August 22, 2010
learning 2.0

IT & HR: Should They Merge?

The Learning Space at companies large and small is often caught between the fence posts of IT and HR. Sometimes, it’s a vortex. Regardless, I’ve come up with five personal opinions (without links to the thoughts or research of others) why I believe IT and HR could  merge in spite of any learning function’s prowess. This posting focuses on organizations that are revenue generating only.

They are, in no particular order:

  • Internal Call Center & Support Duplication
  • Capital Spend
  • Enterprise 2.0 = Work 2.0 = Learning 2.0
  • Collaborative Work Styles
  • Revenue Supporting Simplicity

Internal Call Center & Support Duplication

Whether outsourced, in-house, or both, the HR and IT functions normally possess call center teams. Furthermore, through various wikis, intranet sites, job aids, videos, etc. there are myriad different general support tools and opportunities available to employees. If HR & IT were to merge, the employee does not have to distinguish whether they require technology related, process related, human related or job related questions answered. The function becomes united, and even more so, there becomes an osmotic blend such that support related inquiries are seamless to the employee. There would be obvious support related synergies as well, from the team structure through to processes and end-user support tools.

Capital Spend

IT and HR are in the business of supporting the company to increase revenue and profitability. Thus, most of their time should be spent developing ways in which to invest in people and technology practices to increase overall revenue and profitability. If such is the case, having HR and IT together now creates a power business unit that can singularly align capital investments based on the union of both people and technology practices. It’s no longer myopically about technology considerations solely, or the opposite in terms of people practices. Capital spend would now equally consider the short and long-term requirements of both technology and people to therefore increase company results.

Enterprise 2.0 = Work 2.0 = Learning 2.0

The heart of this blog often centers round the hypothesis that Enterprise 2.0 without Work 2.0 without Learning 2.0 type of thinking is fruitless. With a merged IT and HR super business unit, we now have an entity that can achieve this vision effortlessly. Learning is shifting towards a combined formal, informal and social structure but it requires Enterprise 2.0 technologies to be successful. Work 2.0 (the shift to a more collaborative business model, inclusive to mobile work styles) needs the premise of Learning 2.0 to be successful, as well as Enterprise 2.0 technologies and processes. Enterprise 2.0 itself, really isn’t going to be successful unless the people practices of Work 2.0 and Learning 2.0 are specifically embedded into the change plan. Therefore, merging IT and HR, in my opinion, may help both mitigate the rollout issues for any of the three dimensions, and it should allow for easier enhancements short and long-term.

Collaborative Work Styles (also Work 2.0 related)

Ironic that I suggest to merge IT and HR with one of the actual reasons entitled “Collaborative Work Styles”? Perhaps. Business units are in the ‘business’ of working together with one another. This should be a given. With a combined IT and HR business unit, however, there will still be a number of groups and teams working on their specific areas of expertise. Under the super business unit banner, this group can act as the enterprise-wide example of how collaborative work styles can actually prosper. Through mobile working arrangements, to cross-functional team makeup, to collective intelligence idea factories, the merged HR and IT business unit can kick-start an organization’s foray into a more collaborative enterprise itself. The pundits and naysayers may suggest that this should not require a merged business unit to occur. While I do agree with the argument, I think in order to really drive an organization to becoming even more collaborative across all business units, a demonstrable example needs to be showcased, and this ‘may’ be easier by merging HR and IT.

Revenue Supporting Simplicity

There are plenty of examples demonstrating that both HR and IT have capabilities within their group to generate revenue for the company. The general rule of thumb, however, is that HR and IT are costs to the organization, and are established to support the organization drive revenue, and thus profitability. A singular super group that combines the functions of HR and IT to support the business to drive revenue, to me, has a lot of merit. For those in R&D, Product Group, Sales, Pre-Sales, Consulting amongst others that simply are trying to do their jobs in a more efficient and effective manner, imagine having one less hurdle to overcome in terms of processes, queries, discussions, etc. If you can reduce in half the number of internal touch-points by the revenue generating business units into the supporting business units (ie. merging IT and HR) that should, in theory, free up the time of executives, directors, managers and individual contributors to focus on the core of their role; to generate revenue.

Final Thoughts

I’ll keep thinking about this, and follow up this post later on in 2010 or early 2011 with the thoughts of others. I purposely have not discussed Finance, Marketing or Legal as I believe they need to remain separate, or in the case of Marketing, embedded with Sales. I’ve never liked the terms HR or IT and therefore, would suggest renaming it. In the spirit of a more connected and collaborative super business unit, I’d likely have the combined entity come up with the name. If I had a suggestion to offer, however, it would be CPI: Collaboration, People & Information.

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