Further info and resources from my website

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Learning Management: 3 years on and Cornerstone still beats Workday

It was exactly three years ago, almost to the day, that Workday launched its long-awaited Learning module in an attempt to plug the last hole in its integrated HRIS offering.

At that time I was advising a Swiss-based company in their selection of a new global HRIS tool and as part of that exercize I was regaled with a first peek at Workday Learning. At the end of the demo, my client, the global VP of HR, whispered into my ear, "That's all they offer? Why pay so much for so little?" I whispered back, "Agree. You can get much more from YouTube...for free!"

A great admirer of Workday's since its inception, I was underwhelmed by what I saw. Basically, it wasn't much more than  the ability to post videos, index them based on a limited set of criteria such as recommendations or availability. The enrollment  process was very basic. Nothing on a full training  or budget management process without which no decent multinational would even consider changing its LMS (Learning Management System.) Considering how strong the other Workday modules are, especially Core HR and Compensation and even the recent addition then of Recruiting, there was nothing Cornerstone, the undisputed Learning leader, had to worry about, I told myself.

Three years later, have things improved markedly? Has Workday narrowed the gap with Cornerstone? Not even by a nano-inch. Workday Learning far from reaching maturity is nowhere to be seen: Apart from the odd customer, you never come across anybody willing to use it. You never hear of consultants trained on Workday Learning or on companies looking for Workday Learning resources. Why would they since there is no interest on implementing what for all intents and purposes is an empty shell? Better spend time, resources and effort interfacing Workday Core HR with Cornerstone whose offering can reach into every single nook and cranny of an LMS project.

Even Workday itself uses for its own learning...Cornerstone! If they can't even drink their own champagne (or eat their own dog food - have your pick of what metaphor is more appropriate) this  clearly signals a resounding failure on the part of a vendor that has gone from strength to strength since it was founded almost 15 years ago.

Hasn't time come to reach the logical consequence: Pull the plug on a dud and...make a bid to merge with or acquire Cornerstone. The two companies share a similar culture, are both based in California (although Santa Monica and Pleasanton are not exactly next-door neighbors), are similarly acknowledged as the leader in their core offering and enjoy enthusiastic loyalty from their customers. Definitely the best of both worlds. Should it happen, you heard about it here first!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Hell on Earth: How mankind will be wiped out

Flying from Barcelona, I landed in Paris  at 4 pm last Thursday, on time to be apprised that the city I've known since my birth had broken a record: 42°C. Half an hour later this record was itself broken when we reached 42.6°CFrance’s crumbling infrastructure was in full display on the RER line linking the two city airports as service was interrupted for several hours, and when it resumed the absence of air conditioning and Saharan temperatures meant several people fainted. 

A taste of things to come.

Like most, I always wondered how civilization would come to its end.

You read it here first.This is how mankind will be wiped out: steadily rising temperatures until life becomes untenable on Earth. Our only hope is to find another planet we can move to and screw up in turn. 

Hopefully, by then I would have "shuffled off this mortal coil", to quote the immortal Bard's words. 

Carpe planetam, one feels like adding. While it lasts. 

The blogger is a great admirer of Hieronymus Bosch, whose works in Madrid's Prado Museum have delighted him for the past three decades 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

#StopBullying: Naming and shaming companies that use bullying as a management technique

How ironic that it it was on May Day, International Labor Day (except in some exotic countries such as the U.S. of A.) that an article was published in French satirical weekly, Le canard enchaîné, denounging bullying by employers. This is a great piece of investigation as it provides concrete examples of how a French multinational, banking giant BNP Paribas (BNPP), sets about mentally torturing the employees it wants to get rid of on the cheap (a screnshot of the French-language article is provided below.)

For non-French readers, here's a recap of the most egregious acts of such a lovely management practice:

  • Stopping inviting the employee to key meetings 
  • Demoting employees and erasing them from the organizational chart
  • Whereas other same-rank employees have their own office, sending the bullied employee on "open-space exile" 
  • If the employee happens to belong to a minority, let them know in no uncertain terms diversity (at least of their kind) is not welcome
  • For those who still don't "get it",  cutting the variable compensation they were entitled to: when you realize that, without your annual bonus, your compensation has been reduced by half, you usually start packing.

Nothing new under the sun, you might say. Nine years ago, almost to the day, I published High-Tech Planets: Secrets of an IT Road Warrior, where I denounced  such corporate shenanigans by the French subsidiary of an IT multinational. Actually I even dedicated my book to the vicitms of such corporeate behavior. How sad to see that such a practice continues unabated.

