Blog Post

The First Step to Digital Transformation Is Cleaning Up Your Tech

Cornerstone Editors

A chat bot here, a learning management system there. For many companies, engaging in digital transformation means adding a few new technologies to their existing systems. But these new tools aren’t enough to truly transform a company, says business technologist Brian Sommer. Worse, according to the president and founder of TechVentive, companies, including HR officers, too often merely pile new solutions on top of already broken infrastructures. The results are piecemeal systems with technologies that don’t work together seamlessly, much less lead to a real transformation.

Sommer’s message: While exploring the latest technology is an important part of any digital transformation effort, it’s futile unless the starting point is a functioning baseline technology ecosystem.

In our Q&A below, Sommer explains why creating an operational tech foundation—in other words, cleaning up how your existing technology functions—is the first step to any transformation process and the important issues to consider.

ReWork: Can you tell us about the stages of digital transformation and where most companies are in this process?

Brian Sommer: There are four stages: dysfunctional, functional, excellent and disruptive. I was astonished when conducting research just how many companies were borderline dysfunctional. They’ve got old tech that no one knows how to patch anymore, or they’ve got one guy left who knows that obscure programming language. But companies can’t transform until they deal with the mess, allowing them to become highly process efficient and ready to lead the charge.

This requires addressing the technology already in place?

Sommer: To transform, a lot of companies first need to get their house in order. Companies are some homeowners: they’re hoarders. Over time, they accumulate lots of spreadsheets, systems, technical debt, processes, conflicting policies and much more. Often, companies must declutter before they can transform.

You have to think of it as though you’re preparing a site for constructing a building. You wouldn’t start putting new building materials on top of a a pre-existing structure or inadequate foundation. Companies need to have a solid base of people, technology, business practices, etc. before they start experimenting with new areas.

Recently, I chatted with a Chief HR Officer, who, because her company had gone through a number of acquisitions, found herself to be the proud owner of dozens of different HR systems around the world. None of them talked to one another. It was actually hurting her career because she could never answer the executive committee’s questions without spending two weeks to get the information. The first thing they had to do, then, was to standardize their HR technology around the world. Now that that’s done, they’re looking to add all kinds of advanced technology, allowing them to do a much better job of recruiting and engagement.

Is it advisable to take baby steps when it comes to transformation?

Sommer: If you add technology in an incremental fashion, I can guarantee you it’s not going to be transformative. That’s like adding curb feelers to the outside of your car. It may give you a tiny boost, but it’s not transformative. Given how fast innovation happens and how quickly your competition moves, if you’re still doing things in tiny, super-cautious steps, you’re going to get burned. To tackle the big stuff that really makes a difference in your world competitively, you have to come at it faster and in a more nimble way.

As companies make these transformative moves, what happens to the human side of work?

Sommer: The best-run company I ever came across followed an approach called sunset planning. They knew that every skill set, program, initiative and IT system had a best-used-by date. They knew how long everything would last and when it would have to be replaced. And it’s part of everyone’s job to take care of "sunsetting" a project while being trained to roll onto another project that’s going to be the future for the next 10 or 15 years.

When people know what they’re going to be doing, the comfort level goes through the roof. They know what the master plan is. Otherwise, people start assuming the worst.

What other technology pressures does HR face?

Sommer: I’ve been seeing some Chief HR Officers taken to the woodshed lately by the board because they haven’t figured out how to help the organization grow. But if HR is struggling just to fill open slots today, it cannot help companies grow 10 to 20% a year. They need a different approach to recruiting—one that involves different technology.

Recently, I helped a client acquire systems to get better at finding and developing talent. They wanted big data from places like LinkedIn to populate their databases. They wanted to use candidate relationship management technology from firms like SmashFly. They wanted tools to help them broaden the pool of candidates. It’s all aimed at helping them attract—and almost seduce—people into becoming job seekers at their company.

Header photo: Creative Commons

Related Resources

Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.

Alexander Mann Solutions wins Cornerstone OnDemands sponsored categories at the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards

Blog Post

Alexander Mann Solutions wins Cornerstone OnDemands sponsored categories at the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards

