Paying for WiFi accessing

An article in the Asia Media states that the Japanese government is looking to introduce a tax on WiFi applicances.  I am not an expert of WiFi, but my understanding was that the spectrum used was designed for unregulated, ie free to use?  May be I am missing the point.
If this was to go ahead I could see our government adpoting such a plan as well.

HR Transaction Costs

One of the questions I am asked over and over again is “what level of return on investment can I expect from the implementation of Employee Self Service (ESS)”. While the answer to that question is as varied as the organisations who deploy ESS, let me try to summarize in broad terms what can be expected. As a starting point I see three levels of ESS, each more complex than the first, however typically the more complex the ESS then the greater the potential benefits.

The first level of ESS is publishing of content for employee’s to access, the content would include processes, policies, procedures, printable forms, contact lists, payroll calendars, essentially any information that an employee should be able to read and interpret themselves. Five years ago just publishing the content you be enough, today organisations expect more sophisticated features embedded within the content publishing, these typically are moving into the content management space. Some of these features might be keyword search, free-text search, personalisation, workflow approvals for content changes, personal content publishing, aggregations and syndication, collaborative tools to support the development of content. Besides us there are many vendors who operate in the content management/publishing space, examples would be Documentum, FileNet, Vignette, Open Text, IBM, and of course Microsoft.

The next level of ESS focuses around basic forms processing, this may be as simple as home address changes, payslips, EEO information collection to forms that require simple workflow processes such as leave requests, and timesheet approvals. It is at this level that savings in transaction costs really begin to be realised. Depending on how integrated with your payroll system your chosen solution you will start to see gains due to a reduction in data entry by HR/Payroll administrators. However the more of these you automate the larger your benefits. Most HR/Payroll vendors within the Australian market place offer a solution for these transactions, however most do not automate many.

The final level moves into complex forms and workflow processing, typical areas might be employee transfers, terminations, salary changes, expense claims and contractor management. These processes typically involve several business process steps and many different people from the beginning to the end of the process. Tools to help with business process management are needed to fully achieve the potential benefits. These types of transactions are the most complex to implement and need significant support from all areas of the business. In all likelihood what ever solution you see “on the self” will need to be customised to meet your business rules.

Transactional efficiency also helps to lower the cost of ownership of an HR/Payroll application. Research through the InfoHRM Group, an HR strategy consulting firm, has shown that the average transaction performed by HR costs $17. This research also shows that the typical company can realizes about a 40% savings for every HR transaction that is avoided. Any self-service transaction that takes the work process out of HR saves approximately $6.80. These savings are realised by redistributing the roles and responsibilities of HR/Payroll. Using self-service applications does not add cost back in terms of employee or manager time as they would be spending a comparable amount of time completing the “paper based” transactions. While these are just examples and the figures for your organisation would differ, you can see how such savings can add up very quickly the more that is automated.

This is only one side of the equation, you need to take into account the costs of your new technology. To ensure you cover all costs you should use a process of “Life cycle costing”, or ensure you have all costs from concept through to eventually decommissioning of the solution. Some studies have found that 85% of the total cost of software ownership is the cost of people to develop/acquire, maintain and provide support and the required networking and communications infrastructure. By looking carefully at the potential costs you can reduce the number of hidden costs that are encountered which reduce the eventual payback. Costs can be broken into five high level categories: Hardware, Software, Development/Customisation, Initial Services, and Ongoing Services. I do not have space to cover each of these although with a little research at or you should be able to build a listing for your organisation.

When evaluating the implementation of ESS, ask potential vendors for business case development tools, all should have such a tool and can be used to help you. If you cannot find one, let me know as we have one that will do the job. If you work for a large organisation (or a small one with lots of money) you could purchase information for some of the big consulting firms, or even hire them to help you develop your business case. A reminder, ensure you have a business case to hire them, I know a bit of a chicken and the egg scenario,

Alternate workforce communications

Over the last several weeks I have been researching the different alternate communication methods that are available for us to integrate into our HR product. By alternate I am referring to any communication method that is not traditional email or voice; such as 3G, GPRS, instant messaging, SMS, RSS feeds etc.

Currently our product allows tradition email notification of workflow activities using a standard SMTP gateway. This has worked well over the last 6 years, however with the advancement in technology we would like to expand the options available to our clients.

