Companies should look at standardising processes using technology at an early stage as it offers less historical burden to handle
For successful product implementation, you require a vision and energy in the organisation
HR products have come a long way in the last few years. Balaji Ganesh, CEO, Adrenalin eSystems Limited, Polaris Group, talks to People Matters on how HR Products not only standardize processes but even help in uniting the growth vision of the organization
To begin with, tell us about your professional journey.
I’ve been in the technology industry for the last 25 years and with the Polaris Group for 7 years now. I am a CA by qualification, but I started my career with an IT company, mostly known for implementing business solutions. One thing led to the other, and before I knew, I had developed a keen interest in technology, and realized that I could add value to business in a unique way. Being an accountant, I could quickly understand the needs of the business and provide a focused solution. Later I had to learn technology too to be able to provide solutions and eventually deliver them. It is satisfying to see Adrenalin creating a category of an exclusive HR product in the local and global market place.
How mature do you think is the market for HR products today? How have companies started to adopt these technologies?
Initially, if you take any new product to the companies, they will feel it is unsuitable for them as they believe that their internal processes are unique. Therefore, each customer needs a different level of education to get convinced about the suitability of the product to his or her needs. Professionals, like ourselves, need to walk along with the customer for sometime until he / she understands the value and suitability of the product. When we launched Adrenalin in 2002, HR products were unknown and it was our vision to create a product that is easy for the user to understand and use. Even somebody without any IT background should be able to configure basic functionalities and make changes in the interface. This is a constant challenge, especially because as the product matures it also tends to become more complex. But for us, user friendliness remains our core focus and value proposition. Adoption of technology has become easier as the products have become more user friendly, empowering the user to make changes and configurations without technical support.
How mature are the companies today in choosing a product for themselves as they now have knowledge about various choices available?
I will rate it 6 out of 10, as choosing a product depends upon the person evaluating the options available. If the decision maker is clear on what he/she wants from the product, he/she will do an objective evaluation. An HR product will ease out the typical administrative processes that are happening in the company, thereby allowing the HR team to focus on higher value activities. There should be a clear road map on what those ‘value activities’ mean for each company and then we create incentives to go for the product solution that will support the HR team to achieve them.
The maturity levels are growing as the knowledge levels are increasing. People are becoming more aware, technology is opening up much more avenues and the change is happening.
Most of the time, the common roadblock is resistance to change. Where people just want to automate the processes involved, but they are not willing to change their behaviour accordingly. For instance, if we take a simple process like applying for leave, in a traditional system the form will first go to the Manager’s desk, then it is signed and sent to the HR department for filing and the process is completed. However, in an automated system, we do not require all this and not even a printout. If you automate this process without a change management system, then people will apply for leave in the system but they will still take a print of the request and leave it at the manager’s desk for signature. A system can automate a process, but the HR Manager and the employee should let go of the old system and adapt the change for it to be successful.
Do you think companies have taken advantage of this downturn to place internal systems and processes and get ready for the next growth phase?
Frankly speaking, companies defer this type of decision when there is no clarity on their business forecast and prospective. It is not about having the availability of economic resources, it is that they are uncertain about the future and look carefully at the investments they make during the downturn. Therefore, during a downturn, the focus is on investing in areas, which give tangible, direct and short-term results related to their business. Investment in technology does not fall under this category. Investment in systems will provide indirect and mid / long term results, so that is the reason we have seen a downside of the business also from our side.
The good part, however, is that companies utilised this time to clean up their systems, create efficiencies internally and re-look their processes and policies. Now that the companies are better organized and more agile, automating processes also becomes easier. Indian companies are looking again to 2010 with optimism and investing in the long term has also become a priority.
The growth before 2008 was so fast that most companies did not know what was happening inside, as the business growth did not match with the internal maturity of processes and capabilities. So this downturn has actually given an opportunity to look inside and adopt some change practices. Now HR is also shifting to delivering value to the organization in a stronger way, so systems like Adrenalin can support this initiative and help HR move to a real business partner role.
How does the use of technology in managing HR Processes create a competitive edge for companies?
Technology creates immense value especially in HR processes. Firstly, HR teams will be able to allocate their efforts and time to business objectives, aligning themselves to the top management and the corporate goals and moving away from administrative tasks. Secondly, implementing a technology system brings out transparency in the organization. This transparency also helps in creating alignment of all employees with the organization’s vision. Thirdly, it helps companies to document processes and to streamline practices. This gives an opportunity to the organizations to re-look at their policies, practices and processes and adapt them to the new realities.
At what stage should companies look at implementing technology?
In my opinion, companies should look at standardizing processes using technology at an early stage of their life cycle, as it offers less historical burden to handle. Most of the times, companies take this decision in a hurry. The typical case is when an organization has grown very quickly and suddenly realizes that it is not able to manage its databases and processes in the traditional way and needs a quick upgrade.
What are the key ingredients for a successful implementation of any technology?
The key for a successful implementation is to know the objectives that a company wants to derive from this technology, the value expected from it and the energy to support the implementation and make it successful.
I would say that for successful implementation of any product in a company, you require a vision and energy in the organization. In addition, it has to be an engaged energy and not only exhibited by just a few. In my experience, if you have the focus and the energy, even after the initial resistance, employees and managers adjust to the new technology as it makes processes simpler, at a fast rate and with much less pain.
What’s the benefit of going in for only an HR solution or for a full ERP that has everything rather than going for something that has only HR? What’s the difference?
The difference comes in the focus of the system. In an ERP system, there is a possibility that focus is on other areas rather than HR as most of the times, HR is not really a focus area for an ERP. If you take any implemented ERP, historically what has happened is that HR has been given the last preference. So, the extent to which HR is brought in for ERP is only for the purpose of resource planning. That being the case, implementing a pure HR solution gives you the width of covering functionalities specific to HR, covering all employee processes. Today we can say that products like Adrenalin can “talk” to any other ERP system at whatever levels a company might need it to. It connects in terms of people involved, payrolls, finances, et al. Furthermore, it is a specialist offering and is obviously a less costly option as it is an independent product.