NGA.Net Acquires Acelero for Performance Management

Last night at around 5.30pm I received a call from Penny Elmslie, the marketing manager at NGA.Net about two topics that they were very excited about. First was they had started a blog, second they had purchased a company.

While the first piece of news is not that earth shattering for some, I personally feel it is great that another Australian vendor has entered the blogging space. Hopefully NGA.Net will use this as an opportunity for people outside the organisation to learn a bit more about what makes them tick. You can find the blog at http://blog.nga.net/, the RSS feed is also available.

The second piece of news is far more exciting, well in my mind. NGA have acquired Acelero, the Sydney based Performance Management vendor. The acquisition fills a much needed gap in the NGA product line and to be honest allows them to meet their marketing claims:

“Software that helps large organisations to connect, recruit & develop their people”

Good news for Acelero staff as it seems 14 of them will be joining NGA, with Managing Director Ken Sheridan remaining as the head of the new NGA Performance Management division.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes to fully integrate the product lines so that NGA.Net customers have a true integrated talent management solution. I am not aware of the technical platform that Acelero was using, however it is good to see NGA were sensible and purchased an existing SAAS vendor so at least architecturally they are somewhat aligned.

User Generated Competency Maps

Thomas Otter, Gartner Analyst by day cyclist by night, posted on his Gartner blog last week about the new XING Competency Card and how it raises questions around the need for “complex, expensive, poorly maintained HR competency management applications behind the firewall”.

The competency card allow you to add skills to your XING profile (think a LinkedIn profile), back them up with commentary detailing your experience and then have your contacts validate this experience.

I decided to give the process a bit of test, as such I signed up to XING and created my own profile including a Competence Card (which you can find under the Applications tab). I have to agree with Thomas, while a basic implementation the look and feel are nice and very easy to use. The simplicity of implementation is part of the attraction, making the tool one of the easiest competency tools I have used.

The idea of peer validation is great and something that is really needed for inside the firewall applications, with a bit extra. The ability to have validations from both internal and external contacts, as not competency can be validated internally, especially in a world of partnerships, outsourcing and the like.

The peer validation process reminded me of survey feature found in PeopleStreme, which allows anyone to create a quick survey to collect feedback on their performance. A feature especially liked by the “validation seeking Generation Y” (yes vast generalisation).

I note in the comments of Thomas’s post Jon Ingham raises the point of still seeing a need for internal competency maps, agree. However a tool that supported both internal and external validation would allow for these maps and still incorporate the user generated aspects of XING’s Competency Card.

So who will be the first vendor with such a feature?

HR Technology Landscape

eliminate_the_paper_messI have been thinking a lot about how complex the overall HR technology landscape has become in the last five years.

Traditional time and attendance vendors now do all things (Kronos), applicant tracking vendors now do performance management (take your pick of vendors), learning management vendors now do compensation (Plateau ) and competitors are now the same organisation (Micropay and WageEasy ). This doesn’t even start to look at the large ERP’s trying to play in the 50 – 100 person marketplace!

It is not difficult for an organisation with 1,000 plus employees in Australia to still have a maze of systems and dataflows, check out this example I pulled together today. Yes the flows miss performance and development data but I ran out of room and time to clearly demonstrate. Nor I am saying that every organisation is like this, or heavens forbid that this is any target architecture! More that if you were to sit down with the HR and Payroll team in many midsized organisations in Australia you would end up with a maze of some sort. Very few have a clean architecture.

So it is not surprising when we start to ask questions about workforce analytics, integrated talent planning, sources of hire etc a majority of HR departments just roll their eyes. They have no way of knowing how to get this data!

Some questions I ask clients to begin clarifying just how big a mess they are in are:

  • What is your master data strategy?
  • What are your data standards with regard to people data?
  • Which system(s) is the source of truth?
  • How to communicate data with external providers?
  • How many different vendor’s tools do you have?

The answers are usually not surprising, but they are not good either.

