Whilst much of the noise about HR Technology and using data to improve organizations comes from the US, the European scene is at least as innovative with some really powerful technologies being developed here. During the last week I spoke with the leaders of two firms with great, innovative products which really should be better known.
OrgVue (no relations to my firm, OrganizationView) has been developed by Concentra, a UK business and technology consulting firm led by AT Kearney alumni. I spoke to Giles Slinger the Concentra director responsible for OrgVue to get an update on a product which I first saw this time last year. It’s a web-based product which was developed to enable better visualisation and scenario building of organizations and does so with a flair and depth uncommon in our industry.
Concentra really understand the power of great data visualisation, the way the right visualisation, designed with a comprehension of good visual-perception research enables the information of interest to jump out of the display in an inspiring manner. This is data visualisation that works, not the usual 3D funnels or dials that is part of most enterprise software but where study after study shows they get in the way of real data-comprehension.
After seeing how OrgVue can construct and display organizations you’re unlikely to look at the humble org chart in the same way again. Data can be embedded and encoded into the chart, not just attached as supplementary dashboard elements; the organization can be visualised as a standard hierachical chart or using a variety of network and hierachy type visualisations.
A wide variety of data types can be brought into the displays. Like my firm the team behind OrgVue understand the power of linking perception data and exploring Employee Opinion Surveys by drilling down through an encoded org chart is hugely powerful. Likewise the charts can include data such as competencies.
Unlike traditional reporting tools OrgVue enables scenario modelling and collaborative change of the organization. It has a drag-and-drop way of re-modelling organizations. During our conversation Giles talked about how existing clients were using it to restructure their companies, with Finance and HR working together to develop a more effective structure, increase transparency and rationalise changes.
Whilst Norwegian-based BrightArch’s OrganizationWeaver product is also a web-based tool for remodelling organizations it is far more focussed in its implementation. Its key use is within major organization changes / restructures for example during post-merger integration. It enables core teams to manage a large-scale transformation in an effective data-driven manner, incorporating multiple data types into the decision-making process.
Like Concentra there are backgrounds in management consultancy in BrightArch’s management team. This is a product which has obviously been developed by a team who’ve experienced the pain of running a big restructuring, who know the reality of the war room with its constantly changing spreadsheet-generated wallpaper.
I spoke to Tor Kielland, the co-founder and CEO and Nick Peters, the CMO. Nick had mentioned at an earlier meeting that they had met at an Accenture training course in New York.
Whereas the big-idea behind OrgVue is using world-class data visualisation to understand an organization, and to focus attention to areas which need action, OrganizationWeaver brings an internal markets perspective to big restructuring. As someone hard-wired as an economist I love this approach.
Nobody likes restructuring, it always brings uncertainty, unease and for many staff the feeling of disconnect between their futures and what their employer will do. As well as good at showing organization data, OrganizationWeaver also brings real social tools to enable employees preferences to be heard during these stressful times. BrightArch’s clients are reporting a high level of engagement with OrganizationWeaver supported processes through the increased transparency it provides. It tackles the work council / legal environment here in Europe very well.
The way the product works it would be the core tool you’d use to run one of these big restructuring. For example, you’d use OrganizationWeaver’s preference module instead of a recruitment system to increase the accuracy of job-matching. The advantage is you’d be using something designed specifically for re-deployments rather than trying to reuse a tool designed for a different task, with different logic and processes.
I’d imagine it would significantly reduce the resource need for staffing the project team on a restructuring or merger integration, likely through a bunch of expensive junior consultants doing project-office work. It’s a product designed to structure and, where feasible, automate these types of projects. Most importantly using it would enable more OD decisions to be based on insight, not made because of hearsay or politics.
The HR profession is at an early stage on its journey towards being a data-driven function. Whilst neither product will replace the need to have a deep centre of analytic expertise available both are powerful additions to the toolkit.