Is HRO at the Table – the Investment Table?

IT spend on consulting and infrastructure increased in the fourth quarter of 2010, especially in North America and Asia Pacific.  There were even bright spots in Europe like France and Italy.  Accenture saw its strongest quarter in consulting in 2 ½ years and IBM had its strongest quarter of the last decade.  Increases in outsourcing tend to follow.  For example, at Xerox, now including ACS, BPO was up 11.1%.

The bad news is that major HRO investments often trail at the end of the outsourcing pack.  The good news is that HR and its HRO vendors can see trends coming and prepare to present the strongest business case possible for investment.

ADP was up 7% to $1,663m for Employer Services.  Its bright spot was beyond payroll services, which were up 16% and include benefits administration, MPHRO, and various point solutions.  One-time activities, or smaller add-on services, helped hold up results throughout the recession for many HRO vendors as they were smaller, less risky, and easier to fund investments, but it is hard to have significant growth through small increases in incremental spend.

Aon Hewitt’s Q4 2010 numbers were way up with revenues of $1,151m, an increase of 229%.  Stripping away the impact of the merger, organically HRO was $580m, down 2%.  The same was true at Towers Watson.  For FY Q2 2011, it came in at $791m, but in a pro forma comparison it was down 5%.  Towers Watson completed a lot of integration work in the past year and managed operating margins well at 18.7% for the quarter, but underperformed organic growth expectations.  All of the HRO service providers caught up in last years acquisition frenzy need to ensure they do not miss the current and coming window of opportunity for major HRO decisions and investments.

The business development profile for every HRO client, or hot prospect that wants to do business with you should include the timing and approval process for business case decisions.  Also know what can be done through operating expenses and local discretion.  Even the most solid HRO solution will run into trouble if the funding window is missed and all that is left are the scraps on the table.

Even with investment dollars starting to fly, pie-in-the-sky projects will still be grounded.  I really liked a term I heard in relation to an increase in consumer spend, frugal splurges.  Pragmatic investments that are well supported with facts and figures and direct ties to key business initiatives and business results will have the edge.  Don’t forget to add just a little bite of pizzazz!  Add-on modules, basic features and functions, workflow and service center capabilities are important, but a bit boring.  How will new major HRO investments be riding the tech wave of virtualization, cloud, and mobility – adding to the capabilities of an adaptable workforce of the future, ready to compete, and win today?

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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Explore posts in the same categories: benefits administration, benefits administration outsourcing, Cloud, hr outsourcing, hr outsourcing research, hro, Mobility, multi-process hro, nelsonhall, payroll outsourcing, Virtualization

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