HR IT Trend For 2002: Efficiency Before Innovation

Consulting firm sees trends in human-resources technology spending moving away from innovation, toward greater cost-control.



Looking ahead to the new year, IT execs are keeping an eagle eye on spending--and it looks like cost control is going to be the driving force in spending on human-resources technology as well, according to HR consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

That's consistent with the back-to-basics approach most IT execs seem to be taking. Watson Wyatt analyst George Penn says that in preparing its HR technology projections for 2002, released Thursday, the firm gave more weight to best practices and measurable business benefits than to new technologies.

Among the trends it identified: greater interest in workplace portals, especially for health benefits, financial information, and other information employees need; and Web access to HR information for employees not always in front of a computer, such as factory-floor workers. In the wake of Sept. 11, more businesses also want to ensure that their employees can work from home or remote locations. Making all of this trickier is the fact that pressure from upper management will force HR execs to justify any technology spending with expected ROI and well-thought-out business cases.

All of these trends fall under what Penn calls "an umbrella of optimization." "This year, it's not about getting something new, but making the best of what you have," he says. For example, while the use of wireless applications for cell phones, PDAs, and laptops have proliferated in the last few years, they aren't really essential to the core of most businesses. "There's been a lot of hype on them," he says. "They're still important, but they are not a priority in these tough times."

Penn's advice to CIOs considering HR technology: Look for greater efficiencies, especially where you can take advantage of existing technologies such as XML. And spend smarter, not harder; Penn finds that the amount of technology is less important than how it's being deployed.

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