What Our Grandmothers Knew About Optimizing HR Service Technology

This past May, IQPC surveyed the attendees at of their 21st HR Shared Services & Outsourcing Summit in Chicago.  The survey asked questions about the current state of their HR Service Centers, key challenges and talent management.


Here's one question that stands out :


“What’s the biggest challenge your SSC currently faces?”


The most common answer was Optimizing Technology.  41% said that was their biggest challenge, while others said it was their second biggest.


When you consider the role of technology in the success of the service center and the employee experience, that’s a big problem that can lead to lost opportunity.


What’s preventing us from optimizing HR Service technology?

There are plenty of possible causes for this sub-optimization.


  • Are HRSC’s buying too much technology?
  • Are vendors selling too much technology to the HRSC’s?
  • Are end users not adopting the technology?
  • Are HRSC’s not investing enough in training?
  • Are there other possible causes (don’t answer – that’s a rhetorical question).


The answer can be any of the above, or a combination of any.


To understand the problem, let’s go back in time…

It’s the 1970’s.  The location is my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn, NY.


Grandma Riccio loved to cook.  And everyone loved her cooking.   What I remember most about eating at Grandma Riccio’s was how she served the big meal as a bunch of mini-meals.


First was the aperitivo in the living room – drinks, olives, nuts, cheese and other finger foods in bowls and dishes throughout the room.


Next, we’d move to the dining room, and sit around the table for the serving of the antipasto.


When everyone finished their antipasto, the plates were cleared from the table.  After a few minutes, Grandma returned with an enormous serving bowl of pasta in her famous red sauce (actually, she called the sauce gravy).


After the Pasta came the meat - pork, sausage or beef stew.


I always wondered why Grandma didn’t just serve the meat with the pasta.  Grandma Riccio’s wisdom was in distinctly separating the courses.  We focused on one dish at a time, so everyone could get the most enjoyment from that particular dish.



The Power of Separating the Servings

Nobody ever left Grandma Riccio’s feeling like they didn’t have enough quantity or enjoyment from of any of the foods.  That’s because the food wasn’t all served at once.  Serving in separate courses, each with a distinct start, and a distinct finish enabled us to focus on the foods individually.  This approach optimized our enjoyment of each dish.


If all the food was served at once – buffet style –  I would have filled up on cashews, anchovies and spicy sausage.  This would have prevented me from enjoying the salad from Uncle Tony’s garden, and Aunt Josephine’s hand-made cannoli’s.



How we implement the technology affects our ability to optimize the technology.

Many of those 41%ers who see technology optimization as their greatest challenge likely implemented their technologies using a “Big Bang” approach.  That's like serving all the food at once.  Too much functionality being served too soon to too many end users.  This makes it difficult to dedicate focus to, and derive full value from, and single areas of the technology.


When technology is implemented in shorter, controlled, iterative deployments -  each with a distinct start and a distinct finish, implementations are more manageable.  Risks are smaller.  It's easier to manage user adoption and measure business value.  You'll create multiple small wins that lead to a big overall win.  And that's what leads to optimization.


Grandma Riccio was onto something.