Michael Specht

A blog from Australia looking at technology, management, Human Resources (HR) and recruitment.

Assessing cloud for HR Technology

February 22nd, 2013 · Comments Off · HRIS, Technology ·



I was driving home today listening to The Cloud Computing podcast where Chris Dailey discussed an article entitled Scrap you code. Start from scratch for cloud which was suggesting that smaller companies do not need to invest on-premise computing offerings instead they can go straight to the cloud for everything. The premise of this, going all cloud, was you saved money, became more agile, executed faster deployments delivering an overall better result. Chris and his fellow panelists disagreed with this approach being 100% right all the time, and I totally agree with them. To quote one of the panelist:

Buy what you can for your business from the cloud that makes sense but there is a good chance there is an expect of your business that will require specialization and that the cloud will not make that go away.

Instead you should go through a process of mixing and matching different technologies to an end result that delivers value for your business and allows your business to operate in the manner it finds most effective. Just like on-premise software implementations to be successful you need to start by assessing your business needs and then select the most effective product for that need, regardless of technology.

Going cloud for every new requirement or migrating currently operating on-premise software to the cloud just because everything should be cloud based is wrong.  You need to work towards an optimized solution that considers your business requirements, reviewing the value of all existing technologies to determine which types of products and technologies provides the best value for your business problem.

These same process should take place with your HR/Payroll technology selections. Does it make the most sense to host your online job board on your own IT infrastructure running on-premise software or is it best to use an Software as a Service (SaaS) provider? Your payroll software should that be on-premise or SaaS?

Finally these questions cannot and should not be answered in isolation they need to be reviewed based on your business requirements, IT strategy, HR strategy to determine the solution that offers the most value to your organisation.

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Reputation in the workplace

February 8th, 2013 · Comments Off · Enterprise 2.0, HR Management, Management, Social Networks ·



After reading a post about collaboration and recruiting from Jobscience I went to watch the TEDGlobal Video of Rachel Botsman who explores the currency that makes systems like Airbnb and Taskrabbit work: trust, influence, and what she calls “reputation capital”. To me what Rachel is talking about is really the same as Whuffie, a term coined by Cory Doctorow in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom back in 2003, or social capital and not really something that new or revolutionary but is something very important.

The ability to transfer your reputation across different sites and services, just like Whuffie, would change the way we use new sites and services. For example I have looked a Airbnb and many property’s prefer you to have a good reputation before they will allow you to use their property, makes sense, but how does one get a reputation to start with if you can’t book a property. Enter the transferable reputation. I could transfer my eBay or LinkedIn reputation to Airbnb and immediately gain access to these properties. (Yes I know Airbnb allows you to link to these services and provides other methods but you have to start from scratch.)

Now into the workplace.

With the growth in collaborative, social enterprise software over the last few years now means many of us have (or will) built up internal reputations, earned badges, become experts inside our own organisations. This reputation in a collaborative organisation can help you get promoted, onto new projects become the go to person on topics etc. (Not to mention many people just like getting badges for the sake of badges, the whole gamification thing.)

But when you leave the organisation what happens to all of this reputation? Nothing. You join a new organisation and you start from the beginning again. Just like in the consumer world it would be great to be able transfer the reputation gained on these internally focused tools to your new organisation.

Again many in new organisations will review your Linkedin profile and other publicly available sources but still all that effort in your last organisation is basically lost.

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Plans for 2013

January 26th, 2013 · Comments Off · Branding, Personal, Recruitment ·



Just a short update and a small reflection.

At this stage nothing set in stone, still talking to a few people and looking at the jobs on offer.

My review of next steps has me looking in two different directions both equally interesting; IT project management ideally in HR Technology (either vendor or customer) or advise and consulting most likely with a vendor or consulting firm. Both options interest me and I think allow my skills to be used to add value to an organisation.

