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How The Arrival Of Millennials Is Shaping ERP For The Workforce

HCM ERP Trends Brought About By The Arrival Of Millenials

My last article highlighted the explosion of analytics in the HR space and how the changing technological landscape is impacting the role of a CHRO in the boardroom. This article explores the latest trends in HR with the arrival of the millennials and how vendors and companies alike are leveraging technology to stay one pace ahead of the competitors. The current era is one where knowledge is the biggest competitive advantage, and its torch bearers are the organization’s employees. Any organization which is capable of attracting, retaining and nurturing the best talent stays ahead of the curve when it comes to customer service and innovation, two of the most admirable traits of any company.

Some of the key trends that have emerged across the globe with respect to how the workplace is evolving have a lot to do with the coming of the millennials. The millennials have arrived, and have brought with them, their love for technology and craving for flexibility. The way many people socialize, communicate, consume information, broadcast information and get motivated are all closely linked to a nearly ubiquitous piece of hand held device called –“Mobile”. This directly translates into the biggest and safest bet of the time for most of the technology vendors– “mobility”. The global revenue for mobile data is estimated to be over $1 Trillion by 2015, according to Gartner. No wonder that almost all major ERPs are now available through mobiles – on the go and at your location/time of convenience. For instance, Oracle’s Peoplesoft 9.2 has brought with it the “Fluid interface”, with a design overhaul, that makes approving time, and processing self-service transactions through mobile, a delightful task. The advent of HCM on mobiles has proven to be a boon for several industries and has made them very efficient. This has also resulted in a higher rate of utilization among hitherto remote workforces like mine workers, frequent travelers, on the road sales forces, explorers etc. Two technology providers, worthy of mention here are Kenexa’s workforce mobile, and Workdays Mobile solution. While Kenexa has done a good job by including an entire gamut of HR functions from recruitment to training, along with the no-brainer of time approvals through mobiles, Workday mobile solution is more state of the art, and delivers a strong punch with its analytics features, speed and user interface.

While most of the vendors have focused majorly on delivering transactional activities such as time reporting and basic recruitment modules, I strongly feel that the availability of an organization’s collaboration platform on mobile will be a true game changer as it embodies all the major traits that are intended in a mobile application. Concepts like gamification will make more sense when available on mobiles and make it truly addictive when employees will actually collaborate, innovate and share their ideas with frenzy through mobiles. Some of the notable names in this domain are Tibbr– which has a very intuitive user interface and is available on mobile and is fully integrated with major ERP vendors like SAP, Salesforce and Oracle. It also has LinkedIn and Evernote integrations thrown in as a bonus. Another such social platform is Jive with an interesting feature that predicts or suggests people “You Should Know” in the organization based on its inbuilt predictive algorithm, which I thought was pretty novel. Yammer, which is used by over 200,000 companies world-wide is yet another behemoth in this space, but could be feeling a bit threatened with “Facebook for Enterprise” that could soon invade the enterprise space as well. Even LinkedIn is contemplating releasing an app for enterprises on similar lines, proving how hot it is out there for Enterprise Social Platform vendors.

Another key trend is the focus on the user-interface. The focus is on design excellence. Mere functionality is no more a satisfying pursuit. User delight is the new mantra. Gone are the days when a product release would focus on just a fragment of users, the so called tech geeks who would have access to, and work on the system for the benefit of the entire organization. The technology is increasingly becoming End-User Friendly, again a direct consequence of the millennials entering the workforce with an eagerness and zeal to gobble up all that is related to technology. Technological silos are being broken down and as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison highlighted during the keynote release of Oracle Fusion – The interface will be as easy to use as Facebook, thus leading to an explosion in the willingness to use the system and reducing the usability cost and ownership costs. Oracle Fusion claims to improve productivity by about 26% through the new user-interface design, which throws in features like watch-list, worklist, favourites, navigator, tags etc. under one customizable page, thus improving the user-system interaction massively.

Most ERPs are working towards bridging the gap between a conventional commercial off the shelf ERP solution where one size fits all into facilitating a customer centred ERP design by adopting a more contextual design approach. Those of you who are business analysts and are involved in designing solutions based on the requirements during the implementation phase will find this article worthwhile. It is a lengthy article, but has a few radical ideas on the approach adopted towards a user centred design of ERP implementation.

The third major workforce trend that has become a reality for almost all major organizations across the world is global mobility. Organizations today are increasingly going global. For instance, an organization that can source raw materials from Brazil, manufacture in China, design in France, and have sales offices in India, Australia or the United States will need to have a unified and globally integrated HR and payroll system. The key is extensive global integration. Although this is an old trick that every major ERP vendor has in their repertoire since ages.  Now there is a huge scope for the further improvement of existing systems. Most of these ERPs have a core engine with the basic payroll and HR configurations, while releasing country specific rule engines with frequent updates based on local legislations. While this might look like a hygiene factor for most vendors, their capability in being able to extensively support multiple geographies through a single system and hence enabling a single window view of the global operations is going to be massively crucial in the coming days. The reason: Talent will emerge as the key differentiator in the near future and it will become increasingly vital for the CXOs based out of the head-quarters to know exactly how each of the geographies fares in real terms on the specific kind of skill set available and how much time it might take to hire, train and hit the ground while making key capacity expansion decisions. For instance, imagine how awesome it could be for the business if the CHRO based out of the global head-quarters in Milan would be able to substantiate that the cost involved in moving the manufacturing for a specific product line to “Geography A” would cost a sum which is x% lower than expanding the same in the facility in “Geography B”, due to availability of specific skill sets. It would be possible to calculate governmental rebates on employer taxes, and turnover/absenteeism with exact dollar figures using predictive models. This will be the power of analytics drawn from a Globally Integrated HR system.

Another nascent, yet extremely interesting ERP technology trend with a huge potential is “Wearable ERP”. This is something that I will explore in my next article.