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HR Technology Conference: Analytics is the New Social (Which was the New Cloud)

/ 10.10.14

Four days in Las Vegas is long past my comfort zone. But it’s a small price to pay to attend the most influential conference for human resource innovators. The HR Tech Conference is the only event of its kind where attendees skip sessions to have more time on the expo floor--and where they come to shop.

Each year, there seems to be one word that dominates all conversations. Last year was social. The year before was cloud. This year, the term analytics was soaked into every pitch, every booth design, and every session.Forward-thinking HR folks having been talking about analytics forever. But this year seemed to finally connect the dots between the theoretical and the tangible realities of human capital metrics. The best example for this was a session delivered by ConAgra’s Mark Berry and Visier’s John Schwarz. ConAgra is using analytics to bridge the universal gap between HR and Finance and create a "single source of truth"

HR-Technology-Conference-Analytics-is-the-New-Social.png about headcount and salary expense, in order to plan future workforce and track how actuals compare to that plan in near real time. Of all the big buzzwords in the past years, progress with analytics will have the most long-term consequences in how companies are run.

 

The best keynote session was Andrew McAfee, an MIT scientist focused on how future technologies impact business. McAfee quelled some of the fears surrounding machine learning--which he says will drive the most change since the industrial revolution. He assured 5,000 attendees that humans won’t be pawns of artificial intelligence. Instead, humans combine complex communication skill with pattern matching. McAfee was not only the most intellectually fascinating keynote, he was the most tweeted.

 

Clusters of Ivy League MBAs swarmed the expo floor. A prolonged boom for merger and acquisition activity mixed with some high profile venture deals has enterprise software looking sexier than I’ve seen it in over 10 years. And the investment banking hounds are sniffing around. This is good for our space. Deep pockets pouring into innovation that makes businesses more profitable is good for the global economy. And it will attract more talent to solve real problems--while luring talent away from novelty businesses in the consumer space.

 

Over the years, the HR Technology Conference has been the best barometer of the health of our industry. After seeing this year’s sessions, expo floor, and senior-level HR leader attendees, I can say with confidence that the state of our industry is strong.

 

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