Flashy HR Tech is in store for 2012 but will it be useful tech?

Guest post written by: Lance Haun

Those darned kids with their laptops and their iWhatevers and their telephones that play that mean bird game. When will they learn to grow up?

For folks who harken to the day when you had to go to a dedicated computer terminal to get HR information (or, dig through stacks of files and archive boxes), 2012 looks to be another brutal year of technological advancement in the HR software space.

The real, and maybe more important, question is what is all of this technology good for? Is it going to help me do my job better, easier and more quickly? Does it give me a strategic advantage over my competitors?

I look at three widely talked about (and flashy) technologies and rate their usefulness to HR folks.

The Cloud

No, not the things seen floating in the sky (with startling frequency here in rainy Seattle). The cloud is a software architecture model being used to build software, and in this case, HR software. With some legacy HR software, some of it is being foisted on the cloud to make it a bit easier to access across global business units and for software companies to help keep versions up to date rather than an on-premise version of the software.

Now if you’ve done any amount of traveling or opened up a new office in your HR career, you’ve probably encountered the difficulties of on-premise HR software. You have to either make a hard network connection to the office where your service is located or you (especially when traveling) get to tie into the company through a virtual private networking system (or just VPN for short).

If all of that’s confusing, welcome to one of the top reasons why software companies and clients are pushing toward cloud based solutions.

Of course, there are issues about access, security and control. And a good cloud based software provider should be able to help with some of that but you can’t take away every risk factor. And some HRIS and IT folks aren’t going to let it go down without a fight.

Verdict: Useful. Even if some HR software providers, especially in the enterprise software space, are supporting both on-premise and cloud based installs of their software, it opens up new access to companies who may not have been able to deal with an on-premise solution.

Mobile technology

Have you ever wanted to post a job from your iPhone or make organizational changes from your Android phone?

To coin the cliche: there’s an app for that. And 2012 will see more hit the market in the HR software space. There are a couple of glaring problems with moving into the mobile game though.

For one, input is an issue. From someone who has typed a blog post on a mobile phone (yes, a 650 word post on a touchscreen phone), you do not want to be inputting data. The most useful apps will have information access as the only real function (beyond perhaps approving job posts, organizational changes or payroll).

Another issue is security. Phones get misplaced. They are small, easy to lose. I’ve never lost a laptop but I’ve lost a phone. And I keep my laptop password protected (and any critical apps will require another password). You can do the same thing with your phone too but it seems less prevalent.

The last issue is development. Sure, development costs money either way but do you spend those hours building a dedicated app or a mobile enabled web interface? Or do you try to package a mobile web interface into an app? Dedicated apps almost always offer better user experience but a mobile web interface seems more future proof.

Verdict: Depends. It depends on what the technology is for. There will be some useful apps coming out in 2012 but not every one of them is going to blow your socks off. For simpler HR tasks, you can look to apps but you’ll still need to carry your laptop around.

iPad or tablet based technology

One of the hottest pieces of technology I’ve heard about is how HR software companies are putting apps onto iPads now. I’ve seen a few of them (and, as an iPad owner myself, am sort of interested in it).

Enthused as I might be, there are a couple of fatal flaws that aren’t going to be resolved in 2012.

For all of the greatness that is the iPad, the ability to input a lot of data is closer to a mobile phone than it is a laptop. Now, I’d rather write a blog post on an iPad than my mobile phone, but if I have to do any serious writing, I’m always bringing my laptop. So again, iPad apps are going to be too similar to mobile apps because nobody wants to type and edit a job description on an iPad.

The other problem is the risk of fragmentation. Now, the iPad dominates the market right now but it is still in its infancy in enterprise settings and there are still alternatives out there that could chip away (the Kindle Fire I got my wife for our anniversary has a permanent place in the living room now).

Verdict: Hype. It might be great to have, but it won’t be as robust as a version you can grab from your laptop and it won’t be that much different than the mobile version that would have thousands of more users.

What do you think? Will these flashy tech developments guide any of your purchases in 2012 or are you going to focus on the basics (and gladly accept any of the nice to have, flashy developments)?

@thelance
http://www.tlnt.com/author/lhaun/
Lance Haun is Community Director for ERE Media and Contributing Editor for TLNT.com. His background includes seven years of HR experience (primarily as a recruiter, generalist and manager) and five years of social media and blogging experience in the HR/Recruiting sphere. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, HR Magazine, Workforce Magazine, FastCompany, and BNET.com.

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