Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing ?

Will HR in the Cloud destroy HR Outsourcing ? HR Transformer Blog
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Will ‘HR in the Cloud’ kill the HR Outsourcing industry  ?
 
Or, are the claims of the HR Technology industry in ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ ?
 
In Aristrophanes play, ‘The Birds’, written in 414 BC, “Cloud Cuckoo Land” was an unrealistically idealistic state where everything is perfect.
 
In our 2013 HR play, Ms HR Vendor helps the trusting Ms HR Director erect a perfect HR operating model in the clouds.
 
For HR Directors, this has the appeal of ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
 
Firstly outsource chunks of your HR services on a standardised platform.  Secondly, hand over responsibility for your HR systems to the same vendor.  
 
This service has been called BPaaS or ‘HRO in the cloud' and this report from Gartner, is worth reading on the topic –  From ‘BPO to BPaaS: HR Outsourcing calls for the cloud.
 
Will SaaS melt HR processes ? 
At the recent 2013 HRO Today Forum, in London, Mike Ettling, former CEO of largest global HR Outsourcing company, NGA HRcommented that the demand for HRO will decrease over the next few years.  In Mike’s view this is because  :-
 
“In the last 2 years we have seen the phenomenal rise of enterprise ready SaaS solutions in the HR industry.  The game changing impact of SaaS is the fact that SaaS is melting Business Processes.

In the past we designed our system around the process, now we have to design our process around the system.  There will be less scope for customisation.”
 
From this perspective, there will be less HR work in general and less outsourced work.  Not a good signal for the growth of the HRO industry.
 
For those interested, Matt Charney from Recruiting Blogs covered this panel debate well, in Transaction to Transformation: The Next Generation of Outsourcing  
 
HR SaaS – Practical Lessons from HR Buyers
In a separate session, Julie Fernandez from analysts ISG, provided some insights from HR Buyers, typically clients with > 10,000 employees. 
 
 
Amongst the trends and themes I picked up from Julie, were :-
 

- HR Buyers are cautious, ‘letting the dust settle’ on SaaS providers as they review their current HR Operating Models and future needs. 

- The rise and rise of Workday has actually breathed life into the HRO market – NGA HR, IBM and AON Hewitt are implementing or have HRO contracts using Workday software.

- HRO Buyers want both SaaS and services together, however are not willing to lose portal, chat, contact centre solutions that have been developed over last 10 years.  Expect HRO providers to develop solutions in this space. 

- There is a 15-20% HRO penetration level for orgs with >10,000 employees and there has been more new buyers in last 8 months than previous 2 or 3 years

- According to ISG, it seems HRO is not dead yet and in fact SaaS will actually stimulate market.

One of the HRO vendors told me that the Workday (SaaS) HRO deals are certainly smaller in size, which does tend to support Mike’s view on the impact of SaaS – it does reduce the HR work required.
 
Are the claims of the HR Technology industry in ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ ?
It is natural to have some healthy scepticism about the claims of the HR Technology providers on the latest generation of HR systems. (especially if you’ve had as many sleepless nights as me working on Transformation Programmes over the last 20 years!).
 
Haven’t we heard these promises from the HR Technology industry before ?    The claims are remarkably similar to the promise of ERP systems back in the 1990s.
 
That the new generation of software will be rolled out to willing managers enabling them to be more productive, more self-sufficient and  will help them manage their teams more efficiently.
 
Did the technology deliver the promises? Well generally, no.
 
One of the reasons that HR is no more strategic than back in 1995 is that HR Technology has not delivered the promises.  There are lots of other reasons why, and I refer to them in other posts “How to avoid HR Technology bogeys” and “Is your operating model fit for the future?”.
 
Part of the problem is that the software ultimately has to be used by those pesky human beings.  So we need good communications, training and support.
 
Isn’t SaaS or HR in the Cloud, just the ‘next wave’ of HR systems I hear you say?  We expect better functionality and usability in each new release, and HR Directors or managers don’t really care where the servers are located.
 
What is it about SaaS in particular that will drive such process standardisation compared to just another release of software ?  We still need to persuade employees to work differently. 
 
One of the great benefits of going with a SaaS solution is we do not have the expensive and time-consuming customisation fudges.
 
You get what you are given in terms of functionality and then configure for your organisation.  There will be a need to use the system provided for your HR Processes, and so there will still be change management required.  This will reduce the HR Service cycle times and the HR administration support needed – which is all good news as these savings can be spent on more value add activities.
 
Is SaaS a catalyst for more or less HRO ?
In my opinion, The 'size of the pie' will decrease (not as much as tech firms say) but the HRO slice will increase
 
In other words, there will be less work overall due to the benefits of implementing standard process, however, the proportion of work outsourced will stay the same or increase.
 
The drivers for RPO and HR Outsourcing will still be there.  Standard software will make transitions easier with consistent service levels – increasing the appeal of outsourcing.
 
Over the next couple of years we will see lots of activity with reviews of HR Operating Models, implementation of new HR systems, and more HR Outsourcing contracts. (and hopefully roughly in that order!)
 
The Workday marketing machine will get to your Board and you will need to have worked out your plan.
 
So as the 2013 HRO Today Forum ended, the HRO industry could be heard to mutter a collective breath of relief and echo Mark Twain,
 
"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated". 
    
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2 Responses to “Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing ?”

  1. HR in the Cloud: It won’t kill HRO, but it may kill what’s left of dysfunctional HR… Says:

    [...] blog penned by HR blogger-cum-consultant Andy Spence bearing the dramatic title  ”Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing“.   Oh yay – I like titles like [...]

  2. HR in the Cloud: It won’t kill HRO, but it may kill what’s left of dysfunctional HR… : Enterprise Irregulars Says:

    [...] an interesting blog penned by HR blogger-cum-consultant Andy Spence bearing the dramatic title  ”Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing“.   Oh yay – I like titles like [...]

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