Here at Cornerstone, we absolutely love to hear inspiring stories and share them far and wide, especially when they are about talent management! We were recently headline sponsors of the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards. These annual awards, hosted by TALiNT International, celebrate excellence across the RPO, MSP and Talent Solutions marketplace, and recognise the wonderful ways companies are demonstrating exemplary growth, innovation and leadership. For 2020, it was the usual great awards with a bit of a difference. As we know, everything has now moved online – even this year’s Convergence! But this didn’t seem to impact the TIARA Talent Solution Awards at all. Despite not being able to celebrate face-to-face, the event was filled with laughter, engagement, and most of all, lots of fun! This year, we also supported the Best Use of Technology Award as well as the Overall Winner. The winner – triumphing in both categories – could not be more deserving, and so we duly wanted to pass on our huge congratulations to Alexander Mann Solutions! Alexander Mann was awarded the Cornerstone OnDemand Best Use of Technology Award for their brilliant ‘Find Your Fit’ technology solution. The platform offers users personal preferences and assisted future growth through interactive videos, personalised one-to-one calls, and a dedicated platform to match skills with current roles within the organisation. The solution had 1,200 employees enrolling within just six months of implementation and is continuing to improve every day. Find Your Fit helps employees to understand how their organisation functions better, including the areas that are growing the most rapidly. In turn, this helps employees to develop the skills they need in order to take advantage of these developments to enhance not only their personal career progression, but overall business performance. After all, businesses don’t innovate, people do! The judges commended this entry for “the clear way in which an innovative technology solution clearly delivered in results”. The judges also applauded Alexander Mann for demonstrating customer care by really listening to client’s individual challenges and using inventive technology solutions to help design a custom built solution that helps to support the overall internal career options and pathways available to each organisation. The award was accepted virtually by Stephen Gordon, Recruitment Tech Lead at Talent Collective/AMS. In addition to being awarded Best Use of Technology, Alexander Mann was also recognised as this year’s overall winner of the Talent Solutions Awards. Chair of Judges, Jim Richardson highlighted that “the overall winner is based on the organisation that consistently demonstrates excellence and innovation across all of its activities”. Both Peoplescout and Guidant Global were highly commended by the judges for their brilliant work, but ultimately, Alexander Mann took home the award for demonstrating consistently high standards across all areas. Jim Richardson added that although Alexander Mann has the resources to support many initiatives, it has still managed to deliver consistently on large scale and complex global projects. This is a phenomenally impressive achievement that all of us at Cornerstone also wish to say a huge congratulations for! The other winners and nominees from this year’s TIARA Talent Solutions Awards have highlighted more excellent work and brilliant stories across the recruiting sector and HR community. For the full list of winners, check out the TALiNT International’s September/October 2020 edition here.

Blog: Why HR need to lead the agile change journey

Blog Post

Blog: Why HR need to lead the agile change journey

It's been going on for a while now - the shift towards more agile and flexible companies that quickly can adapt to the fast-changing times of today. Organisations that are unable to make this move are gradually losing competitiveness and finding it more difficult to prove themselves against smaller and faster players. Those who recognise the need and are able to create new conditions for the business, in the form of new structures, will survive and flourish in tomorrow's economic reality. Agile HR can be viewed from two different angles; How HR should work together within the HR team and what / how HR should deliver value to the business for which they exist. All HR processes that are part of Talent and People Management will be different when you start working agile, and each of the processes have their specific tools and working methods. Here we will look at HR from a more general perspective, to get an overall understanding of how the HR role, and the corresponding deliverables, change in a company that wants to increase its business agility. The goal is to focus on creating better workplaces through the development of teams and individuals, throughout the whole organisation. Small and medium-sized companies are easier to change, as they have less hierarchical structures, and often a more decentralised business, where everyone has an ability to make the decisions that need to be made, locally rather than centrally. The larger and more complex a company is, the more systems, processes, and structures there are that cannot be easily and quickly changed. Although it is possible to change a department in the organisation, some issues might remain that forces the department back into the central structures. This happens because it is not possible to isolate a specific part of the business. You can compare it to an attempt to change a rubber ball. It changes when it is being squeezed, but when you let go, it quickly returns to its old shape. However, there is one functional department in most large organisations that can influence all the other parts at once – HR. In many large companies, HR controls; ● Leadership programs and development ● Change management ● Organisational development ● Employee engagement ● Employee training and skills development ● Rewards and bonuses ● Recruitment ● Goal setting and performance reviews ● Long term mix of employees All these processes or areas flow through the entire organisation. These are the structures that can support, or prevent, a more radical change towards a more agile company. It all depends on HOW we work with processes and programs. They can be developed in a way that, paradoxically, prevents performance and commitment. Or they can optimise performance and employee satisfaction. HR struggles with criticisms, it is accused of being some kind of "organisational police", which hinders performance and commitment by implementing Talent management processes in a way that was intended to increase the same. This needs to change. HR has been in the back seat for too long and now it is time to take responsibility for a change in how to support the organisation. Because it is about people, and relationships between people, this is the key to how the company performs as a whole. It is the system that fundamentally needs to change, not the people. We do not need to do more things or implement complicated frameworks and methods. Instead, we need to understand how we can make it easier for people to make their best contribution to the company, by providing supportive structures, instead of hindering structures. It is through more experiments and by trying different working methods, that one can find the best path for each organisation, and each team/individual. Here, the agile principles and the agile mindset serve as a guide. Agile tools and frameworks work sometimes, but not always. The only way to continually improve is through constant learning, which also means that we sometimes fail. Companies that learn faster than others, and turn that knowledge into new ways of working for employees, but also new products and services for external customers, gain a competitive advantage and will be the winner of the future. HR has the power and the ability to design the structures that aim to either support or make it harder for employees to contribute in creative and innovative ways. If HR sticks to the old, traditional ways of working, the consequence will be rigid and non-agile organisations that use inefficient systems and processes. HR can either hinder or support the change, so HR must show the way. By providing opportunities for alternative and more agile working methods, and by focusing on value creation and value flows for the internal and by extension also external customers, HR can lead companies through changes that no other department is capable of. The next blog chapter will dive into HR's changing role.

Cornerstar Moments - Nestle


Cornerstar Moments - Nestle

Hear from Nestle’s JoAnne Rossouw, Head of Digital Learning, and Andriy Verminskyy, Global Product Manager, on how Cornerstone has helped Nestle to engage and train over 333,000 employees across the globe. By rolling out their new global learning management system, Nestle can now focus on retaining and investing in their people.

Schedule a personalised 1:1

Talk to a Cornerstone expert about how we can help with your organisation’s unique people management needs.

© Cornerstone 2022