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Cloud-based solutions give HR a shot in the arm. By Rob Bothma
The advent of Cloud-based software solutions has placed many organisations in a conundrum as, over the past number of years, huge investments have been made in order to get on-premise style solutions in place. This entailed huge costs associated with the purchase of the software, the purchase of the required hardware and, of course, all those costs associated with the implementation and training for optimal use of the selected solution.

Once all these once-off costs were absorbed or capitalised, an additional budget had to be set aside for the annual maintenance fees of the system. In essence, companies have spent loads of money on their current installed systems, and are not too excited about spending more money to change. When we then add to the fact that the Human Resources team is a cost centre within the organisation, the challenges they have faced and will face to receive additional budget for moving systems will be difficult to say the least.

But, thankfully, the advent of Cloud-based solutions has changed the whole landscape, through the introduction of subscription-based software, where you only pay for what you use, when you use it and how you use it, with the added advantage of removing all the costs associated with hardware and the relevant third party software.

So it’s a major mind set change that needs to happen in order to firstly accept that Cloud-based solutions are the way all solutions are moving. The day is coming when there will be no other choice, and organisations can take advantage of the benefits that Cloud-based solutions have to offer.

Having said this, it’s easy to see that it is inevitable that the HR team will need to move to a Cloudbased solution sooner rather than later. Many other functional areas in the organisation have already found that the Cloud has lived up to its promises, and there is no reason to believe that this will be any different for the HR team. Cloud-based solutions will not only change the face of HR by empowering them to becoming more strategic players, but will also assist and empower employees in being more productive.

I guess one of the biggest challenges is that not everybody in the organisation, especially the decision-makers, truly understands the benefits that a Cloud-based solution can offer the HR team so, in summary, here are the top four.

1 One of the biggest benefits that an organisation experiences in using Cloud software is its very nature. The software author is able to provide its entire client base with regular software releases and updates in a seamless manner, as they are only required to update the single version that is running in the Cloud, as opposed to having to perform one-on-one updates at each and every client site. This results in the user receiving updates on a regular basis throughout the year, as opposed to the normal annual update which can play havoc with system usage during the update period.

2 The second benefit is that, by receiving these regular updates to the system, the HR team can stay relevant with current technology and functionality. The need for year long waits for new innovations or functionality to be built into the software is pretty much negated.

3 The third benefit that users experience is an intuitive web-based interface to the system, much like if they were accessing Facebook or other social platforms. Cloud-based technology is developed utilising the latest technological advancements, and is designed to explicitly move away from the clunky and laborious menu driven processes that are inherent in legacy solutions.

4 The fourth benefit solves the challenge many organisations are experiencing today, dealing with workforce mobility. Today’s workforce is seldom centrally located. Even the HR team, with the advent of the Business Partner concept, has moved to be in closer proximity to the various lines of business. Cloud solutions ensure that not only will the HR team always have access to their entire HR solution but so too will managers and employees have access to their relevant components. This makes the HR function available anywhere and at any time. Long gone are the days where an employee or manager could only interact with HR during prescribed office hours.

The whole transition to a Cloud-based solution is really one of streamlining processes and moving ownership of the various functional areas to where they belong. HR is moving to more of a custodial role, and line management and employees are now being provided with the relevant tools to enable them to carry out HR functions with ease, moving ownership to where it belongs. A good example is the Performance Management process. HR is the custodian through the creation and setting up of all the relevant parameters, that is, how it should happen, and what employees and managers need take ownership by driving the process, as this is where it all happens, at the coal face!

If the above benefits are not enough to convince the executive that now is the time for HR to move into the Cloud, nothing will.

In summary, when considering the use of a Cloud-based HR solution, you should look beyond just cost savings, and rather focus on the broader day-to-day benefits the organisation will achieve. In addition, Cloud-based solutions will force the organisation to focus on their employees by ensuring that they have all the right tools and information at their disposal to perform optimally in their jobs.

Rob Bothma is an HR Systems Industry Specialist at NGA HR, www.ngahr.co.za, a Fellow of the Institute of People Management and past non-executive director and Vice President of the IPM, co-author of the 4th Edition of Contemporary Issues in HRM and member of the Executive Board for HR Pulse.

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