REPOST: HR Tech Europe And Differentiating Differently

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Editor’s Note: We are reposting this as the input and content from David concerning what is now HR Tech Congress is just as relevant and important. Most blogs have a lot of very valuable content that is still relevant but never repost to bring it to everyone’s attention. As such, we want to be sure you have some form of access besides searching our site to our more valuable content. Besides, beauty should be shared often, even if it is just data. <smile>

Original preface: We were very fortunate to have the esteemed, eloquent and sometimes sassy David D’Souza represent us at the #HRTechEurope in Amsterdam last week. Through a series of events that resulted in the cancellation of two of our board members attending, we were able to network into finding at least one replacement.

Denis Barnard of our Executive Board reached out to Giles O’Halloran as a possible representative — however his plans were to be on holiday. We did ask if he knew anyone who might make a good candidate to let us know and left it at that.

We obviously did not know who we were dealing with as Giles, enrolling the gracious services of Gem Reucroft, chased down a handful of possible prospects — all of which couldn’t make the conference! That is where Giles learned not to assume what you know is truth and pursued David for the possibility of representing The HRIS World at #HRTechConference (Giles originally thought David wasn’t interested in going). Thankfully, David was more than happy to fill in. And being a start-up, we are extremely happy to have the caliper of talent our board as well as those they reach out to.

Enough of the warm up, David’s experiences for Day 1 of the #HRTechEurope 2014 Amsterdam starts here…


The first day of #HRTechEurope in Amsterdam has been dominated for me by some interesting speakers and a growing realisation of the difficulty of differentiating a product or service offering in a crowded market.

I took a wander through the conference centre and wrote down the words that were being used to describe products – they all sounded impressive but, largely, they all sounded the same.

Even subtle variations on near ubiquitous themes.

Here are some of the phrases…

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What It Does is Not Why It Helps

It is tricky to differentiate a proposition when you feel duty bound to use similar language to other competitors in the market.

Despite some of the speakers focusing on the human element, that this wasn’t coming across in the way that the vendors approached positioning their products.

As one person said to me ‘I am hearing lots about what it does, but little about why it helps’.

There was an attempt to differentiate by some but I sense checked my thoughts with a number of delegates and they all had the same overall impression.

There were, however, some nice exceptions.


Vendors! Why Was Your Product Designed?

One of the early #DisruptHR sessions featured a company called Talmundo whose apps are designed to make life simpler for line managers.

That is a simple ‘why?’ that it is easy to understand and therefore easy to purchase.

It is intuitively smart.

One of their products was an app that helped structure an interview for managers.

It gives you the questions to ask, allows you to rate candidates live, eliminates paperwork and provides tips.

It’s useful, easily accessible and its features are clearly driven by need.

It is designed around solving a regular problem, rather than just expanding a spec sheet.

Swiss Army Knives versus Genuine Benefits

In contrast to Talmundo some of the more feature packed products in the exhibition hall didn’t seem to have a unifying theme for why they existed.

It was as if the goal was to create a Swiss army knife of a product – without necessarily understanding whether it was a scalpel or a hammer that might be required.

I was seemingly presented with a challenge from vendors to find something their product couldn’t do – whereas I’m more interested in the benefits for a business.

In fact that is probably my overall impression of my interactions so far: some great products, but too much emphasis on selling features rather than genuine benefits.

Simplify the Correct Centricity

Google, as you might expect, cut through the jargon and simply said ‘work the way you live’.

That genuinely resonated with me as it cut to the heart of the challenge for technology – to be user centric, not task centric, to be as much about accessibility as it is function.

A Picture Is STILL Worth A 1000 Words

I met with David Perring of elearnity and in a discussion around vendors he talked about needing to be less about ‘cookie cutters and more about beautiful fractals’.

It was a lovely turn of phrase and reminded me of one of the day’s first sessions by David McCandless on making data beautiful.

A lovely set of examples showing how insight can be increased.

Simplify Through Visual Representation

In the afternoon I caught up with Tom Holmes of Veran Performance.

They have brought to life the beautiful data for HR principle in a lovely fashion that immediately made me think of fractals – mapping the complexity of a 10,000 person operation into one visual representation enabling an at a glance look at structures, performance and key metrics.

That is the sort of thing that it is easy to fall in love with and easy to buy.

A reason for being for a product or service.

What REALLY Matters In the End

David Perring talked about his experience heading up learning at Virgin Media and how the company’s mantra was ‘I love working here’.

If vendors truly want people to fall in love with their products (and the decision to purchase always involves emotions) then it is less about the list of features and more about the connection to purpose.

I’ve fallen in love with this diagram from Veran.

I hope more vendors try and make me fall in love with them today…

Hr Data Is Beautiful

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David D'Souza

Freelance OD Consultant & blogger/speaker/writer at Oddbody Consulting

London, England

A freelance OD professional focused on improving organisational and team performance, with practical, grounded experience of most HR disciplines.

I challenge, shape, lead and have fun - with the aim that when I put things down they work better than when I found them.


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