Instant Messaging (IM)
I started looking at IM last year when AOL and Yahoo announced their corporate messaging platforms, in fact we even initiated some discussions with Yahoo. As it turns out it was good we did not move then as both have since stopped their programs ( on Yahoo and AOL). These announcements are not the end of corporate IM, AOL is working with Reuters, WebEx and Lightbridge while Yahoo is yet to make a public move. IBM, Sun and Microsoft all offer options for the enterprise but they do not interoperate in the way people require for ad-hoc real time communications.

I have now begun looking at IMLogic’s new IMLinkage platform. This platform would allow us to build an IM interface that would interact with the IM networks and major corporate IM environments. One competitor to IMLogic is Jabber, further investigation is required.

Within Australia we have a very strong SMS uptake, and many organisations are using the technology. Today you can do almost anything via SMS; enter competitions, stock price updates, IM conversations, news headlines etc.

This one we have already done, within version 5 of the EmployeeConnect Portal is the ability to have SMS notifications of workflow activities and their are APIs for developers to use our SMS gateway to develop their own applications with SMS.

RSS Feeds
RSS feeds, or Real Simple Syndication feeds is an XML format for content syncidation, I wrote breifly about this a few days ago, however could there be other uses? Feeds of workflow activities, consolidated feeds of workflow, email, IM, SMS, and voice mail? There seems to be feed readers or news aggregators as they are also called for everything, why not have one that consolidates all of your messages into a single application.

Our applications could use RSS feeds in two ways. Firstly private notifications could be sent to users of their workflow, secondly changes in data and content could be published for users to see what is going on in the business. This is a future area of investigation for us.

Mobible phone technology is just keeps getting bigger and better, it seems everything is converging into the handset. I personally use a Motorola A920 from Three. Yes I have all of the same issues that everyone else has had with the network and the handset, but we are all early adopters of some very cool technology. If I could afford the bandwidth prices (and didn’t mind scrolling) I could do a vast amount of my work and research on my handset. Maybe I could even run our applications and apply for leave etc from my mobile handset.

We finally have Blackberry’s in Australia. For those of you unfamiliar have a look at RIM, the makers. I remember when they were first released in 2000 while I was working in Canada, they were cool then. It surprises me how sometimes Australia is right up front with technology take up and other times we are way behind. The good news is we now have them and I see more and more “suits” using them on the train everyday.

There are many ways that the convergence of technology into the handset will implact our products. From simple notifications to interaction with the complete application. Managers would have instant access to information about their organisations no matter if they are at home, in a board meeting or commuting. Employes could begin business processes from anywhere at anytime, through the integration of presence awareness they could instantly find an expert to help with process or policy questions.

Telstra down

I find this very amusing, maybe I get need to get a life. I went to research when the Blackberry’s entered the Australian market (see next post), entered into my browser (IE 6) and got redirected to$SM$http%3a%2f%2ftelstra%2ecom%2f which promptly gave me “The page cannot be displayed” error.

This got me thinking so I tried my other computer running XP and IE6, guess what it worked. Hmm maybe they have something against me.

HR BPO growth

An article from about the trend in the US towards BPO of HR, including the associated technology. I find this interesting from all sorts of angles.

Firstly working for a software vendor, does it mean we need to jump into bed with every BPO provider in Australia to stay in business? We already do business with several payroll providers and outsourcers (NPS, Datacom, APS) but will it be enough?

Secondly from a trend point of view, will it work and become mainstream in Australia or remain a US focus activity? We see so many trends come out of the US and not make it big in Australia. I question if Australia has the economies of scale to support large scale BPO. However we have been outsourcing payroll and superannuation for a long time, so maybe it is just an extension.

Personally while I see the potential benefits I am not sold on the success of BPO, this could just be because of my experiences at Nortel Networks with PwC, which at the time was the largest deal ever and has since been dispanded, the official word was not due to failures from either parties but due to changes in the marketplace. Essentially Nortel went from a 100,000 person company to 35,000 and the business case just did not hold up. Although news from internal people at the time told a different story, which is always the way. Some of the press from the deal can be found :-
AMR Reasearch (You must sign up to read)
IT Week UK

PwC has since sold their BPO business to Exult for US$17 millon.

