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Is Your CIO Missing an HR Opportunity?

by Dave Hannon

October 9, 2012

By Dave Hannon

I'm never really surprised to hear that succession planning is not a top priority in functional business units. For example, today Robert Half Technology released a survey indicating nearly 80% of CIOs haven't identified a successor in the event they have to stop work unexpectedly.

But when you think about it, why would they? If they have to stop work unexpectedly, it means they've either 1. Left the company for a better job 2. Retired 3. Had a medical issue or 4. Been fired or laid off. And in none of those scenarios is the performance of their prior organization a top priority (I suppose you could argue "retirement" but I know a few retirees and none of them seem all that concerned about how their successors are performing).

But while the CIO might not be ready to pick his or her own successor, they are in an extremely advantageous position to help their company fill the talent pipeline. Because information -- and information technology -- has a very big role in managing talent today.

As SAP's Oliver Conze, vp of solution management, points out in this insiderPROFILES article, to manage talent needs "you need the right information. And as we all know, with so much information out there, we can’t do it on our own. Choosing technology that caters and adapts to your business processes, not vice versa, is key. We need technology that has effective analytical capabilities built- in so that we can construct the best strategy for our organization. With this technology, we can predict, execute, monitor, and analyze to make the correct decisions for our organization’s success."

This pro-technology message has been received in the HR organization -- to a certain extent. According to a survey earlier this year from Towers Watson, 31% of organizations polled planned to increase or significantly increase their investment in HR technology this year. But when you drill down into SAP users, the pro-technology message has only gotten so far.

According to the Towers Watson survey: "A surprising percentage of organizations running SAP have not fully developed upgrade plans ... 40% of organizations running SAP’s enhancement pack 4 or earlier do not know what an enhancement pack is or don’t have plans for it."

And THAT's a missed opportunity that the CIO can rectify. Educating the HR organization and ensuring that their organization's HR technology -- and all of its IT -- is updated to best leverage the latest functionality is a key component of the CIO's job. While HR might not always be thought of as an IT-centric organization, the CIO and the rest of the IT organization needs to pay it the proper due and get those systems updated because a company is only as good as its people. 

Of course, there's much more to HR than IT. And to that point, Towers Watson cautions, "Companies that rely solely on technology to implement their programs will be far less effective than those that deploy it as simply one part of a more holistic plan. Leaders must provide strategic input, and managers need to steer programs using proper processes, governance and the necessary metrics."

But there's certa inly a good argument here for the vice president of HR and the CIO to have lunch together once in a while, isn't there?

As always, I welcome your thoughts and opinions. 

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