How Cloud is transforming HR and work

December 14, 2016

The Cloud is transforming how we work. The initial change – and also the most obvious one – is the simplification of day-to-day transactions. By removing boundaries between divisions, functions and territories, the Cloud generates efficiency improvements, sometimes dramatic, to the durations and costs of transactional activities.

And once those barriers fall, the next change happens. Where the first change is about efficiency – doing the same things better – the second change is about effectiveness, about executing new tasks well. The driver behind this: shared data. As businesses share data more effectively via the Cloud, they substantially improve the quality of the decisions they make, and the speed with which they can make them.

The drive to the cloud

If that sounds like a compelling reason to move to the cloud, it is. In fact, the benefits of moving to the Cloud are clearly understood by business leaders. 73% of IT executives look to cloud technologies to change how new services are delivered and consumed.

But Cloud has another side, too: It’s disruptive.

The way the Cloud facilitates direct contact with consumers has driven the success of startups like Uber and Airbnb which effectively disintermediate existing business models. The response of established brands and enterprises is to emulate them and also move to the Cloud. For example, Walmart is pioneering drive-through pickup for online grocery orders as part of its omnichannel marketing initiative.

Change one: better work

But for all the noise in Silicon Valley, the influence of the Cloud spreads much further afield. Colin Keeler, Director of Financial Systems State of South Dakota describes how moving the state’s HR systems to the Cloud has massively benefitted those working for the state – about 18,000 benefitted individuals, with about two thirds of those being on the payroll.

For Colin, one of the compelling reasons for moving to the Cloud is the ability to “empower employees and their managers by putting their information under their own control”. These employees may be desk-working millennials, on their smart phones, but in South Dakota they are just as likely to be snow plow drivers and others working outdoors.

And the flipside for HR professionals? A chance to do something more important than data-driven HR work. When the workforce is dealing with its own transactions – from W4s to changing personal information and levels of direct deposits – the HR department can begin to deliver the strategic input that the business needs.

Change two: smarter work

And the business certainly needs strategic input, because the world of work is changing dramatically. The Harvard Business Review points to a future of four types of work. The least dynamic is what Cornell HR professor John Boudreau calls the “Current State”. The next is “Today, but Turbo-Charged” – a state more technologically enabled, and defined by its use of Cloud technologies. This is the first level of change, where the Cloud optimizes transactional activities.

Above this, Boudreau places an imagined future state which he calls “Uber empowered”, where decisions are made faster, and tasks are fulfilled with the optimal combination of skills from payroll and associate personnel.

This is the second level of change the Cloud brings about – where it transforms the business by securely sharing information both across the organization and outside it. This makes it possible to find the best resources for a task. Combine this ability to find talent with software to schedule it optimally against both personal circumstances and an increasingly complex set of scheduling regulations, and the result is a real edge for the business.

Move on up

Whether in whole or in part, organizations will inevitably move to the Cloud. The initial boost to efficiency makes a compelling case for improving transactions using the Cloud. Following that, organizations looking to move to Boudreau’s “Uber empowered” state will go on to take advantage of the second level of benefits that the Cloud brings.

Increasingly, organizations recognize these advantages, and also that those working for them are used to a connected lifestyle and would eventually push for the move to be made. As South Dakota’s Colin Keeler puts it, living in the Cloud has already become a part of life for employees. “We want to empower them,” he says. “It’s come to be expected in today’s world.” It seems that for many, moving to the Cloud is no longer an option.

Amy Ihlen, Senior Director of Product Management, Infor HCM

  • North America
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