Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Social networking tools (like Twitter) returns the advocate to customer service

When I was 16 too long ago, having just started driving in my bullet nose 1947 Studebaker, I got pulled over for slightly speeding late one night. When the policeman asked for drivers license and flashed his light first on it and then on my face, he then flashed the light on his face and laughingly said: “Lexy, you were about five miles over the speed limit. I’m not writing you a ticket. Go home.” It was Bobby Rollins, the older brother of my girlfriend who lived across the street. He knew I was really a good kid, and let me off with just a warning.

When I bought my first house and went to my bank for a loan, where I’d been banking for MANY years, despite not really having the right credit history, the manager approved my loan. He knew I would be good for the loan. Today that seldom happens as you can’t get past the system-based rules to a person who will take the time to review your history and the situation.

But wait….perhaps social networking aids….true collaborative aids may be playing a role today and bringing back a person who will be your advocate.

Two days ago, I got a letter from American Express telling me that I’ve been put in the penalty box for missing a payment (heavy duty charges, a year's worth of onerous interest), a situation that immediate raised my ire and made me want to cancel my Amex card. Now, since I pay my bills in full, the onerous penalty wouldn’t apply, but there was a principle here for me. As a member in good standing since 1973, I was hurt. Particularly since I never got a bill!

I blasted my ire on Twitter and copied @AmericanExpress.

I received two kinds of responses: 1) lots of people saying similar things had happened to them and how they had handled it. 2) #AmericanExpress on Twitter encouraged me to #AskAmex. I did, and through the afternoon worked with one of their Social Media Inquiry people. (Yes, PEOPLE. American Express has a team on Twitter assigned to address issues for its customers.) If you look at #AskAmex, you will see the bio of the team: Now tweeting, Beth (B), Nadir (N) and Rachel (R) from 9AM-5:30PM ET M-F. When we’re not tweeting we enjoy cooking, football and spending time with family. Through DM, I was guided by them to go to my online account and send an inquiry with “my facts.” I did, and within a short time, I received the kind of letter that someone with a 35+ year good history with American Express feels she deserves. It started with: Thanks for taking the time to contact me via email. I can definitely understand how frustrated you would be with this situation. I have reviewed your account and have taken care of everything. It ended with: It was my pleasure to assist you. Have a happy and a healthy new year!

A real person handled this situation in a compassionate and expeditious manner! Wow….that sure doesn’t happen when one tries to get through phone menu hell. Not that I’ve had to contact American Express…perhaps its phone services are equally good, but I’ve had the occasional mishap with mobile services and have lost a credit card or two over the past 40 years, to be totally frustrated by the process of remedying the issues with the respective providers.

So, thank you American Express. And, especially thank you to the Social Media Inquiry group at AskAmex. And, I’m totally stoked on the power of social media! For me, it has returned me to the good old days of PEOPLE who support you when stuff happens. I feel like the group is my friend!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A look back enables a prediction for the future of HCM technologies

I was reading Jim Holincheck's 20 and 10 year look back, plus his predictions for today and 10 years from now. It got me thinking about my past as a futurist, working at the Institute for the Future and my time working with Patty Seybold.. OK...briefly, I've been working over 40 years, started as a programmer at Bank of America, then a couple of mutual fund companies, worked internationally at Dupont in Switzerland, then Stanford University Hospital and started my consulting work in 1980 at SRI International, followed by IFTF, then Patty, some time on my own and then The Hunter Group which has morphed into Cedar and now CedarCrestone. Up until Hunter, I used to change jobs every four years, but this has been a place where instead of leaving, I can evolve my work. But whew....that's a lot of work!

Anyway...when I started consulting work, it was as an adviser about office automation. IBM, Digital Equipment, Wang, Hewlett-Packard, Xerox and others all had these word processors or computers that evolved into integrated systems by adding data processing, email, decision support. To make a long story short about what happened....eventually, the functionality of all these vendors' office automation offerings looked alike, and here's the important part: the ONLY differentiation was the service and support the vendor or consultants provided!