I have applied for a number of jobs and while none have been a 100% match to my skill set I have been interested in the deafening silence from recruiters. The ATS talks to me on application but to date not a single follow up either automated or personal. Not surprise by this as the roles are not a 100% match, however I had expected something. The general application process has been fairly painless each time but a few thoughts:

  • Cover letters, I really hate not knowing who I am addressing the cover letter. This anonymous recruiter ends up with “Sir or Madam” which just does not feel right, nor is it personal which is my style.
  • Cover letters take the most time in the application process I think they are very important as they allow you to highlight how your skills can meet specific requirements outlined in the job ad.
  • Many job ads are uninspiring and some even turned me off applying because they seems so dull. Now this could be a good thing as if the ad reflects the culture of the organisation, there is a self selection process taking place. This is bad if the ad reflects the recruiter’s culture and not that of their client’s as I suspect on a few occasions.
  • Job ads still have typos and many I find lack sufficient detail to work out what the role does other than generic “manage projects”.
  • Some job ads have so stringent must haves I wonder if there are candidates out there to match.
  • The actual application process has tended to be 50% through the job boards own tool and 50% through the advertiser’s ATS.
  • Employers seem to use their ATS for direct applications, recruiters the job boards tools.
  • Only a few ATS’s have asked me to write “War and Peace” or answer many questions.

I suspect in the next few weeks I will find a role and will certainly update once it is set in stone.

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Cloud Computing and HR

January 23rd, 2013 · Comments Off · HR Management, HRIS, Technology ·



cloud-computing

Yes another trend post, there might be a few more as I get my head across all that has happened in the last year or so.

Cloud Computing has been gaining momentum over the last few years, in HR it is getting some significant airtime and how could it not with the success of cloud vendors such as Workday, Rypple now Work.com part of Salesforce and Taleo now part of Oracle. However I want to look a bit further as what makes up cloud computing not really looking at at vendors, benefits or pitfalls (these could be later posts).

In simple terms Cloud Computing is basically off-premise computing, essentially where you, the customer, do not have the computing environment located physically in your offices. In reality things are far more complex than this. I first talked about Cloud Computing 4 years ago since then the industry has continued to develop its definition of cloud computing and now we seem to have a common understand and framework around the topic.

Essentially there are three relevant “flavours” of cloud computing each operating at a different level in the technology ecosystem. First Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), then Platform as a service (PaaS) and finally Software as a service (SaaS) (there are two additional layers around the network and communications infrastructure but do not really influence the application landscape).

What is IaaS? At a basic level this is where a vendor provides you a virtual server to deliver a specific application usually a web site. Essentially all of my web sites and applications run on a IaaS model provided by Rackspace Cloud. Rackspace provide me with a virtual server and I do the rest, install software, complete maintenance and upgrades. Other examples of IaaS include Amazon EC2, DynDNS and Joyent. There tend to be two types of IaaS; public and private. As part of an HR technology strategy public IaaS would usually only be included when it’s part of a broader organizational-wide IT strategy to use public IaaS.

Today most corporate IT environments have been virtualised onto a private IaaS model. This change has impacted us from a HR technology perspective as it has significantly reduced the lead time in getting new servers for projects.  Now most HR technology projects have a portion of IaaS in them, even if it is private. The benefit; gone are the days when a 8-12 week lead time is needed to have a new server ordered, delivered and commissioned by the IT department, most servers can now be delivered in a matter of hours. Another benefit is scalability, need more “grunt”? Need more memory? Need more disk space? Most can easily be added by the flick of a switch. For public IaaS offerings the service is usually delivered on a utility basis ie based on how much you use.

PaaS is when a cloud provider delivers a computing platform where applications and services can be built on top of, resulting in developers being able to focus on building cool software solutions instead of worrying about managing the hardware, operating system and databases. Example PaaS providers include Google App Engine, Force.com and Windows Azure Compute. We are starting to see a number of HR offerings being delivered on top of these platforms, specifically on the Force.com platform where you can access full-functioning HR systems, recruitment solutions and learning management systems along with smaller apps that can site onto of Salesforce to providing LinkedIn information as part of the sales process.

