Did anyone hear that there is a tech explosion happening?

My email inbox certainly has. Just yesterday I received 13 separate emails from HR technology vendors looking to change my life with their latest app, for me personally or for my company. 9 the day prior (one duplicate). Capterra produced an “Infographic” (I wouldn’t call it that, but they do) of 547 HR technology companies – and that’s from a few years ago.

With such a wide landscape, I have been looking for something to help me put my own systems and tech landscape in context. There are lots of models of the HR landscape out there, but I’ve yet to really find one that I’ve been comfortable with. Many white board hours and conversation later… here comes version 1 of the model.

GetNerdyHR HR Technology Map

Ok, it’s not the prettiest. Lots of boxes… I know. I can look to enhance the visualization over time. For now, the focus is on mapping the landscape to enable better strategy and decisions. Function over style.

Let me explain some of the thinking.

I see three different families – or layers – of HR technology.

Wearing my Total Rewards hat, technology is a platform to deliver programs and services. When I put on my HR Operations hat, the technology strategy expands to be more about how HR works rather than what it delivers. So I’ve chosen to organize the framework into three layers, with specific products/applications organized in each:

The HR Programs and Services layer is organized by the employee lifecycle (roughly) and represents applications and tools that support specific HR programs and services. The “products” of HR generally fall into one of more of these applications.

I know it’s a bit buzzwordy, but I see a concentration of capabilities and some bundling of features going on in the “Employee Experience” space. Oddly, most HR tech frameworks and “landscape” graphics exclude the variety of tools you can use to gather feedback from your employees, candidates, or former employees. In a social media world, you must understand the pulse of the workforce and those influencing the workforce (and in a previous post, I called out why we need to change how we do this). While recognition and performance management tools have a home in other frameworks, I think including listening and employee communication is new and unique.

The HR Operations Management layer identifies tools and systems HR uses internally to be efficient and deliver those HR products. Think of these as the tools you use in supporting or delivering the HR programs that aren’t really part of the program itself. These are more about the internal HR function that how it works with and delivers for the organization.

Too many HR functions work the way they’ve worked for years. But there is “an app for that” for most of our needs. The IT function has understood service management, project management, and content management for years, and how this works has been revolutionized. The rise of service management systems (“ticketing” systems), new ways of working like Agile development, and wiki-based platforms to store and manage content are now must have tools and processes for your company’s technology teams. It’s time for HR to follow.

The HR Information Management layer recognizes that given the breadth of the landscape of HR programs and services, HR functions need to think about how it will stitch back together the information that is now spread across various applications.

As tech explodes, your HR data becomes shrapnel. In order to realize the value of the data contained within your various HR programs, that data needs to come back together to create a holistic view of the employee and organization context. Increasingly, that context needs to include external, non-HR data as well. As such, crafting an HR data management strategy and identifying tools to enable it is now a requirement. This space is ripe for innovation, some of which I plan to feature in an upcoming post.

A tech strategy needs to understand the landscape and craft an approach to managing its complexity.

As the landscape explodes, your technology strategy needs to anticipate innovation and consider how you want to choose and deploy technology. Many big players want to simplify this for you and become platforms – a one stop shop for a variety of applications across the landscape. You will need to decide what your key platform(s) will be, and what criteria you would use to stray from the platform. The more you utilize a platform across solutions, the less pressure you have on your Information Management layer (and likely your Operations Management layer as well). So in general, a platform-based strategy is a good one. That said, there is no single platform for HR in the market. Some vendors are closer than others, certainly. But even with those products, they are rarely best in breed across each specific solution area. So we are all likely to have a “platform plus” model for some time.


So what do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback, and will tweak the model a bit. You can leave comments here or reach out in other ways as you’d like. Once refined, we will create a permanent page on the site with the latest version for your use, both in picture format as well as an editable PowerPoint.

In future posts we will highlight some interesting vendors in the space that are doing interesting things. These will not be product endorsements – just observations of interesting things happening that you should know about. There is rarely a single right tool or platform for everybody, and we believe that sharing and knowing more about what’s available is a good thing for us all. Note that in each case the post we will fully disclose any relationship between the author and the vendor.

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