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HR and IT Partnership: Observations from a Veteran CIO

Analytics and Faster Onboarding Will Transform HR

By Rick O'Herron


Mark Sunday, senior vice president and chief information officer at Oracle, shares his insights on how IT and HR should team up to deploy services.

As it becomes clear that attracting and retaining skilled talent is key to providing superior employee experiences, companies looking to differentiate themselves are turning to HR technology. Technology companies are delivering HR systems that make it easier to find and onboard the best employees and retain them by providing more streamlined and engaging experiences.

Finding and keeping the right employees has never been more important to companies. What can HR leaders learn from IT teams?

Mark Sunday: For an IT department, it's never been more challenging to deal with how rapidly technology is changing. Cloud, mobile, social, big data, and user experiences have changed things so fast that we've all had to reinvent ourselves so we can help our businesses be the victor, not the victim of all this change. For many of us, the days of five-year IT plans are gone. Now, our focus is to ensure we have the IT strategy, structure, processes, and technologies that move from anticipating to responding at the speed of opportunity. Future-proofing IT becomes possible when you can respond with the speed, quality, flexibility, and predictability that allow you to take advantage of opportunities with the right solutions.

When CEOs lack the talent resources to pursue business opportunities, HR has to acquire or develop the right employees to handle those opportunities. These technologies are having a profound impact yet also represent a tremendous opportunity to manage talent and drive productivity across the enterprise. For example, social media has revolutionized recruiting.

Since HR is about people, how do you scale and excel at HR as a company grows?

Oracle Modern HR in the Cloud Yields a Competitive Advantage

Sunday: Enterprise IT and HR span geographies, functions, and lines of business and have the same opportunity to realize economies of scale and expertise. We've done 115 acquisitions in recent years and we've become very effective at assimilating them. The key to why IT scales at Oracle so rapidly, and this can apply to HR, has been how we simplify, standardize, centralize, and automate processes and instantiate shared service centers on a global scale. We've gradually moved everything we can to an employee self-service model. With 25,000 new hires every year, can you imagine the scale issues if we didn't have a smooth, self-service, front-office experience? We can onboard new employees pretty quickly from an IT infrastructure perspective. I recently read an article that suggested how well employees onboard is a good measure of an organization's IT capability. I'd argue the same could be said of HR.

We've been striving for 15 years toward a model where people can connect with anyone, regardless of organization, to work on problems and solutions. Easy-to-use tools and a consistent experience make it easier for people to obtain the knowledge they need, fulfill requests, gain support, and drive collaboration. An HR/IT partnership would help enterprises take advantage of this next wave of opportunity.

HR executives are seeking new tools for data-driven people management. What's driving this trend?

Sunday: It's important to know where you've been so you can better predict where you're going. Predictive analytics, from an IT standpoint, is interesting when you look at the scale of running a global infrastructure with thousands of components. The more precisely you capture data, the better insights you'll get into what's happening in your environment before problems happen. Or, you'll be better positioned to respond quickly when problems do occur. Analytics increasingly inform our planning, whether we're getting data on server storage or network capacity across our global infrastructure.

HR needs analytics to identify and recruit top candidates. Once employees are onboard, analytics help report on training or predict when people might leave. It's risky and expensive to replace good performers. Also, we're discovering how analytics can help people learn new skills and develop career paths and use that information to reward high performers. HR organizations are just starting their analytics journey.

How can risk-averse HR departments start building value with data?

Sunday: I recently spoke with an organization that uses big data analytics to see which employees are likely to be most successful. They don't start with a hypothesis. Instead, they correlate the data by blending things that indicate historical success and add or subtract items that measure and predict future success. It's like any big data project where you can't plan the destination. Expect to evolve your plan to drive value. As HR takes this on, they can provide iterative value to lines of business and geographies.

How can HR transition from transactional tasks such as recruiting, compensation, and benefits management to provide more value to the business?

Sunday: Throughout my 40-year career, I've seen HR organizations do this through organizational process structure. Technology is becoming key for HR to deliver more value through data and collaboration services while enabling the organization to be more innovative. Most back-office HR functions are transaction-driven. Value-added services require a different culture, and it starts with the user.

A modern human capital management system should connect everyone within the company. It must be accessible and really easy to use to get everyone on board. Oracle HCM Cloud has a social network UI similar to Facebook and Twitter.

With HR moving to the front office, how we communicate, collaborate, identify, recruit, and manage talent is becoming part of our core competencies. Because our systems are cloud-based and quickly deployed, we can take dozens or hundreds of functions and put them on service automation.

When deploying new systems, it is important to avoid the trap of enjoying the journey but losing sight of the destination. Value isn't derived from the proof of concept or limited production. Real value is realized with full deployment and processes in place and being exercised for continuous improvement and new value creation. That's the difference between doing something once versus a maturation process across a variety of service functions you make into a repeatable service that can be rolled across the organization to thousands of users.

It sounds like Oracle's not done innovating a better HR environment. Where do you go from here?

Sunday: Much of the value automating processes for Oracle, like most companies, has mostly been realized. I spoke about increasing adoption of services and that includes more use of social and mobile so we provide great experiences that are consistent across devices and geographies.

The next significant wave of productivity is going to be about empowering and enabling knowledge workers. This need is heightened by the ongoing shift globally from repetitive work to non-repetitive roles. Knowledge workers need to have the processes and tools to effectively collaborate within their organization, across their company, and extend to partners and customers. They need not just data or information, but insight so they can make decisions. This is less about automating processes and more about helping individual employees become dramatically more effective.

Historically, knowledge about talent was too often contained inside someone's head. Having a short list of candidates doesn't allow us to see all the talent we have. It's not scalable when you're a global corporation. We'll see substantial strides on a number of different fronts to enable employees to expand their contribution, both as individuals and as members of communities. That will be another step on the journey.