However the challenge is not just to purchase a system that provides a nice integrated framework. That bit is easy! The hard part is part data conversion, cultural change, process re-engineering and IT development.

To get a master data strategy you need everyone to agree on data standards and ownership, only then can one begin to assess the conversion/cleansing/migration effort to get to the new world.

To reduce the data flows you need to have a clear picture of who is using your data, and now just officially using it. How many spreadsheets are manually loaded into other systems? How many IT developed interfaces exist to manipulate and represent your data to email, finance, facilities management systems? Who’s data fiefdoms are you going to destroy in the process? How many forms need to be changed? How many processes need stream lining and upgrading?

It is never as simple as just installing a new payroll or talent management system.

(Please if you are a vendor do not comment to say oh we can solve these issues, this is not the point of the post. However feel free to add to the discussion. Thanks.)

Workforce Analytics: Following the employees

I ran across an interesting post from the LinkedIn blog, via Steve Barham from LinkedIn, entitled Where did all the people go from the collapsed financial institutions?. The post was looking at the flow of employees between five major financial services companies:

  • Barclays
  • Credit Suisse
  • Citigroup
  • Bank Of America
  • JP Morgan Chase

LinkedIn Data - Financial Fallout Graphic

This image shows the amazing amount of data that is available from LinkedIn both via public searches and as a premium paying member, to quote the post:

To be specific, other than two acquiring companies (Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch and Nomura acquired Lehman Brothers’ franchise in the Asia Pacific region), Barclays was by far the biggest beneficiary, scooping up 10% of the laid off talent, followed by Credit Suisse at 1.5% and Citigroup at 1.1 %.

While an interesting look at talent movement it got me thinking.

A couple of questions came to mind:

  1. Do you use external talent movement data in your workforce planning/sourcing strategy planning?
  2. Does your workforce analytics program allow you the same sort of analysis?

I would suspect most companies would answer No to both questions. The cynical might also ask why would you want this information. So let’s look at a couple of examples:

Example 1: Your organisation is experiencing rapid growth in one particular area of the business, so you need to recruit more employees. Access this information would allow you to target the “usual suspects” for new talent but you could also look to see if there had been a major exodus to other organisations that may not be on your “usual suspects” list. These organisations may not be prepared for an all out assault on their talent.

Example 2: Can you produce graphs that show where each division of your organisation is getting is best performing employees, covering both internal and external movements? Not a purely LinkedIn example but highlighting similar talent flows.

A final note there is no reason why your HR/Payroll/ERP/People Management/Whatever System should not be launching these sorts of features. For example LinkedIn opened its API up to developers almost 6 months ago.

How engaged are your employees??

Last night I had the privilege  to see François-Frédéric Guy perform in his Sydney debut as part of the Sydney Symphony’s International Pianists in Recital Series. François-Frédéric performed three Chopin and three Beethoven pieces to a packed crowd of piano lovers. In particular he performed:

CHOPIN 
Nocturne in C minor, Op.48 No.1 
Nocturne in E, Op.62 No.2 
Polonaise-fantaisie, Op.61 
BEETHOVEN 
Sonata No.31 in A flat, Op.110 
‘Tempest’ Sonata, Op.31 No.2 
‘Moonlight’ Sonata, Op.27 No.2

I was lucky enough to be in the front row, just out of hand sight but still awesome seats, essentially I was able to get up close and personal with François-Frédéric during his performance. I could see the emotion in his body, the sweat dripping from his face, the frantic movement of the pedals and hammers in the amazing Steinway concert grand. The music was awe inspiring.FRANCOIS-FREDERIC GUY

In recognition of how much he had put into his performance the audience responded with round after round of applause, resulting in 2 encore performances.

I could not help but reflect on how engaged François-Frédéric was; the emotion, the love, the sweat he poured into his work, and how if organisation could replicate this then they would succeed beyond the expectations of any board directors or group of shareholders.

Each note he played must of been practiced thousands and thousands of times. But every note he played had passion and feeling to ensure that his customers had the best possible experience he could deliver.

