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HR execution: The key to real business value

Carina Shaw

Having been exposed to different corporate environments in the last decade, particularly in the human capital technology space, for a long time I’ve tried to get my mind around the amounts of money and time spent in implementing technology solutions to improve business performance.


Yes, it is necessary to spend significant time on gathering, articulating and interpreting your business’ requirements in the context of strategy and best practice. This is especially true within large enterprises where different opinions, priorities and agendas need to be balanced.

However, I can’t help that itchy feeling of impatience when it takes several months to come up with the ‘perfect’ strategy. And while this is happening, even more time is invested to demonstrate some kind of business impact in an effort to overcome the major challenge of maintaining the solution. A complete waste, actually, as change is inevitable and this has to be revisited a year or two down the line anyway.

While HR practitioners have been able to close the gap from a strategy articulation perspective, and have achieved some success in creating closer alignment to business objectives, execution is lagging behind. Unfortunately, in the absence of triumphantly slapping workable solutions on the table, HR’s credibility is, and will remain, questionable.

Could it be that the very involved, conceptual thinking capabilities that many HR practitioners have mastered now prevents them from implementing workable solutions within acceptable timeframes?

Execution requires pragmatic hands-on action

It means keeping the overall picture in mind while meeting the needs of impatient, result-orientated business leaders. At the heart of successful execution lies technological agility: The ability to simplify complicated support strategy while achieving tangible business results. But:

  • How many technology choices consider these essential aspects? 
  • How many business leaders are left in the ‘dark’, juggling Excel spreadsheets to figure out the perfect long-term technology solution?

The fact is that the juggling and the figuring are essential yes, only once, to put a sustainable, workable solution in place, quickly and cost effectively. This requires HR practitioners to start approaching the business like strategic operational experts (read the HR Pulse article  about last year’s IPM convention where it was felt that HR needs to be underpinned by business strategy.) For example, carefully select priorities where implementing a tactical workable solution will enable HR to gain momentum, build credibility and evolve the maturity of the organisation. This can often be done at a fraction of the cost and effort of a large ERP solution and introduce the required agility while business processes evolve over time.

Yes, it requires support from an internal IT team and/or technology partner who is able to simplify the implementation of strategy and quickly meet 80% of requirements. Today’s environment also requires HR practitioners to focus on what is practical rather than what is imaginable. When it comes to technology choice, consider that the best of breed might be the obvious answer, but not necessarily the key to real business value and results.

 Author: Carina Shaw is the CEO of ASG Performance Solutions, an information technology consulting firm that provides impactful business solutions with particular focus in the Business intelligence and Human Capital sphere. She has a BA Information Science degree from the University of Pretoria. Her experience ranges from management consulting, change management, overseeing delivery of software projects and business management in general.