Outsourcing has failed in some organisations and hopefully many of these new deals have learnt from the past. Issues such as savings not realised, lose of key employees in the transfer (read HR issues), failure to achieve service deliverables, and even reduction in service from pre BPO days, all need to be addressed for it to be a success.

I guess this is just another thing for us all to keep an eye on.

Blogs in business?

It seems like every major organisation is now has a blog published by executives, the latest seems to be Sun President Jonathan Schwartz. Will blogs has a long term impact on the way we work? Many (including myself) felt instant messaging would be the next big thing, while it still could be, for the moment it seems to have faded out, see articles on Yahoo and AOL dropping their corporate IM platforms.

Blogs are a spoke in the complex wheel called “knowledge management”, coupled with personal knowlegde networks, virtual communities, real-time collaborative tools, document management an E-Learning to name a few others. A recent article in Computerworld talks about how corporate blogs are currently being used and could be used in the future. I feel that the benefits of corporate blogs (both internal and external) will potentially be very large, if the tools are easy to use. If you want more info on internal blogging have a look at a great article on the subject at Blogroots.

One of the biggest issues is the actual management of the information so that it is useful, search technology should help here. However corproate blogs may end up being just more information noise in an already crowded world. I remember in the mid 90’s while I was at Nortel Networks, it seemed every person, department and project had their own web site on the intranet. Being a high tech company we all were trying out technology and creating pages of information. Guess what in about 12 months with many people moving on we had our very own web page grave yard at one point there were millons of web pages just on the intranet. Let us hope corporate blogs will be different different. Another potential issue, esspecial external blogs will be liability, highlighted by the fact that in Johathan Schwartz’s first post he indicated that the Michael Dillon Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary for Sun may not approve. We have seen the recent liability rasied through emails and other electronic media, corporate blogs will be exposed to the same levels of scrutiny.

If blogs do take off there is the potential for significant benefits to an organisation. Such as; increased speed of communication, and virtual team communication are two benefits that organisations could benefit regardless of their size or industry. Relationship building between employees and customers is another, interesting Human Capital magazine reported in edition 2.6 about the top 10 trends in HR for 2004, one of these happens to be relationships. Blogs can help you develop these relationships by listening to the feedback from employees on new ideas and programs. Another benefit of internal blogs could be with ideas management, allowing employees and the enterprise overall to management new ideas so that they do not get lost. Either team or individual based these internal idea blogs can help with the development and implementation of new ideas, coupled with a culture of open feedback and communication all employees would have the ability to review and provide input on everyone else’s ideas.

Although I firmly beleive that these benefits will only transpire if the content can be filtered and delivered in a timely fashion, having thousands of really useful peices of information will not help unless the organisation can harness that information. The use of RSS feeds might be one solution. Integrating the feeds into an employee’s Inbox, via a tool like NewGator, there by allowing the employee to subscribe to the feeds that they are interested in will assist. Corporate search technology is another requirement, by this I mean beyond the traditional keyword searching, tools like the Google Search Appliance and Microsoft MSN Search technology.

In a report almost a year ago Gartner said we would probably be waiting another 5 years before mainstream corporate blogging really takes off, I personally feel things have moved a little quicker than that and would be interested to see what their views are today.

HRIS trends

In 2001 I noted a number of trends that I felt would begin to take shape over the next few years. They were publish on my Web Site at the time, which has now been disbanded. Anyway I thought I would re-publish them here, not that they are correct and nor do I still see them as valid trends today. However I felt it would be interesting to compare how they do stand up 3 years on. Over the next few weeks I plan to review each item to see if I can predict the future :-), or at least we can all have a bit of a laugh .

HRIS Trends
-Transactional focus is old but still important, not only save time but reduce process steps
– Enterprise process integration
– Corporate Portal, one stop shop for all your information needs, in the form of a common access point for all internal and external data, including universal connections to employee tools
– Common user experience via a consistent user interface and common tools used globally
– Content and Knowledge management with extensive collaboration tool sets
– Syndicated content both internal and external
– Single Sign On
– Project management integration
– Employee Relationship management (Full EE life cycle, before hire to after hire)
– Extranets, full supply chain management of HR services
– Data analysis (using Business Intelligence tools)