“The Thing”

A few evenings ago, I settled down to watch episodes of the new AMC channel drama series “Halt and Catch Fire”. It takes place in the early 1980’s and is about a group of people who risk their jobs (and family life) by joining up with, and convincing the owner of a Texas based technology services firm that they can and will make it “big time” by reverse engineering the then hot IBM PC, and thus create a worthy competitor to IBM’s market dominance. It seems realistic and based on anecdotal history (think Dell).  I recommend the show. The lead character, a hot-shot salesman, at one point, is pitching his latest idea to investors. His idea, to make the IBM clone they are attempting to build,  a portable, “briefcase size machine, weighing no more than 15 pounds”.  Imagine that! During his attempt to convince an “investor” (before they were called Venture Capitalists), he corrects a comment made about the machine. He says – emphatically  “Computers are not “the thing”, they are the thing that gets us to “THE Thing!!” Got it? It took me a while, but the funny sounding almost “playful” dialogue captures an important concept. In my work, as an HR Technology Consultant  working at the intersection of Human Resources (or Human Capital Management) and technology (HR Technology, HRIS), this dialogue felt important, and at times clarifying-ly helpful. Therefore, my fellow “HR Technologists;” HR professionals, Human Capital Management professionals, HCM/HR technology software providers (and their staff of marketing and sales professionals), and yes, any person in an executive or managerial position, here is what struck me about that line. Indeed, computers are not “the thing” and neither is HR Software. The software is merely an effective “tool”, an “enabler”, a mechanism, to get to “THE thing”. I believe that HCM software’s features and functions, of any and all types, aligned with a visionary administrator in support of an equally visionary end user and senior executive who seeks “information” is the pathway to get to or achieve “the thing” for a company. So, what is “THE thing”? A simple answer – it is the end result. An improved, quantifiable betterment of any aspect of a company for which the component(s) of HR technology are in play, supporting the company’s practices procedures and mission/vision. The use of HR software technology, of any type, with any delivery mode, must be positioned as the key tool to support the visionary leader(s) of any organization, large or small, simple or complex, helping it to achieve the company’s “big thing” – whatever that is.  And most often, it is improved overall corporate performance – at any measure. By using delivered capabilities such as Employee and Manager Self Service,  Employee Portals, Workflows and Best Practices, portability, mobility of access/input, integration  with Social Media, and especially Workforce Analytics with dashboard and graphical displays of trends and forecasts, the funny sounding dialogue proves to be much more that just a play on redundant repetitive words. The understanding of the sentence’s meaning – when applied to the mindset of HR provider and user alike, becomes a great  message for all concerned about the role  of Human Resources or Human  Capital and its very important, useful and supportive technology. The thing is, (intended use, couldn’t resist) – the tools are already in place – provided by the HR technology community.  It just takes an understanding of “THE thing” for your company. Marc Miller July 29,...