Does it?

In the case of BNPP, it is unclear that the bank reached its objectives of saving on layoffs. Unlike a decade ago, employees can now initiate legal action with greater chance of winning and some BNPP employes did just that quite successfully. After taking his case to court, the employee whose bonus was refused ended up getting €150,000. The one who was demoted was compensated to the tume of €351,000. As for the employee who was let go because of his sexual orientation the court awarded him a  whopping €600,000.

Which beggars the following thought: Wouldn't it have been better for BNPP to do the decent thing? There is nothing intrinsically wrong about reductions in force if current business circumstances so dictate: have an honest communication with affected employees and, if they have to be let go, pay them what they are owed. Same thing for low performers. Don't wait until the end of the year and the start of the appraisal process to "discover"somebody has been performing poorly throughou the year. If you do, it's the manager than who should take  the rap, not the employee. Find out why the employee is unable to reach their objectives (maybe those are unrealistic) and, if push comes to shove, and it becomes impossible to  retrain them/get them another position in consonance with their abilities, then sure let them go...compensating them as the law dictates.

Before this virtuous behavior becomes ingrained in corporate life, I'm afraid many more employees will go through hell, some even committing suicide (I had such a case in my book - a star in the company who was left no choice but to take their own life), many more court cases and newspaper articles will emerge, more naming and shaming will be necessary. 

Yes, name 'em and shame 'em. 

Last year it was #MeToo denouncing sexual harassment. This year it's #StopBullying.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Fighting political corruption - Brazil vs France


I recently came back from one of my regular stays in my home away from home in Brazil. On the very day that I arrived in Rio de Janeiro there was only one headline news topic: Former president Michel Temer had been arrested on corruption charges. (During my last stay in December my Copacabana neighborhood only gossiped about another fallen leader, former Renault-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, whose swanky Nissan-owned penthouses, just a couple of blocks away from mine, was being searched and confiscated.)

I couldn't help compare the situation in Brazil with the one I left behind me in France.
As the below diagram shows, Brazil isn't shy about firing its leaders or putting them behind bars when caught rend-handed. There is little doubt that there is more corruption in Brazil than in France but then why is there more tolerance in France? Back in 2011 I wrote a blog post denouncing France's Real crimes, Fake justice when former President Chirac was condemned to 2 years in jail but...never set foot in one!

Like Lagarde, Juppé was rewarded for committing crimes: President Macron just nominated him
to the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court. Yes, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you:
he who is going to ensure people uphold the country's top law is himself a convicted felon. 

Could it be that this old, wealthy "democracy"'s political system is so rotten at the core and despises its citizens to such an extent that it doesn't even pretend to have a clean justice system? I am more and more inclined to think along those lines based on facts such as those summarized below. Actually, if you wonder why I put "democracy" between quotation marks it is because i stopped  a long time ago to believe in representative democracy and, 7 years before the Yellow Vests movement took France by storm calling, among other things, for direct democracy I advocated the exact same thing in my blog post on DirDem vs RepDem as I called the old and new political system.

The lesson one can draw from this situation is that, contrary to appearances, a young, chaotic, developing country such as Brazil can teach those most established so-called democracies a lot. It always makes me laugh to hear "First" World leaders pontificate and give advice to their "Third" World counterparts, oblivious to the Biblical injunction that before seeing the mote in others' eyes, they should remove the beam in their own eyes.

(Other blog posts exposing the shortcomings of the French political system include, in addition to the ones mentioned above, the following:
- October, 2018: The Increasingly Undemocratic French Constitution
- May 2017: Thoughts on the French presidential election
-May 2012: Good riddance, Sarkozy!)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Of cars and HR software: Metaphor-based HRIS tips

Remember that great song "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?" from that wittiest of musicals, My Fair Lady? Well, for the past couple of decades that I have been in the HR technology industry, I have been asking myself a similar question: Why can't my HR software be like a car? Throughout my career I have peppered my articles, presentations and meetings with car metaphors to drive the various points I was trying to make. (Here's the scene from the 1964 movie with Rex Harrison singing, well more like uttering, the song.)

You'll find hereafter some of the most frequent ones. Note that most would apply to enterprise software, not HR only; however, since I am an HR technology person through and through, you'll hardly be surprised that's my focus.

