Softworld preview: Questions and answers with Mark Grice, IBM

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SoftworldAs part of our Softworld HR and Payroll exhibition preview, HR Zone posed questions to Mark Grice, Management Consultant, IBM Business Consulting Services, who'll be speaking on the subject of 'negotiating a software system with your supplier'. Find out more about the exhibition here.

HR Zone: Do you need a big budget to consider e-HR?

Mark Grice: I think that really depends on your aspirations and dimensions of your organisation. e-HR does not have to mean the 'all singing all dancing' solution. Having a clear strategy of what you want to achieve and the order in which you need to deliver the service/benefits to the business should help ensure that the your available budget is well spent.

HR Zone: Once you have selected a shortlist of potential suppliers, what sort of information will the supplier need to know in order to provide you with a suggested solution?

Mark Grice: Clarity is most important thing. If you are asking a supplier to work under a veil of secrecy you are never going to receive the solution for you. There are two paths to this. There is a choice of clarifying your own mind first regarding the rough size and shape of your implementation. This should include functionality and preferred technology. Or as a second option, work closely with a small set of suppliers to design a solution around their products. This can be seen as a compromise but may have some cost savings.

HR Zone: How should you expect your supplier to keep in touch with you once your HR system is in place?

Mark Grice: There are several different methods that you can expect to see. These range from Account Managers, telephone support through to the Internet.

HR Zone: Who needs to take responsibility for liaison with the supplier for maintenance?

Mark Grice: This depends on your organisation. There are seen several different structures that I have seen working well. It is important to ensure that the business has a strong voice in any conversations with the supplier. This maybe directly, or may be facilitated through the IT function. However, the identification and appointment of a hybrid systems manager that is able to articulate HR's requirements and aspirations to the supplier whilst having a relatively good understanding of the new technological advances available can help to ensure that the relationship with the your supplier is maximised.

HR Zone: What are the main factors determining differences in price between systems?

Mark Grice: Really it comes down to scope and flexibility. The more flexible systems typically come at the top end of the market. This flexibility usually covers functionality as well as technology. It is important to ensure that when picking a new system, careful consideration is taken regarding flexibility - the more flexible the system, the decisions are required during implementation.

HR Zone: How do you decide whether a standalone system or modular system is best for your organisation?

Mark Grice: If your company has a well defined strategy covering the development of the HR system, this will make the decision surrounding a modular system or a standalone system. Ultimately, all of the systems supporting the HR processes will need to be fully integrated. A modular system can make this easier, but you may have trade-offs regarding best of breed functionality. Likewise, you may choose a standalone system as a short term solution prior to the development of a large scale system. Which ever decision you make, it requires careful thought and consideration.

HR Zone: Why is jargon so common when people talk about e-HR?

Mark Grice: This queston makes me smile - I believe that e-HR is really about bringing technology and HR closer together. Historically, technology has always used acronyms and jargon, I just believe we are seeing an extension of 'tech-speak' in the HR arena.

HR Zone: What does your organisation expect the key developments of 2003 to be for e-HR?

Mark Grice: The key shift we are seeing is around integration and the provision of an integrated set of employee centric communication, collaboration and transaction services. Companies are now talking about holistic e-workplace intiatives rather than just eHR. Obviously eHR is still a key component of an e workplace, but the employee experience is one which role based and personalised and presents an easy to use, consistent user interface which masks the underlying technologies. These integrated approaches are focused on improving employee productivity, maximising existing IT investments, reducing overall costs (eg proliferation of intranet sites) and increasing the flexibility of workers.

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