IBM Connect 2013 First Take: Will Watson be the future of HCM?

The messages at this morning’s IBM Connect keynote event were clear: The future is “Social” and the new language of business is “Analytics”. Welcome to the future.

All morning these messages were evangelized and demonstrated, from IBM executives and their demo teams, to clients like Bosch, Caterpillar and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and even from a Hollywood star-slash-collaborative film development entrepreneur.  Each spoke on the transformational role that collaborative, social engagement is having in our business and personal lives, changing how we work, play, create, engage and in some cases even how we’re paid or rewarded for our efforts.

For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of the keynote came at the end, when Mike Rhodin, SVP IBM Software Solutions Group, spoke to the future and the intersection of social, analytics and people processes.  He spoke of cognitive systems like IBM’s Watson and its ability to filter through the terabytes of data created every day to see patterns, unlock the real truth about business, employees and customers, and to weave intelligence into every aspect of the fabric of a business.

Watson meets HCMFor example, Rhodin asked that we imagine a central “employee center” for global organizations – one which becomes a trusted career advisor from pre-hire through advanced roles in the organization through the continuous analysis of formal, informal, social and other inputs (structured and unstructured) to present a highly personalized, dynamic and guided  path for each individual. Not the static, pre-defined career paths of the past, but truly intelligent, contextual and adaptive guidance to the individual all throughout their career with a company.

Long term future vision?  Not as far off as might be imagined.  Today, Watson is being used in select healthcare use cases such as analyzing patient records and myriad information sources to surface recommended treatment protocols.  Applying similarly deep and broad analysis across the ‘big data’ of the enterprise, with a lens on employee success and value creation for the organization, makes complete sense.  Only big data analytics will be able to effectively interpret all the signals an enterprise may receive around its employees and drive meaningful insights and decision support – for managers and the employees alike.  Embedded cognitive systems are the necessary next step as we evolve our talent technologies and processes from transactional systems to systems of engagement and, ultimately, transform them to the experiential systems necessary to thrive in the future of work.

Of course – the answer isn’t just pure analytical power.  Human engagement and analysis will still be needed.  Even in the Watson-recommended healthcare protocols referenced above, the physician and other caregivers use the results to inform and guide their actions; ultimately the healthcare provider makes the final decision.  Likewise, in the career management and other employeee-oriented engagement scenarios, the cognitive system-delivered paths will serve as guides to inform individuals; Watson won’t replace the person-to-person conversations and analysis that will ultimately drive the employee’s action.  What’s transformational, however, is the richness of information that will inform those individual actions, that can make recommendations based on previously hidden patterns and connections, all because of the capabilities of real-time analysis of vast quantities of seemingly disparate information.

Many announcements are underway here at IBM Connect and the opportunities for the  HCM market are numerous; more to follow in upcoming days.  Meanwhile, let me know what you think about the idea of Watson and related systems and the opportunities for HCM.

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Will a Move to the Cloud Make IT Irrelevant?

An impressive number of IT and Business leaders from across EMEA have converged  upon Dubai this week to participate in Oracle’s CloudWorld, an executive event focused on the disruptive technologies of social, mobile and, of course, Cloud.  The Dubai event is the first in a series of conferences that will take place in select cities across the globe through April 2013.

One of the common conversations taking place amongst conference delegates is the impact of these technologies on the IT organization – fundamentally, is cloud making IT irrelevant?

The reality is actually just the opposite: embracing cloud and other disruptive technologies enables the IT organization to rebalance its investments in core infrastructure to embrace more strategic investments in integration, intelligence and innovation.

Constellation Research has published extensively on this topic, and I presented on it as well throughout 2012. Embedded below is one such presentation, taking a look at the evolving role of IT organizations as the Future of Work unfolds, including top priorities, key challenges and required shifts in thinking. Whether focused on Infrastructure, Integration, Intelligence or Innovation, the “I” in the “IT” Organization is morphing to match the needs of the organization, taking a more business-focused point of view.

Click here to view the presentation:  The Evolution of IT Organizations in the Future of work

For additional thoughts on the hybrid IT environment that is likely emerging in your organization as a result of partial cloud adoption, check out this article and published research, also by Constellation.

Contact us at Constellation Research if you would like to discuss our research on this topic in more detail.

Kicking Off 2013 in the Hot Seat

What can you cover in 20 minutes on a radio show with a provocative host?  A lot, apparently.SoMoCloHy

I had the pleasure of joining Bill Kutik, well-known HR industry analyst and founding Co-Chair of the annual HR Technology Conference, on his biweekly program, the Bill Kutik Radio Show, sponsored by Knowledge Infusion. It was Bill’s 118th radio show to date, but his first show of 2013, marking the second time in a row that I’ve been honored to be Bill’s guest on his “New Year kickoff” episode.