System Evaluation
This is the oldest car-metaphor case I can recall, having used it for at least 20 years. In the latest 1990s when I started out as an HR system analyst-cum-consultant spending most of my time advising French companies on which HR system to select, I would use this metaphor quite often. Actually so much that I put it early on in my book, High-Tech Planet. Here's the relevant excerpt of the metaphor which I still use to warn my clients off including ever single product specification whim that might cross their mind just because "it can be useful."

Having four wheels on a car rooftop is certainly useful in case the car were to turn over; but since no car maker offers that, it would be a waste of time to include that feature in a list of requirements, especially when every business process is now available in a computer system developed, sold and serviced by countless companies. Delphi Tech was one of such companies. Actually, it was more than just one of them. It was the biggest, the largest, the best-known one: indeed, as Dick claimed, Delphi had to a large extent created the business of corporate software, or at least contributed to its development. It was, as Dick would say, the Rolls-Royce of computer systems.  (High-Tech Planet: Secrets of  an IT Road Warrior, 2010 edition, p. 3.)

I also warn against using SIs (system implementers) as selection advisors for obvious reasons: SIs tend to focus on one or two systems; many, especially the boutique ones, are actually one-trick ponies. If you only have experience driving one or two cars, you will only recommend those ones. Or using research firms like Gartner who have limited, if any, HRIS implementation experience. This is like recommending a car based on several great features, but forgetting to ask the prospective buyer whether they can drive.

And beware overkill: When famed French soccer club Paris-Saint-Germain bought Workday, considering their small headcount and limited resources, it was clearly like buying a huge bus just for you, your wife and your two kids. Or like buying a Lamborghini to avoid walking on your driveway to your mailbox and back.

Finally, I strongly advise against falling for what I call the "critical capabilities" trap. If you only focus on these, you are likely to overlook other useful aspects and not be able to really pick the system that is best for you. Such an approach is as smart as when buying  a car to look only at the number of wheels and car paint. Three cars can all have the same features (tires, automatic transmission, air conditioning), but when you use them you will know which one is better. 

Product Design
As someone who spent a big chunk of his career in product strategy and management roles (at PeopleSoft and Fidelity Investments' HR Access) I am still amazed at how HR system  vendors make a point to diverge on fundamental design choices. If SAP decides that one process will require different screens, you can be sure that Oracle would prefer to have just one screen (albeit a long one obliging the user to scroll down endlessly) while Workday would probably prefer to have several tabs on the same screen. This can be very confusing for users who, as part of their daily HR tasks, have to toggle back and forth between several HR applications. Wouldn't it be nice if they were all designed along similar lines? 

Just imagine that if Ford puts the brake pedal to the left of the accelerator, so Renault puts it to the right. If BMW  uses a steering wheel to enable the driver to move the front wheels, so everyone else must use levers and sticks and chains. T
here would be almost no learning-curve effects either from a manufacturing or a usability perspective. And yet, HR software vendors do exactly that, which is quite insane, especially when you know that the musical-chairs game so prevalent among software executives means it's basically the same folks who oversee products across companies. 

Change Management
What many end-user companies are still grappling with as part of their new HR system implementations, especially in the cloud, is the right mix between configuration and training which now goes by the fancy name of change management. As I often tell my client, redoing you car's body and changing the engine would be of little use if the driver is incompetent. If you never learned to drive, buy a BMW and then crash it into a wall , how is that the car maker's fault? 

And when a client insists on implementing the same inadequate process again and again, I warn them against reinventing the flat tire.

HR System Implementation
There are many companies that in their move to cloud HR adopted the approach whereby they start with the low-hanging fruit of talent modules before, like an afterthought, implementing Core HR. More often than not, the added complexity doesn't make up for the lower risk. Core HR is your HRIS engine, without it your global HRIS simply won’t work. It is like trying to drive without a steering wheel: you’re not going to go far.

Discussing the Implementation phase one is often reminded that the Design phase seems never to have been closed since users will always try until the very last moment (and even after!) to change the design. This is very dangerous and akin to changing the tyre while driving the car: recipe for disaster.

Cloud/SaaS HR for the dummies
Surprising as it may seem, there are still many corporate executives involved in on-premise-to-cloud transition projects who are still struggling with the cloud concept. This is where I probably make the most of the car metaphor. Starting at the evaluation stage, I warn my clients about  dinosaur vendors like Oracle who try to make us believe that they can tweak on-premise PeopleSoft into a cloud offering. It's like saying that if you affix wings to a car and add  a pointed nose along with powerful reactors, and find a way to hide the wheels, you can turn a car into a plane. It just won't fly - in more sense than one.  

