Gartner predicts that 70% of workforce analytics projects will fail by 2012. By definition, this also includes HR BI. Are we really that inadequately prepared for pretty simple HR reporting implementations? There are lots of good examples of successful HR Business Intelligence implementations and happy customers, but normally only bad experiences break the news.
What does it mean when in the Gartner’s survey (2010 Gartner Executive Programs CIO Survey) BI has been dropped from 1 to 5 in CIO’s technology priority ranking? In my opinion it merely does not mean that BI is dead nor its importance is considerably lower than before. In my experience this means that CIOs and business are expecting BI investments to be much more productive and bring tangible value by helping more rapidly to recognize and tackle business issues. BI investments have been made and now it is time for results.
I have been in BI HR implementations where the business has been in a driver’s seat and the project has been successful primarily due to a clear focus in utilizing the technology for business users, rather than the other way round.
Having said that, I have also witnessed at one customer a situation where business has been so dominant in leading its HR BI implementation that they have simply forgotten to involve their internal IT people in the first place. Once the project will go-live or internal support is increasingly required, there is immediately a gap in skills available vs. expected.
Personally, I don’t think that implementing human resource metrics based on business warehouse technology is rocket science or requires extraordinary skills. As in every IT project, you also need to have a good project plan to identify your key business goals and tightly link business and IT resources together.
What is a successful HR BI project?
You can call it a success story, if you can distribute required HR KPIs via an on-line web user interface for selected key user groups including managers, executives, HR and even controllers. Data is properly authorized per role, you can rely on it and it is available 24/7. The system performance is good and data is uploaded automatically from source system(s) and consolidated. At the same time you can scale up the solution in the future and make system changes flexibly reflecting business changes. Yes, then it can become the success story.
HR reporting implementations can become challenging, if customers have not carefully analyzed what they really want to measure. On the other hand, technology is not anymore the bottleneck, neither is the availability of technical consultants. One of the key challenges is to have someone who would understand both worlds: HR metrics and processes together with business warehouse technology.
What do you need, then?
You need people and technology; skilled BI people with good BI technology competences. But even more important: you need skilled people with good BI technology competences who truly understand what are an organization’s burning HR business demands. Then are they capable of providing a solution that satisfies business needs.
Yes, I know. It sounds simple on paper, but it is not that easy to manage in reality. Why? Because of people, not technology. Because it is all about people knowing what to do and how to do it – and having good leadership enabling results. What is the most difficult task in business? Yes, leading and managing people. So to run successful BI projects in HR (and in any other business), you need capable managers to lead skilled people. Very easy and so difficult, but certainly not impossible.