Now he was not perfect, he made several errors most undetectable to to the average listener but they were there. However none of the experts (my mother is a piano teacher and musical educator) in the auditorium said anything, they all came back from the interval and continued to enjoy the performance.

So let’s contrast this with the average companies talent management practices. How many organisation’s employees are so engaged that they would give everything into every single transaction they perform? How many managers would still provide a stand ovation to their employees for a fantastic job, even if there were a few hiccups along the way? How many organisations would give prizes (François-Frédéric received flowers) every time an employee completes their daily job?

All of these things took place last night during François-Frédéric’s performance.

So I ask what are you doing to make your employees want to work as tirelessly to succeed as François-Frédéric did? What are you doing to have policies and procedures to enable such a performer? How can your performance review processes be enhanced so that a meaningful standing ovation can be provided for outstanding work?

Finally how are you providing a meaningful and supportive environment?

HR/Payroll Software Used in Australia and New Zealand

There are lots and lots of different HR and Payroll systems in use across Australia and New Zealand, a fact that makes choosing a system very confusing. This process is made even more confusing by the lack of good quality information in the marketplace about what each solution offers.

During the years I have selected and implemented many different systems and now help clients select the right option for their business. But the process is never as simple as it should be. During 2010 I am hoping to provide more detailed coverage of the local marketplace.

To kick things off I have created a short (9 questions) survey that looks at the systems used for Payroll, HR and general Talent Management.

Agile talent management software – Your survival plan?

I read with interest this morning Dr John Sullivan’s article looking at how to survive in such turbulent economic times, his concept seems to be a play on the software development process Agile. To quote Wikipedia Agile software development is:

Agile software development refers to a group of software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams.

I am very interested in John’s views next week as he shows us some of the attributes he sees within an agile talent management strategy. In the meantime let me provide some of my own thoughts.

Last month I sat through a demonstration of a top end talent management system that ticked all of the boxes from a feature set, which as a buyer of software is important. However during the whole presentation I could not help but think “wow this would require a large structured project to implement in even the smallest of organisations”.  To start with a massive project would be required around defining competency frameworks, then career paths, development plans, capturing employee information, etc. Ongoing the process of ensuring performance management information is collected, development plans are kept up to date, compensation plans managed would overload many an HR department.

Most systems and their vendors today still follow something that closely resembles the waterfall model of software development. Again from Wikipedia:

The waterfall model is the most structured of the methods, stepping through requirements-capture, analysis, design, coding, and testing in a strict, pre-planned sequence. Progress is generally measured in terms of deliverable artifacts: requirement specifications, design documents, test plans, code reviews and the like.

Where as agile processes produce completely developed and tested features every few weeks. Today the consumer web is a very fast moving and dynamic environment that can change almost overnight, for example 18 months ago MySpace was the place to be, now it is Facebook. This has lead to most consumer focused web development teams, and some corporate, to use agile processes to quickly deliver new features to their customers. To this end a host of light weight tools have entered the market to help support these teams, for example Pivotal Tracker and Agile Zen.

Today most corporate IT environments are the exact opposite to agile. They have enormous governance models designed to stop “cowboy software development” and ensure that all stakeholders, including the board, internal customers, and in particular departments such as finance, have the necessary input into the decision making process. These governance processes have been required due to the complexity created within an organisation’s IT environment from years and years of short term planning and projects where only “phase one” has ever been deployed. Ok yes there are exceptions I admit, but ask the employees of most organisations what it is like working with their IT team and they will roll their eyes at you.

Enter Agile.

Just as Dr John Sullivan is suggesting you bring agile practices into your talent management strategies, how about you bring them into your software projects as well?

PageUp People: Integrated Talent Management

What is Integrated Talent Management (ITM)?

Well that was the question posed at this morning’s breakfast briefing session run by PageUp People to launch their new white paper, “ITM – The Evolution”. Their answer:
Workforce
Credit: Lumaxart

ITM leverages the same data, process, workflow management, security model, user portals, and reporting and analytics tools across all applications.

