I love this time of year. It’s a season of top industry events, starting with HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas and then HR Tech World in Europe, this year held in Amsterdam.

They were very different compared to previous years, but more on that later. What I came away from the events convinced of, is that HR is due for a lot more money and investment.  Despite the “back office” of business being an easy target for executive teams looking at a way to drive costs down, I believe that HR will buck the trend. Why? Well, because of the role of technology. Those who know me would say that of course I would say that.

So why, after a few days in Las Vegas and Amsterdam, do I feel more convinced of this than ever?

The business case

HR has long suffered with the stigma of not being able to create a compelling business case. Then, of projects overrunning and it being near impossible to measure the effectiveness of the results.

Technology is finally enabling firm business cases to be developed, specifically with the power of analytics. SaaS providers have the ability to crunch and analyze huge amounts of data across many organizations and regions to understand and measure the impact different initiatives have.

The reality is that the industry is in the early stages of our analytics journey. Vendors that understand that stronger business cases drive sales will continue to focus on this. Stronger business cases, means more money for HR.

The SaaS dream

Part of the SaaS dream is that an organization locks into a platform that is constantly improving and evolving, with ever-growing numbers of features and modules, so that they don’t need to switch their core HR platform every seven or so years.

The speed that new features and modules are delivered at by many SaaS providers is impressive. So much so, that I am hearing HR folks talk more and more about their changing roles. They are spending more time trying to understand what these new features really mean, if they turn them on and if so, how do they manage any change and communication required?

As automation removes many manual tasks, and HR teams spend more time understanding and driving people strategies informed and empowered by data, they will also spend more time understanding and benefitting from the array of transformational features offered by their different SaaS solutions.

The ‘fail fast’ philosophy

For many HR professionals I spoke to, selecting HR vendors is becoming increasingly difficult in many ways. Most of the large companies all claim to be a suite offering, regardless of their heritage, such as payroll, time and attendance or talent management. Most state they can do it all well.  So how does the HR professional really work out who to select and what for?

Well the good news is that the ‘fail fast’ business fad is very possible in HR. With the right core technology, it is possible now to implement new solutions – best of breed or suite bolt-ons. You will quickly see the evidence of their success, and if they don’t work (the analytics should tell you one way or the other) then you can switch it out and try a different technology to meet your objectives.

So, if thinking about your core HR solution, stay simple and stay flexible.

Final takeaways

And a last thought…. controversial I know, but I saw a lot more innovation in Europe than the US. Much of the conversation was the same, with lots of hype around AI, machine learning and analytics, and how each company’s approach was ahead of the competition. But what struck me is that there seems to be a lot more innovation and substance in the solutions provided by European companies, than those in the US. Food for thought as we move into 2018. When thinking about adopting transformational technology to really move the needle, take a look both sides of the pond.