The Future of Work Is About Business Leaders
By Jim Lundy
I gave a talk at our December Briefing on the future of work and said that the future is messy—this is because multiple roles within the enterprise are clamoring for the ability to make the call on what the workplace of the future looks like.
If we jump to the point of this blog, it’s that business leaders are consistently making more and more of the decisions when it comes to work and the workplace. IT and HR are support functions who play vital roles, but business leaders are savvy—and they’re realizing that technology can help them win the race to own customers.
Gartner Buys CEB: Proof of the Clout of Business Leaders
If you want any evidence of the increasing clout of business leaders, look to Gartner.
Gartner Inc’s announcement that it was buying CEB for $U.S. 2.6 billion is proof that IT buyers aren’t making all of the calls when it comes to technology. Gartner has done a great job of monetizing CIOs and vendors via the McKinsey playbooks that CEO Gene Hall has been having them execute. With the CEB deal, Gartner just validated our Aragon Research strategy of focusing on business leaders.
Sales and Marketing Leaders Make Their Own Tech Calls
Sales and marketing are often under the most pressure to deliver results, and marketing was one of the first business units to start to make their technology purchasing themselves.
While Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is not new to sales teams, we’ve observed that sales is totally owning their tech stack, which includes CRM, sales engagement, and sales training. Aragon did some pioneering work in 2016: We defined what a Sales Engagement Platform is and outlined the growth of the SEP market. Suffice it to say, SEP platforms are the new office for sales.
Training is interesting to us because it demonstrates that the needs of business groups often exceed what the learning and development department can do. Not all firms have distributed the training function to departments, but sales is increasingly taking this challenge for both the learning platform and for the content. HR tech leaders should take note. The rise of video learning platforms and the explosion of sales training offerings from existing providers like Brainshark, Mzinga, and TWIL, as well as new players such as Allego, are evidence of this.
HR Tech: The Race to Automate
The process of hiring and engaging employees faster and more efficiently is the new challenge area we see enterprises struggling to overcome. Today, many of the HR platforms being offered have gone to the cloud (e.g., Workday), but they are still pretty much the same, human-based process.
The shift to automation is a slow one, but there are firms hard at work at this. IBM is leveraging Watson and its HR Big Data platform to help firms build HR digital assistants, and startups such as HiQ are pushing the envelope. Additionally, HCM platform leaders such as Workday and Cornerstone, which both have acquired predictive analytics firms over the last two years, show positive movement in this market, which is slowly evolving.
That said, we see HR tech providers helping to improve the hiring and people management process, and with learning, onboarding, and engagement helping to drive higher higher performance. That is where the collision with workplace providers comes into play. Cisco, Google, Microsoft, and many best-of-breed collaboration providers are providing the tools to improve how people work and collaborate.
I’d also note this: If you hear analyst or consulting firms espousing the thought that HR is the future of work, question them. HR is an important function for helping to acquire, onboard, and retain people. While critical, it is still a support function for the business. The key takeaway is that the providers who offer an advanced predictive HR platform and the buyers of those platforms will be the winners in the race to win the talent wars.
Business Leaders Rule
The bottom line is that in 2017, business leaders are making more of the business decisions when it comes to technology in their enterprise. This will lead to more pilots of new applications from both existing and new providers than ever before.
The beauty of SaaS applications is that they make it easier to acquire new capabilities to help drive business outcomes. The challenge for business leaders is to understand and separate legacy providers who are not innovating from old and new providers who are; this is where Aragon helps business and IT leaders.