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  Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn’t: rethinking the rules of the game that keep women from succeeding in business

By Lynn Cronin & Howard Fine, 272 pages, Prometheus Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-61614-174-5
  Retooling HR: using proven business tools to make better decisions about talent

By John W. Boudreau, 200 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4221-3007-0
  Workforce of One: revolutionizing talent management through customization

By Susan M. Cantrell and David Smith, 260 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN (not available)
  Training on Trial: how workplace learning must reinvent itself to remain relevant

By Jim D. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, 240 pages, AMACOM Books, 2010. ISBN 13: 978-0-8144-1464-4
  One Page Talent Management: eliminating complexity, adding value

By Marc Effron and Miriam Ort, 176 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN (not available)
  What’s Next GenX? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead, and Getting the Career You Want

By Tamara Erickson, 244 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4221-2064-4

  Workforce Solutions Review Online  
  Why Business Intelligence is failing HR  
  By Bob Conlin, Accero  

Business Intelligence (BI) seems to be dominating the airwaves in our industry. BI, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and even HR vendors promise these tools will help HR executives make strategic decisions about their employees, goals, even the health of the company overall. However, according to analysts, many companies never achieve the results they expect with these tools. The question is, why?

Human Capital Management (HCM) systems have long been able to capture a wealth of information about a company’s workforce.  But while HR Managers have relied on this data to pay employees and manage common HR functions, they often struggled to get meaningful information from these systems; the data was in the system, but getting it out in a timely, meaningful way was a challenge.

With the maturing of the Business Intelligence industry in the late 90’s and into this century, HR vendors recognized a potential solution to reporting and analytics challenges.  BI vendors and industry analysts were singing the praises of these powerful new tools, and soon vendors formed partnerships with various BI providers to resell the BI tools as part of their offering.

The Challenges

This trend of reselling tools continues today, but the reality is BI tools as a solution for HR analytics have not come as far as some would you like you to believe.  In fact, in some ways, BI tools have failed to live up to the promise of providing HR professionals predictive insight into key workforce metrics.

How so?  Well, most BI tools are just that – a set of tools.  The vendor ships the BI software to the customer, but the customer assumes responsibility for deploying the solution.  Following is a list of just a few of the tasks today’s BI customers are often expected to initiate once they receive the technology:

  • Defining metrics and key performance indicators important in analyzing HR, HCM & Payroll practices
  • Identifying the data needed for the metrics desired
  • Extracting and transforming the data into a meaningful format
  •  Storing the data in an optimized data mart
  • Defining how the data is best delivered (i.e. -  charts, scorecards, graphs, reports)
  • Designing and building the charts, graphs, scorecards and assembling them into useful dashboards
  • Providing secure, easy access to the dashboards and integrating a security model that controls access to specific data sets
  • Teaching executives and managers how to find the data they need, interpret it, and use it for decision support
  • Keeping the technology up-to-date and maintained as the platform evolves

In order to be successful with BI, the customer must know the metrics they need and how they will use them.  They also must engage their already under-staffed IT department to carry out the deployment and design work and then maintain the solution moving forward.  In too many instances, this set of tasks has proven to be too time-consuming and costly. The result is a BI system that never gets off the ground and never enables HR to support strategic decision-making.

Users face the challenge of continually having to make requests for the information they need, and relying on the IT department to service those requests.  Managers resort to spreadsheets and manual efforts to capture and manipulate the data to get to the information they need.  And for many, BI becomes a failed effort; the solutions end up as shelf-ware.

The Solution

What HR professionals need is a BI solution that delivers hundreds of pre-defined metrics, assembled in meaningful charts, dashboards, scorecards and reports.  HR should expect the solution to provide easy search functionality to enable users to quickly find the information they need.  With very little training, users should be able to slice and dice through the charts and dashboards to easily drill down to the underlying data.  The solution should help users easily answer important questions, identify emerging trends and predict risks and results.  And finally, HR should demand an out-of- the-box solution that can be up and live in very little time without impacting IT staff, but also provide the ability for advanced users to create their own metrics and reports.

With a packaged system optimized for HR data analysis, HR professionals, executives and even managers would gain instant insight to help them analyze items like: employee demographics, EEO data, turnovers, absences, skills gaps and more.   A true HR-optimized BI solution should help HR managers avoid risk, eliminate potential litigation, control costs, and increase employee productivity.

A predefined library of key performance indicators should help form the foundation for a more comprehensive reporting and analytics strategy.  HR-optimized BI gets HR managers out of the practice of looking in the rear view mirror – relying on after-the-fact static reports – and instead provides them the ability to look ahead and respond strategically.

Business intelligence solutions, from the right vendors, are more than just a set of tools. A complete BI solution should assist HR executives as they carry out their daily tasks with out-of-the-box content and a solid infrastructure that can handle growth as the company evolves.


As VP of Marketing, Bob Conlin owns responsibility for marketing, business development and product management. Prior to joining Accero, he served as the chief marketing officer at Centive, where he led the successful transformation of the company from enterprise software to a pure-play SaaS provider and created a new product category – On-Demand Sales Compensation Management.  Prior to joining Centive, Conlin served as director of Product Planning and Management at Infinium Software, a publicly traded ERP/HR/Payroll software vendor. In this capacity, he led the product management and marketing teams in the development, launch and ongoing marketing of Infinium's software solutions. Prior to Infinium, he held senior level sales and marketing positions at Cort Directions and Myriad/OrCom Systems. Conlin is a frequent speaker at industry events and has been published in numerous business journals including: CRM Magazine, Technology for Finance, Benefits and Compensation Solutions, Workspan and Technology for Finance. For more information, visit

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