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The feeling of being out of your element is often nerve-wracking. I thought this might be the case for my colleague, Reid Paquin, and me earlier this month as we attended Kronos Works 2014. If you are unfamiliar with us, read our bios because we are very cool people (no bias here). But, the anxiety was due to ‘non-HR’ analysts like ourselves getting dropped into one of the most well attended HR user conferences in 2014. Concepts like time and attendance, scheduling, absence management, payroll, and hiring appeared on almost every session description. We are intelligent people, but these terms don’t get thrown around as much in our research worlds as topics like field service, remote resolution, spare parts, EH&S, and product development. But to our shock [just a tiny bit of hyperbole], three technology trends were highlighted during the event which also resonate throughout our research:

  • See beyond the cloud. The battle between cloud and on-premise deployments of technology continues to rage on. But we don’t believe this is the important question. Technology firms should not force behavior on customers, the goal should be to support customers to maximize the value of technology; not a deployment strategy.
  • Customers want you to hear their voice. The use of customer portals to capture feedback, disseminate knowledge, and engage loyal brand advocates has become a valuable channel of interaction.  Technology, products, and customer sentiment evolve too quickly for no one to listen to the buyers. Organizations are beginning to understand that sending out an annual survey is not adequate to transform at the speed of the customer. Vendors and their customers need to view each other as strategic partners to drive successful (much like we are seeing in the manufacturing/service world).
  • Mobile technology is here to stay. The emergence of mobile technology is not just a consumer driven phenomena. The use of mobile devices (i.e., smartphones, tablets) has led to the ability to monitor, empower, and engage workers which are no longer locked in a cubicle. These mobile tools often get the publicity of being The Next Big Innovation, when the true value is actually somewhere in between hype and transformation. The research backs it up… the ability to do more while in the field or on the manufacturing floor is what makes mobility truly a game changer.

The lesson at this event, as is the case at other shows and within other industries, is that what is most important is the customer. And ultimately, the path to better customer service is the employees that are the engine of business. All functions must be dedicated to providing the tools and resources to solve customer problems and make their lives easier.  In this sense, HCM, manufacturing, and service are well aligned now and into the future.

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