HRO and Innovation – Getting Practical

Linda Merritt, HRO Research Analyst, NelsonHall

Linda Merritt, HRO Research Analyst, NelsonHall

Innovation in multi-process HRO (MPHRO) has been a topic of discussion, and some contention, since the early mega-deals that created the modern MPHRO market more than ten years ago.

Even in the early days there was a desire for innovation, but there was also a lack of common definitions and mutual understanding, along with difficulty in articulating innovation in contract language.

There was an even greater barrier – systems spaghetti. Early MPHRO clients had highly-customized ERP infrastructure, aging legacy systems, and third-party applications, much of which may have been non-centralized and non-integrated. Each major customer was in their own bubble of services and systems. It quickly became apparent that it would be hard to add new and different innovations within the constraints of the contracts and the technologies.

Platforms for Innovation

Major MPHRO service providers now have global multi-client service delivery and data centers with sophisticated workflow processes. Early clients have been moved bit-by-bit into the common support infrastructure, even if they remain on their own, licensed ERP systems.

Many HRO clients are ready for increased standardization and multi-client platforms to reduce cost and to improve performance. Innovative cloud-based SaaS and services platforms are opening up new services to the mid-market and parts of the large client market:

  • Clients on a shared service platform benefit from ongoing incremental improvements
  • Clients benefit from access to new products and services without paying a significant portion of the R&D needed for a one-off innovation.

Some tension between continuous improvement and innovation is natural, as the line between an “included enhancement” and what is “new and different to be added as an extra charge” looks very different depending on whether you are a buyer or a supplier.

Collaborative Innovation

Client user groups support both HRO improvement and innovation. Vendors were originally reluctant to let clients communicate with each other (partially because the clients might “gang-up” on the vendor – and sometimes they did!).

Companies like IBM and Xerox were leaders in developing client advisory boards. These interactive groups provide feedback on the services, give input into common needs, and even offer guidance on parts of the vendor’s development roadmap. They are not just “the voice of the customer”; they are also a built-in base of beta testers. Willingness to put some skin into the game is also a great way to test market viability and further strengthen relationships.

Infrastructure of Innovation

Buyers can develop their processes for HRO innovation in the following ways:

  • Assess vendors for innovation capabilities as part of the selection process
  • Develop the language and mutual expectations for measurable innovation upfront and include in the terms of contract. Include who pays, and when, determine if there will be vendor incentives, and clarify the client’s role
  • Use the governance process to jointly monitor, manage, and measure improvements and innovations over the course of the relationship.

The good news is that we are beginning to build the HRO infrastructure for future innovation; common language, standardized multi-client platforms, and client user groups.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Cloud, hr outsourcing, hr outsourcing research, hro, HRO Activity, HRO Buyers, HRO Competition, HRO Governance, HRO Growth, HRO Innovation, HRO Platform, HRO Pricing, HRO Proof Points, HRO provider alliances, HRO provider partnerships, HRO providers, hro research, HRO Service Provider, HRO Services, HRO Strategy, HRO Today, HRO Vendors, IBM, multi-process hro, outsourcing, Value of HRO, Xerox

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