Or putting a new body on a  30-year car. Would you fall for that?

If you still decide to take the risk to adopt half-baked products, then be prepared to fork out the funds needed to have onboard several consultants for a long period of time and whose function will be to fix the inevitable bugs and issues that are bound to arise. Remember that when the first automobiles came, owners needed to hire a mechanic full-time because those first cars had a bad habit of always breaking down.

For those who can't wrap their head around capex and opex (that's capital and operation expenditure to you) I explain that Saas is like leasing a car versus buying it. When they compare that with the millions they used to pay upfront just for the honor of being an SAP or Oracle customer, these executives' eyes brighten up immediately.

One car metaphor I used a lot when the cloud model arrived, and less so now as the cloud has gone mainstream, aimed at helping users to understand the key difference between traditional ERP (on-premise) and the cloud (SaaS based.) In order to convince the pro-ERP camp I explained to them they can't stop progress.  When automobiles arrived, they coexisted for a while with horse-drawn carriages before these got ditched because everybody saw that cars were faster and more practical. As an early advocate of the cloud model, against Oracle's (in)famous scorning of the cloud, I am glad to see that I eventually was vindicated by the market. (See my Jan. 2011 article, "Can software dinosaurs reinvent themselves as cloud-based vendors?")

One concept that, surprise, surprise, dinosaur vendors  try to push is the hybrid system of on-premise + SaaS system supposed to work in perfect harmony like hybrid cars. I debunk it by pointing that it's like saying, "Oh you don’t like the engine in your car, no problem, we can remove it for you and attach the car to two horses instead." Really!

Another fallacy about hybrid HR systems is that customers are led to believe that it's the best of two worlds. Come on! Will you really buy half of a Porsche and couple it with half of a Ferrari? 

SaaS, a relatively new concept,  is often confused with BPO (outsourcing the full process, be it payroll or recruiting.) When a client tells me they are not sure whether they should move to a SaaS  vendor or a BPO one, I tell them they are mixing things: First of all, you have to analyze and make a decision whether you want to run your full process inhouse or out. And only then can you decide, if inhouse, whether Saas or on-premise; and, if outsourced, then what vendor. In car terms, it is like saying, " I’m tired, I can’t walk to work, so I’ll invest in either a bike or a car." Well, they are two different tings, you should be either comparing bike/motorbike or motor bike/car but a bike vs. a car doesn't make sense. Like the proverbial apples and oranges.

Of second-hand cars
Of  course, no car metaphor would be complete without the time-honored used-car example. When Oracle provides its prospects with heavy discounts to adopt Fusion, I remind them that you get what you pay for: If the price of a second-hand car ("used car" to most Americans) is too good to be true, it's probably because it is neither good nor trueAlso, you buy a second-hand car if  you’re a good mechanic (in HR technology words, you have enough in-house skilled resources), because then you can fix it. Otherwise, you’re on your own: Compare this with the first-automobile and mechanic metaphor a couple of paragraphs before.

I could spend gazillions of pixels and tire your eyes out of their sockets decrying software sales tactics (the object of my aforementioned book.) One particular tactic which I recently saw  on a global HRIS project with payroll outsourcer ADP was when the vendor stated they were willing to bid with SAP SuccessFactors Core HR (Employee Central) but on the condition that my client bought two payrolls from ADP. 
I shot back at them, "How would feel if your car dealer offered to sell you a car only if you accepted to also buy two bikes?"

Vendor Management
Despite the Buyer Beware motto, customers  are entitled to escalate issues, especially when a promised feature is not working as touted in sales demos - or, worse, is not available. However, I find it misguided from some customers to focus on minor issues while not seeing the bigger picture. It is akin to buying a car that is  bigger, nicer and faster and yet spend an inordinate amount of time on small imperfections. As in life in general, you should choose your battles wisely: know which ones are worth fighting, and which ones should not be launched.


This is the latest in an HRIS Selection & Implementation Tips series. Previous posts included:
- April 2018: Cloud HR Implementation Tips: Focus on Migration
- Jan. 2016:  Pricing and Contracting with Your Cloud Vendor: Tips and Tricks
- Jan.2013:  An HR leader's Top 10 New Year's Resolutions

(The fact that the blogger-analyst-consultant has been spending the better part of the last year and a half on implementing a new global HRIS for one of the world's largest car makers is obviously a cute coincidence, since I have been using these metaphors for two decades now.)