Historical tensions between HR and IT within some organizations may pose roadblocks to successful partnerships, but to take innovation to the next level, HR and IT leaders must focus on the future.

HR innovation is a cornerstone of staying competitive and today's workforce environment requires the cultivation of healthy relationships between HR and IT departments.

What does this look like? The ideal partnership allows HR to innovate and enables IT to bring strategy and thought leadership to the table. HR's role has rapidly shifted toward prioritizing digital transformation, which has established HR leaders as a key internal client for IT departments. For ADP, HR is the primary customer externally as well, which has made it even more crucial to get the HR/IT partnership right.

If your organization is considering technology enhancements, here's how to support a partnership that puts HR innovation and a people focus on your organization's technology and strategy roadmap.

Develop Holistic Journey Maps to Guide HR/IT Collaboration

Developing a holistic journey map that connects all of HR's challenges, key initiatives and goals into a unified vision can help lay the foundation for successful IT and HR collaboration. "If we are very clear in articulating the problem we are trying solve holistically, IT is going to exponentially help you move the needle," says Sugi Venkatesh, Division VP of HR for Global Product and Technology at ADP.

A healthy dose of patience on HR's part is necessary, as quality IT solutions can sometimes take time to design and deploy. "A meaningful, well-thought-out technology solution has a lot of user research and user intelligence built into it," says Venkatesh. "A really good technology solution takes time, and a lot of HR professionals don't have patience for it."

Partnerships Can Highlight What's Possible With Technology

HR often relies on IT to support innovation in a strategic way. Part of IT's role revolves around communicating what's possible to HR leaders. They may be faced with questions like: What new technologies are available to solve ongoing or acute HR issues? How can emerging solutions help them improve the candidate or employee experience? Can these solutions help scale the organization's talent reach in new ways? HR leaders are often asked to focus on technology without specific technical expertise, and IT can act as a consultant to help HR operationalize their goals through technology.

Traditionally, the relationship HR has with IT has been that of maintaining a system of record. The HR and IT relationship is moving into building a system of engagement.

Sugi Venkatesh, Division VP of HR for Global Product and Technology, ADP

It's likely that your organization's HR and IT goals are not that different. At a recent conference, CIOs discussed two top priorities. The first was uptime; they want to make sure their systems and products are up and available to their customers when they need them. The CIOs' second priority was enterprise application: How are they serving their internal clients? Providing reliable access to core systems and optimizing the internal customer experience are aims that align with HR's top priorities — and these shared goals can provide a compass for navigating HR/IT partnerships.

HR/IT Can Co-develop Solutions

Another way to leverage HR/IT partnerships for broader HR innovation is working together to co-develop solutions for the larger organization. At ADP, for example, the technology team reached out to HR to help co-develop a product destined for the market. This cooperation requires clear vision, a strong strategy and healthy communication.

"In this partnership, they're using internal HR — the main experts — to help build a product for companies like us," says Venkatesh. "They're using our expertise to actually co-develop and build that product. We are now using some of that next-gen technology internally first to make sure we test out the product, make sure we're designing a product that we would be proud to use internally and take it to our associate concurrently as we bring it to the external market."

This co-development process requires HR and IT to lean into next-gen HCM platforms to manage core HR and talent functions. Each department worked together to build an app in real time, which will eventually be offered to external customers. During development, both teams tested the product, got real-time feedback from associates and conveyed that feedback to the product team to drive product performance enhancements. In this scenario, HR's expert opinion on the product helped assess functionality and identify areas of opportunity.

Communicating clear feedback to the product team helped IT improve the user experience and reliability so the product would truly be ready for launch when it's introduced to external customers. That's just one example of what's possible through HR/IT collaboration. At other organizations, collaboration might involve customizing a time-reporting solution or developing an entirely new product with specific users in mind.

Move Toward Building Systems of Engagement

Historical tensions between HR and IT within some organizations may pose roadblocks to successful partnerships, but to take innovation to the next level, HR and IT leaders must focus on the future.

"Traditionally, the relationship HR has with IT has been that of maintaining a system of record," says Venkatesh. "The HR and IT relationship is moving into building a system of engagement."

These systems of engagement can help organizations deliver an employee experience that elevates employer branding. Moreover, a focus on strategic planning and communication that leads to a stronger partnership between HR and IT can benefit the entire organization.

HR innovation is playing a significant role in how human resources departments engage with their organizations. From core HR functions to cutting-edge talent solutions, cultivating partnerships with IT can help leaders identify new technological opportunities, efficiently meet core HR goals and scale top employee experiences and employer branding to every key talent touchpoint.

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