to convince people of the benefits of this.

People

I also spent some time with Lars Daalgard, CEO of Success Factors and current head of SAP’s Cloud division. Lars is essentially a salesman and you can see this in the bromance between him and SAP’s charismatic co-CEO, Bill McDermott.

And a few weeks ago he commented that “everyone is in sales”. This caused some community backlash because technologists don’t like that idea, but I happen to agree with him. It is just a matter of how you explain this to people, and Lars did that poorly.

But however you look at it, there is some truth in it – see my example above. When you believe in something and want someone to send money, you need to explain the value to people and process. That – in Lars’ viewpoint – is sales.

Process

The third person I spent some time with lately is Kate Daly, who runs a Change Management consultancy and is advising one of my customers on their HR change programme. And I bring her up because she came up with a very interesting observation for which she deserves credit.

20 years ago, HR departments ran processes for companies. Well two processes, hiring and firing. They transformed over the last 20 years from process droids into strategic advisors. My head of HR, Cheryl, is one of my most trusted advisors and drives business change, currently on career development of our most senior consultants. And they want to be called Human Capital Management to signify this. Good for them!

The IT revolution

Currently, the IT department of most large organisations does what HR did 20 years ago. It runs a process, keeping business processes up and running. There is often a “IT and Business” or “us and them” divide.

We believe that those IT people who figure out how to bring strategic change to their organisations will be the kingmakers of the industry and will afford success. And I for one am focussing on building a team of IT consultants who are focused on challenging and changing I our customers’ businesses.

And yes, I do believe that everyone is in sales but you can’t sell that to them by saying that. From my conversation with Lars, I think he gets this nuance.

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6 Responses to People, Process and Technology – is IT the new HR?

  1. Robert Whittaker says:

    Sounds like my role – The trusted advisor! We’ve tried to break the them and us divide. A couple of years back the IT department joined with departmental “IT” specialists. In some areas this has worked really well. Especially where the departmental business strategists now are in the same team as the IT specialists. Then the thinking is joined up. In other areas (ones with lots of smaller functions) it has removed a layer. I.e. the business talking to the business IT leads who then talk to IT.

    I can compare this with a partner organisation that I was involved with who bought a £1m+ workforce management system. However they didn’t want to be involved in the implementation, but expected IT to be done to them. I.e. just install it and hand it over as if it was MS office. It was hard work persuading them otherwise.

    We’re about to go through a business driven reorganisation of the central departments to try and gain efficiencies by joining up the business processes. Obviously IT will be involved but it will be very much a joined up programme

  2. John Appleby says:

    I think what you are describing is the first step in the process: communicating with the business. I think this is already happening in the market – though inconsistently.

    Imagine what would happen if instead of IT just working with the business, it knew the business process as well as anyone on the floor and then apply their knowledge of technology to bring strategic change to the boardroom.

  3. Marcos Lindley says:

    John,

    You are on to something big….the links I’ve attached will give greater clarity to your position.

    Let me add some thoughts, the real question to “my management do not get the benefit” was the essence of it. It was late so I responded slightly too bluntly: “is it because you have not articulated the benefits to them?

    Traditionally, IT has been a supporter to the business. In order for IT to become relevant we need to take the Driver position in order to articulate the benefits to the business. I have posted a link which goes in depth on Driver/Supporter concept.

    Langer Report: Operating IT As ‘Driver,’ ‘Supporter’
    http://www.ciozone.com/index.php/The-Langer-Report/Langer-Report-Operating-IT-As-Driver-Supporter.html
    6 Strategies To Help ‘Supporter’ IT Organizations Succeed
    http://www.ciozone.com/index.php/The-Langer-Report/6-Strategies-To-Help-Supporter-IT-Organizations-Succeed.html

  4. Jason says:

    People, Process and Technology is certainly the right amalgamation of variables. However, as a Business Partner responsible for technology, I would suggest you shift the approach slightly. (This also supports John’s comments about understanding the business processes.) IT will never succeed if they try and sell the business or even show the value. The business first needs to identify and clearly articulate the business problem, to sell you. It is our accountability as a business to define the problem and the value of the resolution. Second, should be an evaluation and transformation of the process to ensure it delivers insight or information that creates the value required by the business. Finally, technology, can become an enabler to further increase the efficiency and value.

    If we don’t force clear problem definition, the problem will change before the solution is developed, and the business will be looking for a new solution and you will be left holding a system that is mediocre at best.

    • John Appleby says:

      Hmm I’m not convinced or at least this seems like curent thinking: Business finds and articulates requirements so that IT can deliver against them. That’s what HR did 20 years ago and I believe it is a broken methodology.

      If the two units merge then we get IT people that can speak business language and business people that understand IT. Which is basically the same thing. These silos don’t help anyone.

  5. Marcos Lindley says:

    Jason,
    IT can be a supporter or driver of technology. The requirements as you mentioned are sometimes not understood by the business users themselves. In my own experience I had to interview several internal business users and external customers to get the correct requirement. Everyone knows a piece to the puzzle, its up to the Business Analyst to interview, listen and then synthesize what’s being said. Speaking the language is one component to achieving the goal..you need to consider myriad of other factors. The main factor is Change management, users aka business people do not like change. They need to be coached and prepared to enter the gapping sessions not the complaining sessions. The problem is Change Management is the least respected and under funded area of a project. T

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