Here is a little something from me to answer “Why the writing, Kate?”
Have you sat around a table/in a pub/at a party (worse if it’s the kids’!) in conversation but also in the uncomfortable hope that friends and colleagues will soon be on to something you actually understand? Have you, as the HRD or project lead, sat in a meeting (quite possibly you were Chair) and tried to navigate through a key point where inside you were at sea? It’s the same feeling and it’s not great.

My first such meeting as an iTrent Project Manager felt, I recall, pretty much like this.
In practice, the powerlessness of the project lead or project sponsor in HRIS can feel internally alarming. Fortunately perhaps from an external perspective, most of us as leads are pretty good at hiding it, but what if we didn’t have to? In the HRIS world, the gulf between the blinding of science of the technical teams, the application specialists, IT pro’s and supplier sales or pre-sales (Denis Barnard, much respected in the world of HRIS system selection, calls all this “geek-speak”) and the impact for HR is something that I believe can be bridged. The result is we have proper communication and partnership.

This takes bold questions.

Bold questions in their turn take conviction that there is no dilution of our own expertise if we own up to the fact that our own sphere of understanding has a bit of a different focus from the one “on the table”. We might need to try to expand the intersection of this Venn diagram of our professions, but working life wouldn’t be terribly efficient if we were all great at exactly the same things. I remember as a child my father answering to a frustrated hotel receptionist as to why he’d not advised them in advance that my then-disabled mum needed a bath (not a shower). He said, “Because I’m stupid”. Neither I nor the receptionist felt he was a stupid dad at that point, and I suspect he didn’t feel it either. And Mum got a bath.
IT-speak doesn’t come naturally to the HR person. Nor does it come naturally to the technical expert to explain the terms that are everyday in the systems world.

So I’d suggest trying something of my dad’s approach: “I’m sorry – I don’t understand that”. You would not be alone if you are stuck even when the explanation is offered, in which case, keep going. For example:
“We’ll be accessing the site using SFTP.” (I might not even have heard this right and for sure I know I’m lost if we press on down this line.)
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what SFTP is.”
“Oh, it’s a secure file transfer protocol.” (Is that enough for you? Perhaps. But you might need to press on…)
“So what is the impact of that then? Why is it secure? Why is it the best option?” And the protocol part seems to mean, by the way, an agreed language, which is something rather like that which I’m trying to achieve here.

I accept that there is a limit to which you probably wish to pursue the “Because I’m stupid” tactic in public to help you make your HRIS decisions. And in the meantime, I am quite happy to act as one of the translation tools out there. Feel free to submit requests for de-mystification and expect more writing which aims to make sense to the people on the HRIS project team, who may not necessarily start with the right vocabulary.

Word of the day: Data “cube” – I learned about how newer reporting tools, we expect, should increasingly allow us to see data in 3 or more dimensions. Traditional reports look at data in rows against columns, which is 2 dimensions. A data “cube” holds data that the user can drill down to in 3 or more dimensions – visualise it like a cube shape – the 3rd dimension allows you to question the 1st dimension, even though they are not linked directly. (e.g. Details about a person against their job = 2 dimensions; add the structure of the jobs regardless of person = 3; add the security set against the structure, regardless of jobs = 4…Endless fun and for HR, almost click-of-a-button reporting?)

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