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Phil is a writer, analyst, facilitator, evangelist, consultant and digital business expert. For more than a decade and a half, he's promoted the business benefits of software-as-a-service and cloud computing and championed industry best practices. As co-founder of diginomica, Phil writes about and explains how enterprises are using digital technologies to achieve breakthrough business outcomes. He is a frequent speaker and roundtable moderator at conferences and customer events. As a consultant, he helps marketing and product teams position their offerings accurately and create compelling messages that capture attention and inspire action. He’s had the privilege of working with teams at Salesforce.com, Workday, NetSuite, Fujitsu, SAP and many others. Phil also serves as chair of EuroCloud UK and was previously vice-president of EuroCloud Europe, a volunteer role in which he helped promote best practice and benefits of cloud for European business and the wider economy.

What are people going to be talking about at next months’ HRTech Europe event in London? A look at some of the most popular items from diginomica’s coverage of HCM over the past few months surely gives us some pointers. Our readers are early adopters of digital enterprise technologies – where they lead, others are destined to follow later on.

Surprisingly, then, one of our most popular pieces was an account of how one vice president of global HR took a cloud-based HR product and configured it almost out of recognition to suit her company’s specific requirements. I say ‘surprisingly’ because aren’t we supposed to meekly accept the off-the-shelf vanilla implementation from our SaaS suppliers?

Not in this case. Nancy Hauge, who leads HR at Californian semiconductor company Silicon Image, recounts how she told executives at her technology supplier:

“We’re going to take your brand new toy and break it.”

That was not all that got broken – Hauge tore up her company’s existing performance management processes (describing them as “the most colossal waste of management time”) and replaced them with a new approach that linked the attainment of specific, individual goals for each employee with their salary, bonuses and equity. It took close partnership with IT to get the Oracle Fusion HCM components to deliver what was needed, says Hauge:

“What did we do that the systems weren’t designed to do? Everything. Goals Management wasn’t designed to talk to Talent Review, and Talent Review wasn’t designed to talk to Compensation Workbench. The integration work that needed to be done was a Herculean effort.”

Perhaps fittingly, that brings us on to the next item, one that also seems to have hit a nerve: The pitfalls of becoming an HCM SaaS consultant. This discussion with independent SAP HCM consultants Luke Marson and Jarret Pazahanick focused on the skills transition to cloud HCM. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for any SaaS customers was to always check how knowledgeable your consultants are about the products they’re dealing with. Pazahanick emphasized the importance of continuous learning:

“If you’re not staying current and you don’t have that aptitude to a lifelong learner, you aren’t going to be successful.  A lot of people say, ‘I’m too busy to learn.’ If you’re too busy to learn, then you are not going to be a good SaaS consultant.”

Keeping up-to-date with what’s on offer is vital for those who are buying, too. Several popular posts surveyed the technology choices facing HR. I’ll mention quickly in passing a useful overview piece by respected analyst Brian Sommer, who joined the diginomica team of writers this year and kicked off with a series of posts on what to look for in 2015. His post on the HR dimension put the spotlight on the need for HR systems to cater for the growing army of contingent, temporary and independent workers.

Further insight on technology choices came from PwC’s Arnab Banerjee, who noted that even though cloud applications are well established in the HCM field:

“Just 16% of the respondents to PwC’s Annual HR Technology Survey last year said they had applications in the cloud, even if 45% said they planned to move their HRMS to the cloud in the next year.”

Cloud is no longer being chosen primarily to save costs, he said, but more because it enables business agility and gives HR more control over their own destiny instead of being beholden to IT. The corollary is that, to realize the benefits of moving to the cloud, organizations must be ready to transform their processes.

This theme was echoed in another popular article on the need for businesses to invest more in HR:

HR professionals are increasingly recognizing that technology such as talent management and analytics can help them contribute to the business as never before.

The latest batch of HR technologies is not about making improvements or efficiencies to the internal workings of the HR department, but rather at looking … to how HR investment can add value across the business and improve competitiveness.

I suspect no one in an HR role is going to object to the notion of playing a more strategic role in the business. But as Silicon Image’s Hauge demonstrates in the example I cited earlier, that will often involve having the courage to break with conventional wisdom and disrupt established practices.

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