My answer would be very similar.

The white paper quotes heavily from people such as Thomas Otter, Jim Holincheck, CedarCrestone and Leighanne Levensaler with PageUp People offering their own conclusions on the research which in turn lays out a product roadmap for the PageUp People platform.

Within the white paper reference is made to three stages of ITM evolution:

  • Stage 1 – Today, multiple vendors, disconnected systems, a lack of analytics, and limited executive buy-in.
  • Stage 2 – Reduced number of vendors as each widen the breadth and depth of their offerings, tighter integration, initial workforce analytics, and growing executive buy-in.
  • Stage 3 – The holy grail a fully integrated talent management platform with predictive analytics and high levels of executive buy-in.

What stood out to me was the strong emphasis being placed on workforce analytics, the topic for the rest of this post, as a key indicator of a stage 3 ITM environment.

For well over a decade workforce analytics have been discussed and predicted to come of age many times, and again we have a major talent management vendor still predicting that workforce analytics is in the future! So when will the future become today?

Over the years workforce analytics has been a keen interest of mine, in 2004 I co-presented on the topic and AHRI’s HR Week. During the presentation I referenced work conducted by the Butler Group in 1995 on the issues around data warehousing little things such as; Availability, Understanding, Accurate, Consistent and Predictability, and Privacy. I firmly believe many of these issues need to be resolved before any form of workforce analytics can be confidently undertaken by an organisation.

My co-presenter 5 years ago John Macy referenced work from the Meta Group in 2000 on the 5 categories of workforce information management, the top level being predictive modelling! John went on to discuss trends from the Meta Group, which had vendors incorporate contextual analysis into their products by 2005 and in 2006/7 Leading organisations will develop & fine tune predictive models. I guess the Meta Group was wrong!

Now back to talent management, last year Dr John Sullivan discussed why Talent Management Analytics is still failing, I added my two cents worth as well. Let’s look at Dr John’s list again:

  1. HR Skill deficiency
  2. Lack of business knowledge
  3. Expensive tools limiting deployment
  4. Lack of quality data
  5. Complicated nature of talent management
A system will not solve all the items on this list, other than item 3. This point was emphasised in the PageUp People white paper when they looked at the People and Process implications. A broader organisational change activity is required to succeed in a strategic context with workforce analytics.

Internal Social Network Analysis

Following yesterday’s post on future recruiting technology, which looking back should have read future talent management technology, here is an example of thing I am seeing in the market.

SAP has built a Social Network Analyzer prototype for inside the organisation. (Hat tip James Governor.)

It aggregates existing enterprise data to display and discover organizational relationships. It provides the missing link between social networking platforms and enterprise information systems, by letting organizations leveraging data available in corporate information systems.

SNA helps jump-start social networking within the organization by letting you import and aggregate all the corporate relationships between people that are already recorded in your business applications, such as:

  • Management hierarchies from your human resources system
  • Data on who worked on which deals from your sales force automation system
  • Partner, customer, and partner supplier contacts along your supply chain
  • People who work on similar transactions within your operational systems

The early images show a product user interface that is very different to anything I have seen from the German Giant.

The tool bring data from disparate systems across the enterprise into a single view to see who is interacting with whom via relationships there can be significant talent management benefits, other than collaboration:

  • Look at the interaction of at risk high performers, are their other high performers that also might be at risk due to social relationships?
  • Top talent referrers, who else do they interact with and are they providing referrals, if not why?
  • Do poor performers interact together?
  • Do top performers interact together?

The tool can import any data that describes a relationship between two people or objects you can uncover relationships between individuals, groups and departments that do not appear in the traditional organisation structure.

Now what if we added into the mix information about external social networks??

Let’s not forget the privacy issues, to quote James:

I thought it was kind of funny, though obviously not surprising, that one of the reasons SAP has been slow to turn the prototype into product is European data protection law. While American firms would consider metadata about employee interactions to be company property, under German law that is certainly not the case – no, in Germany it would be called spying.

