Welcome to 2010 and the Rise of the HRO Services Portfolio Manager

As we were moving quickly toward 2010, most leading firms in the services delivery industry were asked to make predictions for the year ahead, what trends will continue and in what new directions will we go tomorrow. NelsonHall’s (per Gary Bragar and me) HRO predictions will be published in the next issue of HRO Today magazine, and mine is already available in the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network’s article, The Year Ahead: 2010 in Shared Services & Outsourcing.

I firmly believe achieving HR services excellence today does not begin with the question of outsourcing or shared services. Rather, the question is what is the optimum mix of outsourced, shared services-based and locally delivered HR services given the current and going forward needs of the business? As a result, I see the possible, and needed, rise of a new type of HR executive…the HR services portfolio manager.

The HR services portfolio manager is a business and HR leader who blends a review of business plans and HR initiatives with internal capabilities and costs to develop a strategic plan to manage the total cost of ownership for the entire portfolio of HR services, while maximizing HR’s efficiency and effectiveness and its impact on the business. The HR services portfolio manager partners with the HR executive to gain funding and the buy-in of stakeholders.  

Another role of the HR services portfolio manager is that of HR services delivery architect. Here the responsibility lies in building out in phases the “Lego” mix and match service delivery model to ensure it is all seamlessly integrated and managed, and providing the required service quality, cost and performance. The requisite skills and competencies for this role are that of a technology leader, a vendor manager and an HR-savvy operations manager. 

While this new role represents a new possible direction rather than a solid current trend, I saw signs of it as early as 2007, and have continued to seek and see peeks and parts since then. For example, I met a European executive who was managing a large scale multi-function outsourcing portfolio, and a U.S. executive who was brought in to manage a large and challenging scale HRO engagement and help revise the retained HR services. Both were non-HR business executives.

A more rare peeks and parts sighting is the metamorphosis of existing shared services leaders into portfolio and delivery architects. The financial pressures of the recession have helped with the growth under fire of some of the skills and competencies needed for the full emergence of the HR services portfolio manager.  

Whether this describes one HR superstar, or team capabilities, we are not talking about quiet “factory” managers toiling out of the way in the back-office, taking out a few more pennies here and there. We are talking dynamic executive talent that impacts the lion’s share of the HR spend, and accelerates HR’s delivery of business results.

Happy New Year!

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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