For 20 minutes, and with no-holds-barred, Bill peppered me with questions spanning some of the hottest topics in HCM:  SaaS, Social, Mobile and Hybrid HCM.  A few of the questions we discussed – and at times, debated – were these:

  • Are social technologies delivering business value?  Have they found their place as ‘real tools’ or are we still just connecting and sharing?
  • Is SaaS winning because we’re doing less diligence? Are switching costs really less for SaaS vs. OnPremises solutions?
  • Is Hybrid HCM (the combination of OnPremises and SaaS deployments) part of the journey to the Cloud, or a destination in itself?  Why would you go that route?
  • Mobile – is there real enterprise value here, or is mobile really just for a few targeted processes such as time & labor?  Where is it making a difference?

Click here to listen to this highly interactive session.  For a full roster and links to Bill’s many other radio interviews, visit KI OnDemand.

Disclosure: neither Bill Kutik nor Knowledge Infusion are clients of mine or of Constellation Research, Inc., but I am not above buying them (or letting them buy me) a drink, coffee or other refreshment when our paths cross in exchange for great industry conversation and insights. 

“Ok, Now You’ve Scared Me.”

CarnacA few weeks ago, I participated in a virtual panel focused on “The Future of Work”, providing my views into the changing landscape of work, not just as we enter 2013, but looking further out to 3, 5 or even 10 years from now. The discussion, sponsored by Cornerstone OnDemand, is available here for playback.

I began the session by sharing my view that the future of work, first and foremost, is already here. Organizations have long been affected by and responding to the dramatic changes coming from disruptive technologies, rapidly shifting worker demographics and dynamics, and new competitive pressures from an especially dynamic business climate. The challenges are real and taking place today. Looking to the future of work, one could sum up the anticipated impacts in a single word: More. More intensity. More pressure. More change. More risk. But also, more opportunity. More engagement. More transparency. More impact.

This “more” concept translates to a change in all aspects of work: namely, the Who, Where, When, What, How and even Why of work needs to be rethought:

  • The “who” of work: Who are your workers?  What generation do they represent? Are they employees or free agents? What is the composition of your workforce from a diversity perspective and how are practices in attracting, engaging, motivating, developing, measuring and rewarding the workforce evolving?
  • The “where” and “when” of work: Work takes place at the office, at home, on the go; in connected or disconnected modes from laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops; face-to-face with our local colleagues or virtually across the globe; in shared coworking spaces where our cubicle neighbor may not even work for the same company. What systems are we using to ensure access to the people and information necessary to get work done? To drive engagement and crank up innovation?  In today’s business climate, are we fostering results from any place, at any time, from any device, or constraining people and results with a traditional mindset to work?
  • The “what” and “how” of work: The very nature of work is changing as the lines between employees, customers and suppliers blur and technology transforms work to more interaction-based engagements.  Big data insights and predictive analytics provide new views of influence and impact while social network analysis helps us understand the flow of knowledge in the enterprise and how work is getting done.  We’re just scratching the surface on better insights into the what and how of work in today’s social enterprise; what role will HR play in this new world of big data?
  • The “why” of work: Motivations differ by generation and by individual; they span pay and benefits, career advancement, skill development, recognition and increasingly,  social responsibility and altruism.  Are the rewards and recognition systems used in corporations today resonating with these very diverse workforce motivations? Do our company cultures sustain the drivers of the emerging workforce?

I riffed a bit on the sweeping changes required in business due to the above and received my favorite response of the hour from Cornerstone’s VP of Corporate Development and Strategy, Jason Corsello.  His comment?

Ok, now you’ve scared me.”

Jason is wicked smart. And he is anything but ‘scared’ about the future of work, as he and his colleagues work to guide Cornerstone’s strategy and disrupt the legacy market with cloud, social and mobile technologies. But his off-the-cuff comment was a good one, highlighting that despite all the advances we’ve made in processes and technology, there is still much more to do; more to plan for, to learn from, to capitalize on,  to embrace.

More.

Are you ready for the future of work?

Read a summary of the full panel discussion or listen to the event directly.  Be sure to catch the latest research on the Future of Work, Consumerization of IT and the New C-Suite, and other critical business themes at Constellation Research, Inc..

Disclosure: Cornerstone OnDemand is a client of Constellation Research, Inc.

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