Will this product see the light of day? Will it be deployed in many organisations? What would trade unions think of the tool? All these questions and more will ultimately determine the future of this particular technology.

Future Summit Wrap Up

How do I summarise Future Summit 2009? The Future
(Credits: From Flickr aussiegall)

I guess the best way as being talked to for 25 hours in a 36 hour period! This is a very different format to many of the other events I attend which tend to be more collaborative.

This lack of collaborative time where the participants were able to discuss the future was my biggest complaint. Most of the panels discussed issues of today that need to be resolved, not what the future holds, and unfortunately any talk of the future was just that, talk. The session content also tended to be very hit and miss on the quality. 

Over the two days there were three that stood out.

First was Alison Sander from Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) presentation on Megatrends (the second session) was one of the best sessions and eye opener. Maybe I am a bit slow but I had not explicitly thought about tapping into these trends as a method of growth. BCG tracks four types of trends; Terra, Economic, Technology and Meta but as Alison said just knowing about these trends is not enough. Action is what is needed. BCG provides their clients a four phase model on how to leverage megatrends:

  1. Recognize
  2. Understand
  3. Act
  4. Profit

I guess I have always done 1 and 2 but failed on 3 and 4, which is why I am not a billionaire ;-). A couple of interesting statistics I picked up, 60% of the world’s population is in Asia, and in 2006 the world’s population became more urban than not.

The next session of interest was not until late Tuesday morning looking at technology as an enabler of prosperity and growth. I had very high hopes of this session given the quality of the panel; Tracey Fellows MD Microsoft Australia, Holly Kramer Group MD Telstra Product Management, Dr Paul Twoney CEO ICANN, Professor Max Lu, and Glenn Wightwick CTO IBM Australia. While the discussion was a bit up and down some of the key gems came from Paul Twoney and Dr Lu.

Paul Twoney highlighted that while about 70% of the room had businesses that sold something on the Internet only about 2 people did so in a language other than English. Then came the kicker, Paul states that Brisbane, Sydney and Los Angeles are the only cities that have people who can speak all 38 languages of Asia (I would suspect Melbourne is very close). Dr Lu then went on to talk to us about solar being the ultimate energy source, nano ethics and social responsibility of nano technology and that the future of nanotechnology in manufacturing has a pervasive impact. The final key message was from Paul Twoney who challenged the audience to look at what we could be doing with broadband to help on climate change, water, globalisation and population growth.

The final session of serious interest was on harnessing Australian talent. Australia has been so successful building an international education program that we have reducing public funding to our own education institutions, which is impacting our ability to develop talent. International education students are a $15.5 billion industry for Australia, almost the 2nd largest export! One of the best quotes from the session came from Professor Gill Palmer of RMIT “people are a countries competitive advantage”.

The talent session then moved to looking at corporate management of talent. I can’t remember who provided stated this but, Australia is the worst in the OECD when it comes to amount of money corporations allocate to educating their employees. Another interesting statistic is that 67% of boardroom conversations are deeply inhibited, through one reason or another, making only 33% of boardroom conversations useful! Australia as over 1 million citizens living overseas, why are organisations not trying to bring them home as a method of talent development?

I had several interesting discussions. First discussion was at the gala dinner with two individuals; one from big business the other a major educational institution. We were discussing the issue of clean energy. Both told me that much of the technology existed today; just no one had put it all together. So I asked why they don’t open source it, so we can solve the energy problem. The answer, no one can make money out of open source and how do you know that people will not hold back their key ideas. The second discussion was over lunch where we were discussing how to inform the average Australian business about Megatrends for business growth. One of the first answers was to create a government institution of trend spotting to then communicate to the public.

My final thoughts. Australia has a good future; however this future could be great if we as a society learn how to harness key trends. Big business also needs to radically change to institutions that open up communications internally, become more socially responsible and finally grow and develop their employees.