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Andy Price

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Interview: Richard Anderson, Commercial Director, Cascade HR talks HR tech

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Cascade HR offers up a range of HR and payroll solutions and services, but its core software focuses on the user, and what they need to see or access. Richard Anderson, Cascade HR’s commercial director spoke to HRZone about the companies technology-focused approach to HR, and how emerging platforms like the cloud has affected their own offerings.

Cloud and social approaches to HR are growing – how do you think this affects both you and the HR field in general?

While social networking sites haven’t had any effect on HR and Payroll software we have witnessed HR departments using LinkedIn to cross-reference CVs and ensure accuracy. However, this hasn’t affected our systems.

Certainly cloud is beginning to have a big impact. Cloud presents a range of opportunities both for the end client and software provider alike. From the client’s point of view the ability to rely on the expertise of the software provider to ensure high levels of security are maintained without the need to involve their own IT departments, in itself a potential security “hole,” is paramount. Throw in the huge reduction in overheads, maintenance and reduced impact of continuously deployed updates, instead of “big bang” updates once or twice a year, and cloud makes sense even if just viewed from a back office and efficiency perspective. Adding in the “connect anywhere, anytime, any device” benefits that a truly browser-based cloud solution can deliver and cloud begins to become extremely appealing.

What’s surprised or impressed you in the HR landscape in the last 12 months?

I think from our point of view the biggest story of late 2013 has been auto-enrolment. Initially seen as a major obstacle with complexity upon complexity we’ve seen HR and Payroll teams manage the process efficiently and proficiently.

By working together with us our clients helped us create an innovative but practical solution to manage the challenges AE presents and their abilities combined with our software has turned a daunting challenge into a positive outcome.

What do you see as the main challenges facing HR over the next five years, and how do you think technology could help tackle them?

Competitiveness. Whilst talk of recession has faded a little everyone is beginning to realise the state of affairs we face today is more permanent and not a temporary blip. Fingers have been burned and it is highly unlikely we will ever return to the “spend, spend, spend” mentality of previous times. For this reason businesses are looking for all departments to contribute to the competitive nature of their organisation.

HR had made strides to be a productive improver of business, a contributor to the bottom line already, but this new realisation has accentuated the need for this development. As such HR departments are looking to software solutions to provide information and statistics as well as control over processes and quality to ensure business decisions are made with detailed and reliable knowledge and that once decisions are made controls are put in place that ensure efficiency, accuracy and quality.

How do you approach your development cycle and  to what extent do consumer trends, business trends, or the needs of clients and the wider industry affect how you introduce features?

Cascade operate a “Change Lab”. This Change Lab is accessible by Cascade staff and their clients online. Both parties can add ideas, suggestions and requests to the Change Lab and then key staff at Cascade as well as our directors, along with input from clients through the Change Lab and User Groups, prioritise before experienced product managers and development staff design, create, test and roll out new features.

However. this goes beyond software development. We are flexible and run user groups and online events to help our clients adapt, using built in features, to new challenges and opportunities. Not all evolution encompasses our entire client base and therefore industry-specific challenges must also be met – without bespoke development and with customisation via standard tools.

The global workforce – what are the challenges to the HR department in maintaining relationships, training, and enthusiasm in a business world without borders?

Communication. Without shared systems that can manage processes, decision making and sharing of ideas is slowed to a near full stop. This frustrates colleagues and customers and provides opportunity for competitors to take advantage by moving more quickly to a better solution.

What can HR software and new technology offer to help bridge these gaps?

By placing our systems in the cloud our clients have benefited from global availability of our systems. Combined with features such as workflow this means that individuals, and teams, in locations thousands of miles apart can contribute and communicate in a controlled fashion via smartphones, tablets and laptops with minimal effort.

Technology is often used as a tool to make our lives easier, or increase the efficiency of a task. What activities or skills do HR professionals now possess as a result of advances in talent management software that they didn’t have five years ago?

The fear of systems and fear of cloud has largely disappeared. This sounds minor but in years gone by this caution led to a lack of development. Confidence has risen and now fear does not constrain ideas.

HR people also feel more confident “owning” systems now. HR teams look for systems that offer them the ability to take control, to screen design, create new workflows, build reports and essentially evolve the system themselves rather than the traditional approach of paying the supplier for every little change.

This has freed budget for staff-focused activities but more importantly this change to modern systems and the confidence to use them has meant that HR departments no longer say “we do it like this because that’s how the system works” and instead say “Let’s do it like this and make the system change”. This means the constraints and restrictions of old systems that needed investment for every change are gone and a new freedom has taken over.

What do you think the key trends for HR technology will be in 2014?

Increased cloud use. More tablet use. An increase in the desire to share the workload with suppliers as suppliers won’t just provide software and support but also services to help the user use the system on a daily basis.

For example, we are seeing more and more organisations implementing our HR and Payroll systems in our cloud and taking the HR and Payroll input role themselves but outsourcing the processing of payroll to Cascade. We see this trend evolving with other HR and Payroll related activities being outsourced but through the shared software platform instead of previously where disparate systems were used without a central hub.

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Andy Price

Technology Editor

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