Capturing the Cloud: Service Overtakes Features

By Dr. Katherine Jones

HCM products have reached a level of maturity in that the majority of suites provide the range of functionality needed to manage talent and the compliance issues of core HR. For the most part, they serve customers with global deployments more than adequately, and few lack key functionality in talent acquisition, onboarding, performance management, or succession and career development planning.  New products include AI — embedded intelligence that learns and provides decision-supporting conclusions to users in anticipation of an overall “intelligent enterprise” from the technology side.

In addition, the Cloud argument is over. Today’s vendors market products that are almost exclusively cloud-based, with just a few exceptions. The impact of service and maintenance in the hands of the solution providers rather than resting on customers has lead to easier adoption of new features, improved security and better accommodation of new releases.

So, if customers have most of the features they need and the infrastructure required to support it coming from their providers — what is missing today?

It’s not one and done…

The problem is threefold:

  1. Too often users and alas, the vendors that supported them, viewed the “go live” of a cloud implementation as the end point, rather than the beginning point, leaving customers hapless. While no one suggested that managing a cloud environment from the user perspective would be child’s play, few providers helped their customers adequately understand and prepare for the future management of this new world.
  2. Secondly, the systems integrators, long-trained as experts in on-premise deployments, lacked the re-education themselves to help their clients prepare for the on-going maintenance of cloud solutions in terms of policies and procedures that would help ensure success. The cloud is not on-premise on steroids — it is a different financial, delivery and conceptual model completely — post-deployment is the start — not the endpoint.
  3. While not restricted to cloud implementations, users need iterative education, a concept often lacking in fast-moving organizations. Rather than add-ons to their work, today’s users need to be trained and retrained as they work, requiring embedded tools to maintain productivity as often-rapid software changes occur. Consider predictive analytics — what they mean and how to use them cannot be assumed; corporate policies and user guidance must be core training areas for successful use of AI throughout HCM and other corporate functions. And training is another “not one and done” — employees change positions frequently, and often fail to get the same level of product training that their predecessors did.

Progress toward Real Service as a Service

Progressive providers and integrators understand the issues, and yes, progress has been made.  In May 2018, Oracle, for one, announced that its highest-level service, Platinum, would be the baseline support for all its Fusion-based Cloud suites, including Oracle HCM — at no added cost.  This fulfills the yesteryear promise of Software-as-a-Service delivery that the expensive ongoing maintenance costs would vanish. Which, until now, it never did. Perhaps naïve in their understanding of the complexity of corporate environments, the early pioneers of hosting and SaaS indicated that all support would fall back on the provider as part of the product, supporting the “one and done” deployment idea. Vendors are recognizing, albeit slowly for some, that success lies not in initial go-live, but in long term adoption, productivity gains and ROI.

While the vendors may understand the life-cycle support their products will require and can help their customers prepare for them, systems integrators and consultants are increasingly adapting their on-premise application and hardware integration strategies to accommodate multi-cloud integration, a horse of that proverbial different color.

Rather than thinking of support and service in the break-fix language of the past, today’s emphasis on service should be on understanding and easing the processes customers must create to smoothly manage an ongoing SaaS environment, likely comprised of multiple clouds.  One and done just doesn’t cut it.

 

Katherine Jones, Ph.D., HCM Analyst & Consultant

 

 

Dr. Katherine Jones is an independent HCM analyst, covering talent management, ERP systems and business strategy.