My name is Christa Degnan Manning. I am a reformed software analyst.
I spent many years researching technology transitions from mainframe to client-server to self-service Web-based applications for various well-known IT-focused firms. Then I was recruited to drive innovation for a unit of a Fortune 100 global services firm, where I was asked to use dozens of those apps from my virtual home office or whilst traveling from Boston to Barcelona, London to Lisbon, Seattle to Shanghai.
Our HR support was outsourced to one firm and our IT to another. With little to no common interfaces or system integrations in place. Sound familiar to many?
Instead of making me more productive, engaged, and valuable to my firm, these approaches to back-office functions and processes served to distract, demoralize, and drive further dysfunction of the business. I am now on a mission to redeem myself for my contribution to the proliferation of these “solutions” and advocate for true workforce support services.
Because it is not really about the technology, but about delivering service, whether you are in an HR or IT function inside a company or a third-party solution partner that supports them today. We are arguably in an entire “As-a-Service” economy as all organizations seek to remain flexible and keep their options open.
So a tremendous opportunity exists for companies to deliver next-generation business support services using software as a service (SaaS) automation models, yet they must go beyond simply hosting a multi-tenant application “in the cloud.”
My experience and research shows that most legacy enterprise software implementations fell short of expectations not because they were single-instance “on-premise” solutions, but because there was a lack of discipline, resources, and budgets to initially install and retain relevance to the business through changing economic and employment times.
Was this the fault of enterprise information technology (IT) and functional professionals underestimating their abilities or under-educating their leadership on software strategy and commitments? Or was it the enterprise software industry overselling solutions (or underselling just how much hand-holding was going to be needed to be successful)? In most cases, it was all of the above.
I believe this underestimating and overselling is happening again with SaaS: simply delivering a constant stream of innovation and removing information technology server administration tasks does not solve for the very real challenge of mapping and adapting software to deliver business outcomes. This requires investments in people and service delivery principles on both the SaaS buyer and service provider sides.
As more bells and whistles are released across the myriad different SaaS areas now available, the greater the challenge becomes to make each and every one of them support business outcomes and integrate into the rest of the enterprise. These challenges compound when you factor in third-party business process outsourcing providers needing to access solutions and support service innovation themselves.
So I am diving deep into analyzing the service capabilities of the SaaS world, looking across service provider solution sets and partner ecosystem strategies. Many practitioners I speak with say the time is ripe for this analysis, as they are willing to take fewer features and functions in the short term – but only if they can get better service and support strategies from a smaller set of the right providers. They then intend to grow both functionally and globally with those service-oriented partners they trust.
With this blog, I’ll be sharing the criteria to look for and the questions to ask of both HR-related SaaS and outsourcing providers. We are well into a new waterfall of investment in HR tech and I don’t want to see it go to waste, just into SaaS bankers’ pockets, or worse yet, result in faster organizational dysfunction and further worker dismay.
I hope you will join the conversation on this topic of service as real thought-leadership involves collectively thinking differently and driving real organizational and industry change together. Because the outcomes we seek are not simply to automate and cut costs, but to use technology to elevate people’s capabilities that in turn drive greater distributed growth and shared economic prosperity.