From a business standpoint, having a local presence in the Indian market is very important as it becomes easier for the technology company to penetrate the market
A CTO should always be aware of the trends in the market, the latest technologies, and the ways by which s/he can scale an idea
What are the challenges and opportunities for a technology leader in the global and Indian HR market?
As a CTO in an HR service company, one of the primary problems that has always worried me is the problem of scale. Scaling in the technology industry does not mean expanding data centres alone; it encompasses scaling the company’s processes, people and new technology advancements. Lately, technologists have seen a headlong rush to the cloud and that automatically means that everything in the industry has to be nimble and agile. At the same time, balancing them with growth and the tremendous amount of change continues to be a problem for a CTO. To scale effectively, a CTO has to find talent in all the locations that are expanding quickly and efficiently. Lastly, scaling people not just means finding them, but also scaling them to make them effective managers and leaders.
What has changed in the HR tech space in the last few years and how is it evolving?
The cloud has definitely been the biggest influencer in the HR technology industry in the last few years. While there is excitement, there also exists fear, uncertainty and trepidation about the cloud. In the initial years, it was hard for HR technology companies like ours to drive the importance and opportunities that cloud presented as the customer market was not willing to accept and adopt the concept. The scenario has changed significantly over the last few years and today everybody in the market wants cloud solutions. Another change that the market has presented is in terms of data privacy and security, but a paradox exists. On the one hand, people are inherently putting their faith and shifting all their data to the cloud, while on the other concerns about data security are growing. Consequently, technology companies are responding to this trend and investing more in data privacy and security as part of their product offering.
Is the Indian HR technology market any different from the global HR technology market?
I’ve had a long and happy relation with India and have overseen major operations expansion in the Indian market. From a business standpoint, having a local presence in the Indian market is very important for a technology company operating here as it becomes easier to penetrate the market. It is important for the Indian customer to physically see a mass of people working locally on their systems and support. Just like anywhere else in the world, there is a strong interest in cloud solutions in the Indian market. Adoption and decision making in this market, however, is a little slower when compared with other geographies. But since the Indian landscape is very competitive, the price points in the Indian market is much different from other geographies. Another key characteristic that separates the consumer market in India from the rest of the world is the high touch model of implementation. In the SaaS model, one does not need too much of hand holding and it requires minimal time and effort to be up and running. From my vantage point, the client in India requires much more service and hand-holding compared to elsewhere in the globe. It is a great opportunity for companies to build deeper relationships with clients and sets up a great basis for a long-term relationship.
What are the key advantages that a SaaS-based technology model offers?
One of the key advantages for an organization implanting SaaS technology is access to automatic updates of new functionalities. Most good technologies typically have at least three to four major updates in a year with better and more functionalities. While a technology service provider keeps innovating, the organization implementing the SaaS solution automatically starts enjoying direct benefits from it. At the same time, SaaS applications require much less IT support compared to on-premise solutions.
What are the key areas where HR technology companies will be investing most of their efforts in?
The first area where HR technology companies will be investing heavily is in the area of Big Data. Big Data’s contribution to business can be summarised in the words, “shining the lights on dark data”. What it basically means is that there are a lot of useful insights sitting on the piles of information that companies generate but are unable to mine usefully. Companies who sit on such a treasure trove of data have a very real opportunity to mine this data and find answers to some of their most pressing problems.
Another key area of focus for technology companies is in the field of usability. The end user experience is an area that has become very important for any organization. As the composition of the workforce continues to change and becomes increasingly multi-generational, people are expecting to find the same ease of use and functionality that they get from their commonly used applications, which they access over social media. Modernization of the user-experience or the consumerisation of business applications has become quite the buzzword among the technology circles across the globe.
What skills and competencies should a CTO invest in to become successful in the future?
The fact that a CTO has to be technology savvy is an understood expectation. A CTO should always be aware of the trends in the market, the latest technologies, and the ways by which s/he can scale an idea. One thing, which is true about technologists across the globe, is that technology people are not great communicators. What sets a good technologist apart from the rest is the one who is able to communicate in a lucid and jargon-free way with others. Technologists are also expected to have a business-level viewpoint, and demonstrate their business intent. A good technologist is able to convey confidence to a client that s/he understands the client’s problem, and will be in a position to resolve it. Even if a technologist does not have that innate skill, it can be learnt.
In my first assignment as a CTO several years ago, my boss came up to me after a performance appraisal and told me, “You need to be more impressive.” While it appeared vague at that point, it served as an over-arching mandate for my journey along the CTO path. While communication and language skills may come naturally to some, there is no reason to believe that they cannot be learnt. A CTO, thus, should always be on the lookout to become a better communicator.
Mark Goldin is responsible for building and directing the company’s technology strategy. In this role, Goldin oversees application architecture, development, quality assurance and technology operations while leading a world-class team of engineers to assure Cornerstone’s continued excellence in providing innovative and feature-rich talent management software.