Finally SaaS is the layer in which most people interact with Cloud Computing. Here the provider offers their application to you the user across a network, usually the Internet, and you do not need to worry about installing and running the application on your own computers or those of IaaS providers. Most of the time you gain access to the software via a subscription model, but not always. It is at the SaaS level we see the most impact on HR Technology Strategy. Today you can run your entire HR Systems environment “in the cloud” through solutions such as Workday, SAP (Cloud Global Payroll and Employee Central), Oracle Fusion to just a specific HR process using one of the vast range of point solutions.

In Australia we also have a huge marketplace of SaaS vendors covering the whole spectrum of HR and Payroll management including long time players such as PageUpPeople, NGA.net, Northgate Arinso and newer vendors like Recruitloop, Sherpa or murmur. If you are an Australian business looking at cloud computing for HR there is no reason you should not be able to find a solution to suit your requirements and most likely that solution will be Australian made.

The biggest issue with SaaS is there are so many vendors to choose from, do you look towards a full service offering or just point solutions? Do you go with global vendors or local vendors? This is where you need a clear strategy around your HR technology program and how it aligns with your not just your HR strategy but also IT and business. Cloud computing offers significant ROI when deployed for the right reason to support clear business objectives.

In summary from an HR perspective we are seeing cloud computing infiltrate at the bottom layer through private-IaaS and at the top layer through SaaS. If you do not have some form of cloud computing in your HR technology landscape today you will in the very near future.

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The glass is full with Google Glass

January 20th, 2013 · Comments Off · Future, HR Management, Management, Technology ·



One of the coolest inventions of 2012 is Google Glass, a wearable computer, running Android, that looks like a set of regular glasses that includes a video camera and augmented reality head-up display unit.

Sergey_Brin_Glass

Wearers of the glasses interact with them using natural language input while connected to the Internet. The best way to describe how they work is through a short video Google released called Project Glass: One day…

Yes the obvious functions of this type of device are to mimic today’s smartphones and go towards creating a world as shown in Apple’s Knowledge Navigator video from 1987!

Now back to how Augmented Reality fits with HR and management. What could be done in the workplace with such devices?

Steve Boese covered a few of the options late last year to gain access to real-time information during the work day:

Candidate Interviews – Feedback from references, instant assessment of candidate body language and verbal cues, real-time fact-checking for candidate job history – what wouldn’t these AR glasses be useful for in interviews?

Performance Management Discussions – Context is everything in these discussions. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a ‘live feed’ of the last 3 months of peer comments scrolling by as you chat with an employee about their need to be more of a ‘team player.’

Talent Planning Sessions – it would be cool to see the updated and real-time financial performance of each unit for the execs under discussion just as the CEO is advocating for one of their golfing buddies for a plum assignment or promotion

I see the ability to have access to real-time information at points in time when it is needed is as the “killer app” for the devices to go from hype into being a productive part of the workplace. I also see great potential for these devices, away from the office worker.

  • Safety: The glasses could alert workers to unsafe practices like moving too close to a edge or in mining that a colleague is on the other side of a tunnel before drilling or laying explosives.
  • Real-time information: In a hospital setting have nurses and doctors be able to get live updates on how their patients are doing. As they approach the bed side of the patient the relevant information is displayed on the screen no longer requiring them to flip through a chart. The wearable device removes some of the big issues with technology by the bedside; portability, obstruction, safety and infection control. Wear a device like Glass is no different than wearing regular glasses.
  • Quality control: Glass could use the video feed to take photos to complete with specifications to ensure products are being manufactured at the right quality levels.
  • Stock taking: Instead of manually counting stock Glass could count for the wearer.

The list goes on.

With this type of device also comes great questions and obstacles for employers. How do we protect the privacy of our employees? While we are seeing BYOD starting to make their way into the enterprise how will CIO’s react to bringing your own Glasses to the workplace? How do we stop the devices being used for time and motion studies?

How long till we see these devices in the “real” world, not long. Mashable reports that Google is starting to provide developers access to Glass through a “Glass Foundry” in San Francisco and New York to begin working with the APIs and have allowed developers to pre-order the Explorer Editions for $1,500 to be shipped sometime during 2013.

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