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SMAC Your Way Through 2016

Have you seen the movie Up in The Air (2009)? If not, put it on your list. If you did, you were probably a bit shocked by the virtual approach to firing people. I certainly was. Seven years later, in 2016, we’re there. The first time people got fired by text it was headline news. Today, not so much. More people work in virtual teams and have never met their boss or their colleagues in person. We communicate through texts, we collaborate online, and we use apps. Ironically, we hardly ever use our phones to talk to people anymore.

What is happening is SMAC: Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud are permeating our work and personal lives. It leads to new (and socially accepted) ways of communicating with each other and to new ways of working and collaborating. If you’re in HR, Cloud most likely became the focus of attention in 2015. If not, it certainly will somewhere down the road. It’s a big change that you will need to properly prepare for. So this post is not about shiny new things to watch out for in 2016, but about things you will need to do to be prepared for SMAC and stay relevant.

Cloud or Cloudify?

Let’s look at Cloud first. If you’re on the market for a new HR system, you’ve probably picked a cloud-based system. It relieves you from the need to uniquely customize the system, it’s accessible anywhere to everyone with a login and you can pay as you go. While that is a huge advantage over onPrem HR systems, there are still a few things you need to keep in mind: how to keep your employees’ data secure and what about the vendor’s business continuity? What happens with your data at the end of the contract (or what happens if you can’t pay your bills anymore)? How to deal with new privacy laws being introduced (eg India, Russia) and the Safe Harbor agreement being cancelled: it is critically important to know where the cloud vendor stores data, what happens in their data centers and how they manage critical events.

Cloud support and maintenance is another topic that requires attention. Despite the popular belief that the cloud vendor will take care of this, cloud systems need maintenance just like any other IT system. Vendors regularly update the systems and expect you to test new versions, users can’t live with the standard and would like a few customizations, and interfaces still exist. While the effort is usually less than for onPrem systems, maintenance and support do not disappear, so you need to take this into account when you create your cloud migration plans.

Even if you would like to move everything to the cloud, for some systems the risk of migrating is just too great. Fortunately, there is a 3rd option: Cloudify. Cloudify wraps a layer around your onPrem system, and lets you use it as if it were a cloud system. The vendor will take care of hosting your system in the cloud, provide maintenance and support, apply patches and updates, ensure integration and charge you for use. This means you will be able to shift Capex into Opex, even if the underlying system is ERP-based. It is a very feasible and interesting optionfor payroll and time systems that are often heavily customized and have a high migration risk.

Mobile First!

Social and mobile are native to cloud-based HR systems. It’s time to start thinking about mobile use instead of desktop. While most of the Western world has grown accustomed to the desktop, there’s a whole world out there that has never used one and moved straight to mobile: it’s all they know. With the shifts in workforce, with younger people coming into the workplace, with virtual teams working across the globe, mobile and social become the new normal. We’ve all watched the death of the traditional performance process in 2015 – made possible only through the advance of social communication.

What has happened to the performance process is also happening to other HR processes: workers using mobile tools to sign up for shifts, to log hours, to communicate with each other and to enroll in benefits. So the important thing is to ensure that new HR technologies are fully mobile and social enabled and they are so from the ground up, not as an afterthought.

Mobile and social allow everyone to continuously give and receive feedback – that’s not to say they replace the conversation, but they enable instant feedback from other sources than a direct manager: customers, co-workers and anyone that you interact with on a regular base. Without mobile and social tools, this would not be possible. Mobile and social foster a unique collaboration between your employees and others outside of the company network, facilitating product and services development, customer service and feedback loops. Expect social and mobile to play a crucial role in every conversation – and who knows, maybe they will finally replace your overflowing Inbox in 2016.

Cracking the code of analytics!

And finally analytics – how is your data scientist team performing these days? If you believe everything you read, if you don’t have one, you are way behind. Realistically, few companies have cracked the code, and it’s safe to say that with analytics most are still at the beginning: getting the basics right. And the basics are formed by good, reliable data and reporting. It is critically important to first build a solid foundation while keeping the endgame in mind. Without that foundation, you will never be able to properly analyze data and make predictions.

It’s easy to get lost in an abundance of data and KPI’s. Most cloud systems offer native analytics, but too often dashboards sit unused because leaders do not understand what they mean and therefor can’t use them in business decisions. The reason for that is simple: no roadmap and way too many data points to choose from. So simplicity is the key: start with sound data and reporting first, and gain insights and experience. If you feel comfortable with that, and you can credibly explain the underlying trends, then head into analytics for a few, well- chosen items that are critically important for your business leaders.

Good luck on your 2016 SMAC journey, and let’s see where the road leads you…