Sunday, June 30, 2013

HR: Follow the Data, Not the Process

By Mike Cerniglia, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, MicroPact

Stop for a second and think about your household shopping list. How did you come up with that list? Did you start by mapping out the optimal process for conducting your grocery shopping or did you start with the list of items you need to purchase? Like most people, you probably came up with the list of items you need to purchase and then determined where to go to get those items. Rarely in our daily lives do we start working toward a goal by asking, “What is the process here?” Yet in business, for better or worse, this is often the first question people ask.

For many large businesses, especially those in highly regulated industries, data—like content—is king. Human Resources departments are no different. HR managers rely on employee data to track growth and succession plans, document performance reviews, maintain updated contact information, track complaints, and in many cases, provide reports to the federal government. So why then, when people begin designing systems (software applications) for managing organizational data, do they begin with mapping out the process?

Organizations and their HR departments need to consider a data-first approach when implementing case management systems. Starting with the data instead of the process offers a means of reducing clutter and redundancies while managing employee data quickly, economically, and effectively.

The Limitation of a Process-First Approach

Getting caught up in the process of how data is collected often overshadows what should be the more important goal: collecting accurate data in a usable format. For many organizations, the focus has been on business process management (BPM); however, what HR departments need is case management.

There are times when using a structured system with limited outcomes is the appropriate solution; traditional BPM offerings focus on the process of collecting information featuring a fairly rigid series of events and milestones. For example, the processing of accounts billable and receivable is often routine. With a defined set of steps that lead to one of two final outcomes—paying an invoice or receiving payment from an invoice—implementing traditional BPM software gets the job done.

For activities such as employee recruitment and retention or skills assessments, however, related data is much more varied and layered. In these cases, implementing a strict, process-focused solution might preclude a company from seeing beneficial results.

The Benefit of Shifting the Focus to Data

In a data-first approach, the data—not the process—drives the operation forward. Systems designed to focus on data tracking requirements are familiar and translate into a system that captures essential information, presenting it in a format relevant to all users. A data-first approach lends itself to iterative development. Rules and processes are injected and modified on an ongoing basis to suit the changing needs of the organization.

Case management solutions offer flexibility. In situations such as recruitment and training, where there can be exceptions and events that require additional input at any point in the process, a rigidly structured system cannot accommodate additional data inputs. At these junctures, it is essential to pay attention to the data—lapses of time, individual scenario details, and so on. Focusing only on the process, essential information can get overlooked—potentially at tremendous risk to the organization. This can include information needed to stay ahead of EEO claims before they are initiated, avoiding penalties associated with time delays, saving health-care costs, or winning a court case.

Following data captured via case management initiatives enables organizations to simultaneously enhance workforce development. By analyzing data patterns, companies can uncover areas for improvement or weaknesses within their workforce, empowering them to proactively make changes that ensure corporate success and avoid future problems. First, however, organizations must ensure that the data being captured is the right data—the primary goal of a data-first approach.

Make Informed Decisions: Follow the Data, Discover the Process

HR processes are only as effective as the information entered into them. Implementing a case management system built on a data-first approach enables companies and users to crunch useful and real-time data as they see fit, whether to generate reports or track a status. It also allows users to identify trends, spot potential problem areas, and ultimately improve the process.

Because the primary goal of the project is always at the forefront, organizations can use case management solutions to save time, increase revenue, improve efficiency, and streamline processes across the board. A case management approach results in a solution that is effective, intuitive, and adaptable.

Mike Cerniglia has been with MicroPact since its inception and currently serves as executive vice president and chief technology officer. He has spearheaded the company’s transition from a predominantly services-based organization to offering enterprise-class software and services. Cerniglia has played a vital role in bringing MicroPact’s products to market, including entellitrak, entellidoc, and icomplaints. Business Process Management (BPM), Case Management, and Document Management products developed by the team led by Cerniglia are used by more than 140 federal agencies, as well as many Fortune 500 organizations.MicroPact’s open architecture, on-premises or cloud-based products can be implemented immediately and configured continuously, enabling customers to get to work quickly while keeping costs low. For more information, visit

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