What ‘Modern Family’ teaches us about workforce technology
by me, published on TechTarget Sept 20, 2016]
For years I’ve had a guilty appreciation for the TV series Modern Family, which follows — mockumentary-style — the adventures (and misadventures) of three related families. It struck me recently that the show is a great analogy for modern workforce technology, including that related to HR, finance and payroll — in other words, the “family” of integrated software within a company.
In Modern Family, the patriarch becomes an expecting parent at age 65, along with his much younger wife, who has a son from a previous marriage. One family comprises a married gay couple with an adopted Vietnamese daughter. And even the most “traditional” family of the trio bucks certain stereotypes; for example, the husband in the pairing is the far more emotionally demonstrative than the wife.
One of the obvious themes of Modern Family is that the concept of the historically traditional family is now much less relevant, and that modern families can take any form. Moreover, even historically traditional families are changing. Both of these points apply to enterprise technology.
ERP once dominated the concept of what a “family” of workplace technology systems should look like. ERP systems were typically big, bulky, not very user-friendly and included all business functions under one roof. Today, you’ll find any combination of workplace technology combinations. Many times, the payroll and finance systems are older (meaning they have been in place in the company longer), whereas the HR system has been separated out and is much younger. The systems are likely built on completely different architectures. Beyond that, and much like a modern family, the point here is that families of enterprise technology systems can take many forms, depending on the company itself and its particular goals and challenges.
We’re also living in an era of technological revolution, and, while some would argue that enterprise technologies are lagging, they are still modernizing at a fairly rapid pace. So, what are some examples of modern families of workforce technology platforms and software where the technology is modernizing?
- (HR) + (PR) + (FIN). You now have plenty of situations where HR, payroll and finance systems have been separated. This is most often the case in medium-sized companies, where they’re big enough to have a need for a robust HR system and nimble enough to want it to be more cutting-edge. You might find a combination of BambooHR + ADP + Quickbooks or possibly something like Fairsail + Deltek + IntAcct. We see all types of combinations of the separated family, and as long as they’re well thought out and still “talk” via integrations, they can still work.
- (HR + PR) + FIN. You then have the very common family that includes both HR and payroll under one roof, with finance still separate. Companies can still take advantage of a quality HR system with well-rounded functionality and solid payroll platform in this case, but finance has been banished to the basement. Examples of these types of systems are Ultimate Software and cFactor Vibe.
- (HR + FIN) + PR. Here’s an interesting new one that we’re seeing. There’s less of a need for payroll to be a part of the picture. Financial Force, which still seems to have the emphasis on the function in its name, is an example of a system doing that.
- (HR + FIN + PR). And lastly, the all-inclusive family, similar to the old ERP world, still exists but with modernization. Workday is worth mentioning here, as are SAP SuccessFactors and Oracle, both of which have made significant strides at representing the 2016 family.
As you can see, today’s families of systems can take many different forms. Just as on Modern Family, many workforce technology structures can work well. Give some thought as to what your family of workplace technology systems looks like, and in today’s world where the nimble survive, maybe at some point you’ll want to restructure it to be more modern.
Or if that sounds too stressful, just kick back and laugh at the antics depicted on Modern Family.