HR Tech: CHRO Perspectives on HR Technology

by Sabrina Son on Oct 19, 2015 6:46:00 PM

HR Tech: CHRO Perspectives on HR Technology by TINYpulse


Technology is changing the landscape of the HR industry. But before you can even adopt any technology, you'll need to be prepared to wrestle with investors, senior leaders, and rallying your entire organization to make sure this new system is successful, cost-effective, and strategic. 

TINYpulse is live-blogging from the CHRO Perspectives on HR Technology session at the HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas. This insightful session will help you evaluate HR technology vendors, decide whether to go with established technologies or start-ups, and how to ensure your teams will drive success.


(From left to right)

  • Bill Thompkins, SVP HR & Total Rewards, Macy's
  • Natalie Morris, Director Employee Benefits, United Technologies Corp.
  • Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte
  • Erica Volini, National Managing Partner, HR Transformation and Technology, Deloitte
  • Chris Collins, VP Global HR Services, Delta Air Lines

Session Notes:

The amazing Josh Bersin showed up early to set up at 3pm, and of course, there were no AV people to be found to help with set-up. Now they are scrambling to get the microphones and visuals ready. If one of the busiest people in HR tech industry can take the time to show up early, can’t the over-charging conference staff of Mandalay Bay get their act together?

  • Bill Thompkins will speak about Oracle at Macy's
  • Nataie Morris will speak about their Workday implementation
  • Erica Volini will give perspectives on what many different companies are doing in terms of HR Tech
  • Chris Collins will talk about what it's like to run an airline around the world (Delta has 100k employees)


Kicking it off is Bill Thompkins from Macy’s.

It started with a business challenge, moving from a brick-and-mortar to an “omni-channel” retailer  [AKA the freakin' Internets] — historically a Peoplesoft implementation and migrated to Oracle.

Adding complexity to this transformation, the HR organization reported into various functional groups from logistics to retail, taking seven different HR organizations and merging them into one.  He had to replace the technology and unify the HR team.

Natalie ...

Built on acquisitions including Goodrich, Pratt & Whitney, but didn't invest in HR technology for this 100-year-old company.

“Skipping the landline, and going straight to mobile.”  

  • It’s hard to make a quantitative business case when you don’t have one that you are replacing.
  • They centered the business case around reporting, compliance, analytics — but now the employee experience and engagement are taking center stage.

Chris Collins ...

  • The basic conversation starts with, “How many people does it take to run a headcount report."
  • Used a legacy system called Tesseract, and in 2005 they outsourced all of this to an external partner.
  • Employees are using very old and dated technology compared to the customer-facing technology Delta provides for consumers.
  • The FLSA required a lot of customized reporting so they migrated to SAP.
  • Analytics, applicant tracking, and other HR systems are siloed and wants to bring these into an integrated HR system.
  • “Whenever you get a $1 for HR, you need to spend it very well because you may never see it again.”

Erica Volini ...

Most orgs should ask 5 key questions:

  1. 1. What is the business case?  (This is very difficult to be quantitative so most end up being qualitative)

  2. 2. What do you need?

  3. 3. What is the legacy platform you are leaving?

  4. 4. Where are you going, are you growing through acquisition, what is your strategy?

  5. 5. How do I implement?

  • It’s not about what the HR Tech can provide today, but about what they can provide for you in the future”
  • The success or failure of HR Tech is all about adoption — will your employees use it?


Why did you go with the HR tech/vendor your selected?

Bill looked at:

  • Strategic fit: where are they going?
  • Operational fit: can we work with them? (he hired 20k people at Macy’s without any face-to-face interviews and experienced 25% turnover before anyone started)
  • Financial fit: cost of ownership was very important

Learning and development was very important given all the retail of 100k people. Oracle has been a great partner and have been in implementation for four to five months working with product groups and the sales team still supports. This year is process-design work; next year they will be doing user-experience testing and will go live in 2017. 


"It isn’t an issue of features, but capabilities and where you are today."



“It’s about context, and where you are coming from."


We could've count UTC headcount, but it was wrong. They are starting at the basic level, and issued an RFP. They heard a lot about Workday, and also investigated SAP since they use it on other areas. In 2013, Workday was the strongest choice for them. Our company loves SAP, but Workday was the right fit for their foundational needs and their product roadmap aligned with our needs. Also, being able to shape Workday’s product roadmap was also very attractive to us. 


What really started it for them was when he went to the senior leadership team about replacing their home-grown time and attendance solution because they were running into compliance issues and need for mobile solutions. The executives responded, “You need to do this once, and you need to do it right." So Chris looked for a complete HR solution. They decided to go with SAP because of the integration of Success Factors, Concur, and other products they acquired. They are really focused on a great mobile user-experience for their employees.


  • This is the most exciting time for HR ever, and I’ve been doing this for a long time 
  • HR is the hardest thing to do that everyone thinks is the easiest — but it is not
  • You must have a very different conversation with your vendors; this needs to be a partnership.

  • Wholesale outsourcing of your HR backend is going away and being replaced with in-house implementation of SaaS solutions.

  • You need to be constantly influencing the vendor’s roadmap and know that we are in this together;  we need to be a priority”


  • We chose SAP because we knew we could influence their product roadmap to help deliver the best product for our needs.


Josh: "What is the biggest thing you have learned or biggest surprise?"


The beauty of going to the cloud versus on-site implementations is that we can configure and release quicker, more continuous innovation. Before you had to rely solely on your IT partners, but now the cloud has minimized some of this internal IT dependency.



What I have learned is to be very honest about yourself and the state of your data. Data is the foundation, so do whatever you can do to harmonize this data. Workday will feed payroll and payroll must be right, and that’s a lot harder than it looks.




Data is an asset. It's so powerful — if you think about all of the innovation — it's about leveraging and creating value out of data that has never been done before. Use it as a way to predict turnover or what employees you need to hire. Move data from the backoffice to that what brings HR to the next level. This is the “long-pole” in the tent. Data sounds boring, but it's the key.



  • Don't underestimate the integration
  • You've got to stay involved; you can't outsource this
  • Don't understimate the journey
  • Once you go live, be prepared to spend the next couple of years tweaking, fixing, and optimizing
  • You become relevant in HR when you being to predict trends


Post-Session Q&A

Q for Natalie: How did you convince your CEO and CFO? What did you do to drive the business case?

Natalie: Presented to the CEO and CFO by:

  • Benchmarking data of competitors and "peer" companies to see what HR systems they have
  • Very compelling compliance factors — especially as a defense contractor and the information they needed about employees for contracts
  • Facts: no mobile capabilities and three weeks to turn a simple info require
  • Did a lot of socialization — started and worked mid-management

Josh: Without mobile access for your employees, I don't know how you can run an airline.

Natalie: IT should be playing a different role in the new world of the cloud

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This post was written by Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the managing editor for the TINYpulse blog. A Seattle native, she loves her morning (or anytime) coffee, spending her weekends on the mountains, and of course, the famous rain.

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