Thinking about what Jim says...that MISO (Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and Oracle) will lose one over the next 10 years but gain one from today's ranks of business application vendors...maybe SalesForce, Workday, or Google? (MIGO?? maybe? or GISO??) Based on my old experience, I think the ones that survive and thrive in the business applications arena, including HCM, will do so because they get the IMPORTANCE OF SERVICE AND SUPPORT and all that is conveyed within. IBM already gets this. Oracle and SAP may start to bundle maintenance (just one part of service and support)into annual subscription packets and at least one will do fine. Microsoft if it is to evolve as an application provider must understand the importance of service and support to really play bigger time in the enterprise realms. And, Google, absolutely must get this. I watch all these companies that have great technical people developing custom solutions based on Google Apps or Sharepoint and watch the fact that these developers really don't get great leverage within their organizations because they don't understand that there is also change management needed to institutionalize solutions. And change management, consisting of all those things like project management, training, communications, building stakeholder commitment, etc. etc. is one of the most important parts of service and support. Hmmm, now that I think about it, even Oracle and SAP don't really get the importance of change management with their own service and support offerings, unless one pays arms and legs. Fortunately, they have great ranks of implementation/consulting companies like ours.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Giving yourself permission not to finish frees up energy - another quilting/work intersection

Last year I took a class from a world renowned quilter for a week. It's my gift to myself each year to spend a week learning something new at the Empty Spool seminars. By the way, if you've never gone, it's a wonderful way for quilters to learn! This year though, the teacher, wasn't my kind of teacher. For me, not very affirming. I digress here a bit, but I've noticed that sometimes great artists are really not great teachers -- some are great at promoting themselves and their work rather than encouraging and teaching students. I think I've had a few bosses like that as well. I digress.

During the holidays, is my time to renew myself with family, friends, and quilting. I've noticed, however, that in my studio I have a few UFOs -- a quilter's term for "unfinished objects." I like to think of myself as not a quitter -- as someone who finishes what I start. The UFO from that class, I've decided will never be finished as originally planned at that class. And, oh feels good to recognize that. I declare it totally unfinishable! Of course, I will go through some doubts: 1. Is it unfinishable because my techniques are not up to it? 2. Is it unfinishable because I didn't like the teacher and she did not help me to excel? 3. Is it unfinishable because.... You know what, I don't need to know the reason. What I do know is that by declaring that one effort unfinishable,I feel ever so much more creative! Plus, it frees up one of my favorite fabrics that I want to use in another quilt project that is to be a gift for dear friends.

So, how does this intersect with my work life? Well...getting closer to retiring, I could declare my work career at an end, but I'm not ready for that, although the lesson I will take here is that when I do it will because declaring an end to work will free up energy for other loved activities and efforts. I think the better intersection is that sometimes we are asked to do things that should not be asked. For those, we have to stand up for our beliefs and redirect our efforts. What do you think?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My predictions for 2010 (Global, Business Intelligence, and SOA)

William Tincup asked a bunch of people in our HR technology arena to make predictions for 2010 and I rose to the challenge. All the big HR technology analysts from IDC, Gartner, Forester, etc. have made predictions about the steep projected increase of adoption of cloud computing/SaaS, social networking, mobile devices being bigger than PCs, etc. etc. So, I thought I'd get a big more granular and talk about three trends I see from reviewing our CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey data -- my little corner of the world (or at least my world):

1. The trend towards “going global” with a single instance of a core HRMS and common processes will escalate rapidly. I think the past year of economic downturn has focused large global organizations on cutting costs, more than ever, by moving to a single workforce system of record and rationalizing processes. I do see that they are being much wiser in the process rationalization and realizing that some processes really do need variations by country or business unit. Processes like workforce administration, compensation and performance management which have been handled first will be followed by recruiting and learning management.

2. The trend towards adopting business intelligence and managing with metrics will take two forks as the market moves towards higher levels of adoption. One fork will be a continued adoption of BI middleware technologies such as Oracle’s OBIEE, along with packaged analytics solutions such as OBIA/HR Analytics. The other fork is one taken somewhat out of frustration in that the first fork is expensive and takes total organization commitment. This second fork is towards adopting a SaaS solution. This one leads organizations again towards packaged analytics solutions and I personally think is a temporary blip (until organizations get that they really need to institutionalize the delivery of metrics and need some heavy lifting technologies), but it will make many of the SaaS analytics providers look very good for the coming year.

3. SOA suites will take off. Given that so many large organizations have an HRMS from Oracle or SAP, these organizations have already started adopting SOA middleware. They have gotten how valuable it is to address certain processes with automated support. Pulling from the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey for 2009: Early adopter industries such as financial services are already using SOA technologies for core banking and to integrate disparate information sources to provide business intelligence. Higher education institutions, typically a laggard industry, are using SOA to integrate students with funding sources and to hook them up with back office services. SOA, most typically used for onboarding activities, will take off with other processes such as seniority handling, terminations (if these continue), and other work-life processes not already automated with the actual packaged applications.