It's the blurring of IT and HR that drives growth

By Gavin Franks: Chief Operating Officer, O2 Business

In an age of driverless cars it’s easy to feel that technology is beginning to replace us. And sometimes it feels like IT teams get caught up with the nuts and bolts of delivering new technology and forget who is actually going to use it. But unless technology supports how we actually need to work and live, organisations will simply undercut the efficiency and productivity gains they hope to produce.

A people-first approach

It’s why the line between IT and HR is blurring. Look right now across any industry and sector and you’ll see examples of human resources and technology teams working together to drive growth. There’s the CIO of a global transportation and energy firm , for instance, whose role includes ‘driving the social enterprise’. And also the Chief People Officer of a world-famous fast food chain, whose remit covers ‘improving employee engagement through technology’.

Just a few years ago these priorities would still have sat within the other’s remit. But things change quickly. HR now talks about using technology to improve the way the organisation operates, and IT is looking to deliver increased wellbeing.

And this blurring is even reflected in changing job titles, with a large local authority director  taking on the joint strategic responsibility for HR and ICT.

That’s something that’s becoming more commonplace, according to Ann Pickering, our own HR director. “This aligning of responsibilities between HR and IT shouldn’t be surprising really, not when you consider the changing face of the workforce. There’s the expectation that information is something people can access and use when and where they want. If you’re unable to provide that type of flexibility in the workplace, then your recruitment and retention will drop.”

Employees will not accept the status quo

Ann’s point is backed up by work Pew Research did last year. It shows that in the US, millennials (those aged 19–35) now outnumber Generation X in the workplace. They’re the generation that has pretty much grown up with mobility and instant access, and are going to demand the same device, connectivity and apps at work as they get at home. And that’s before you even consider Generation Z, who are quickly coming around the corner and have simply never known an unconnected life.

Greater savings and productivity

So no organisation that’s serious about the future can afford to look at HR and IT as two distinct and different functions. Which is a point backed up by Forrester, which reports that areas like unified communications deliver greater productivity and bottom-line benefits if it harnesses people’s in-built preferences.

And these benefits are significant, with PwC finding that unified communications can improve productivity by 67% and efficiency by 68%.

Brendan O’Rourke is our CIO and isn’t surprised by the figures. “People simply do more when they’re not tied to an office. It’s now as easy to collaborate with clients and colleagues from a park bench as it is a meeting room, so no one has to waste time or effort travelling to where information is stored before they can use it. That’s why everything I do from a technology angle always starts with how our people or clients need to use it – as it’s them that make organisations effective, not a device or an app.”

So, will technology drive your business and talent forward or undermine them? That all depends on whether you put people first. Visit our website to find out how.