Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Future Of Compensation Technology Response

The latest issue of the WorldatWork "Focus On Compensation" article discusses several points related to the "Future of Compensation Technology".  I eagerly clicked through from the e-mail link to the article thinking that I would be in for a treat, hoping for some grand predictions on where we're headed as compensation professionals.  What I read instead is that the future of compensation technology is all about analytics and access to greater amounts of data. While I agree that this is certainly the trend and that having a greater ability to analyze the vast amounts of data generated by compensation and human resources in general is desirable, I was left feeling a bit let down.

Here's the rub for me. I feel like technology hasn't changed all the much in the past 10 years for the vast majority of practitioners. Yes, absolutely, Excel has garnered new features that make working with spreadsheets easier (I'm thinking of the Remove Duplicates button for instance) and systems such as  NextComp make aspects of compensation easier and more automated.

But for the majority of people, the function as it relates to technology is about the same. We're working with spreadsheets, sometimes Access databases, we're pulling data from many disparate sources, all of which have their own formats and their own idiosyncrasies, and we're struggling to leverage all this information in a way that makes sense from a business standpoint.  Sure, the use of paper has dramatically dropped. I don't remember the last time I had to work with a paper survey, but the PDF file has usurped paper. It's no easier to use the data in the PDF file than the paper copy.

I should clarify. I'm focused on market pricing and compensation analysis. I'm deeply involved in this work on a daily basis. In 2000 when I started thinking about an automated salary survey system I kept asking myself the same question; "Is there a better way?". My answer to the question was NextComp. And I believe NextComp is a great answer to this question for many people that need an automated system, something that is a step up from working in those "monster" Excel files we've all experienced.

I'm just not sure what the next ten years will hold. Clearly mobile is a huge sea change in how we use technology. We have the computing power in our pocket that used to take up half our desk. We have always on, always connected devices that can make our work actually fun to complete. Our laptops weigh only a few pounds and have screens that look like glossy magazine pages. But we're still faced with the same fundamental issues of getting access to good reliable sources of data and making that data accessible in a format that is usable and meaningful.

And that is not something that any one company or platform can fully solve. It would take the coming together of many organizations agreeing to a common language and a common format.  Does anyone remember or know about HR-XML?  When I started NextComp I thought HR-XML would solve all of our problems. All of the survey providers would join up and agree on a common interchange language and common field naming conventions and by 2010 we would have automated data interchange with NextComp as a hub for all that data.  But alas, as with many visions of the future, it was a bit optimistic to think this would come to pass. There are just too many vested interests and too many people involved to make this a reality any time soon.  So NextComp, or our customers loading data themselves, does the work of consolidating that survey data into a common format. And it's the same story for all the other salary survey system providers. Part of our services are to take all this data and make some sense of it.

Ultimately though, I believe that there will come a time when we'll have a truly automated systematic way of consolidating this data and using it.  It's what the the customer of the data wants and so I'm hopeful that the providers of the data will find it to their best interest to provide that service themselves.


  • Matt - good response. Speaking of HR-XML, there is a salary survey project starting up right now. You might want to reach out to Kim Bartkus at HR-XML if you're interested.
    - Ryan Johnson, WorldatWork

    By Blogger Ryan Johnson, at 9:50 AM  

  • Hi Matt - I agree the format hasn't changed very much. I think there is some momentum around Compensation data now being utilized in other talent areas. That has kicked off some automated workflow tracking and other elements. I'm focused on the the delivery/transactional elements.

    Also - HR-XML is picking up the Salary Survey initiative again. It is kicking off the last week of Feb in Tampa, and I'm representing Oracle.

    By Anonymous Chad Atwell, at 10:06 AM  

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