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How Technology can Transform Human Capital Management

Robert: So my background has been principally in IT, Information Technology. I started the company, as you mentioned, in 2005, recognizing that there was a very particular need in the industry to have skilled resources, primarily amongst that HCM niche, that you referenced. 

HCM is Human Capital Management is every system that companies use to manage their employees, whether it’s their human resource systems or the HR solutions to onboard employees, to record them, all the way to payroll, where individuals are being paid, time and labor management systems, learning management systems, talent management systems. So that full gamut or that full ecosystem of tools that a company might use to manage their employees are the systems that we work with.

Primarily our clients today are more enterprise traditionally. We work with companies typically with 1,000 employees or more because the complexity of their needs around these systems is much greater than a new startup with 25 employees. Usually, 25 employees are manageable for an organization. Once you start to increase the number in size, that complexity increases, and usually our clients need that additional support.

Barry: I want to start with the work you’re doing for your clients. We can also talk about the trends of the last 17 years of HCM. I think there will be some patterns that you’ve seen that will also reflect the RevOps function for any type of company that’s listening to this podcast.

One thing specifically that’s interesting is tech consolidation. Tell us about the trends that you’ve seen in the HCM because I’m sure other people have seen similar trends in markets.

Robert: What’s happened over the last 20-30 years has been this change of availability of solutions and the ability to quickly implement solutions in this particular space compared to what you could do three decades ago. That being that traditionally you would’ve had to use, if you’re 1,000 employees or more, an enterprise platform that usually encapsulated a bunch of these different products in one and companies were slow to the idea of trying to break out different pieces because it incurred incredible amounts of expense and time to implement. 

So fast forward to today, or certainly over the last five, ten years with the internet, with faster speeds to be able to connect to the internet. There is a lot of SaaS-based software to a service cloud-based options. And so what’s happening is you have nimble players that can come in and solve very particular needs for a client and specialize in that area. And with that comes a lot of options for a client to be able to say, I want best in breed for this particular HR platform that better mirrors our current needs and growth expectations versus this other product. But this other product has a better payroll solution or better learning management. So on and so forth. So they’re able to go and pick and choose.

But obviously, at the same time, the biggest challenge with all of these different solutions is how do I integrate with them? Because ultimately, you have master sources of data. So, for instance, your employee indicative data usually comes from your HR solution. But all of that can flow down to the other products.

And so that is one area that we specialize in amongst others but is being able to integrate and provide an agnostic solution to be able to integrate these platforms. And the reason I throw out agnostic is that a lot of these products will have an innate integration capability. But the reality is the strengths of that tool are usually only around that product in and of itself.

So can you get data out of an HR platform that has some of that capability? Yes. But then, as you continue to go downstream, they will only bring the data, and transform the data to their end of the fence as far as their product goes. But the next receiving product, they’re only going to integrate to their fence. And so what we do or what we specialize in is being able to be right in the middle, understanding all of the various different products and how they want to speak to one another, and creating a robust platform to do that interconnection.

You also mentioned consolidation with some tools, and the answer is yes. I mean, it is a bit of a land grab. So obviously, vendors want to do everything they can to keep clients utilizing or maximizing the products that they have. Certainly, there is that that comes out, and a lot of times, the sales dialogue that goes along with it is that we’re one platform, one bit of data that can transfer amongst all these different solutions. And it’s a bit of a scare tactic, meaning if you as a consumer or as a business, if you’re choosing that because you think that the integration aspect is so complex that you can’t deal with it, then you might choose one of those solutions and essentially pick something that’s good in this area and something that’s not so good in another area. So again, you have to look at each class of software that you’re utilizing and obviously try to maximize the value that you’re getting from that tool.

Barry: Absolutely. And for clarification, the solution for the integrations, is that software you guys built that helps with that?

Robert: It’s an enterprise platform. It’s a toolset that we use that’s not our own. The tool is an enterprise-class FedRAMP certified, which is the US federal certification for products that can be used with the government, as an example. So I only mentioned that because it’s highly secure, and how we utilize that tool and the knowledge and experience that we have between the various different systems is really our selling point. Because could you pick up the tool and actually utilize it and do some of this? Possibly, but having the background, the training, and the knowledge of the various different solutions and how they communicate, that’s our expertise. 

And that’s what we bring to the table. In addition to that, the service we sell is a white-glove service. Which is another trend we can get into in just a moment where technology dollars have migrated to. But the idea is that a company could purchase this as a service. We set up and maintain this for them. It’s not something that has to be run through their IT organization necessarily. Obviously, we comply with any of their security needs and things along those lines, but the idea is that they can have something that is completely and totally managed for them and have the expectation it’s going to run without issue.

Barry: Absolutely love the security part. That’s super important in today’s day and age. Some people I’ve had on recently where we were talking about Salesforce and HubSpot talking together, for example. Or even for redoing some things, and there are some simple mistakes that people make. And that’s with simple software. Software that’s supposed to talk to each other. Some people might, for example, in their field put a different state, ‘TX’ and then ‘Texas’ in a different version. And that alone will ruin everything. Because then you have duplicates and things not talking to each other. So I can only imagine things that aren’t supposed to be talking to each other and the challenge of the integrations.

So super interesting to see that consolidation, or that separation and then back to consolidation movement, and also really cool that you guys are adding some value over there.

RevOps at a Consulting Firm

Barry: I want to change topics and learn more about the operations of a consulting management company like yours. What are some of the RevOps functions at your company? What are some of the operations that are important at a consulting company that might be different than in a regular company? So someone, for example, has the ability to become a RevOps person or an ops person at a consulting company, what should they be thinking about and understanding the differences between then a SaaS company, for example, or a full tech company?

Robert: Great set of questions there. What I would say for a consulting company in general, there are two main areas that we measure for our own employees. And one is, obviously goes without saying customer satisfaction. All of our employees are of very high caliber, have a lot of industry experience, and have worked with a variety of different clients and in a multitude of different industries. Because again, as I mentioned earlier, we focus on a horizontal niche.

So as far as the vertical industries that we support, we support pretty much everything, everything from the government entities to pharmaceuticals, healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, chemical distribution, you name it. But all are typically focused on that horizontal niche so customer satisfaction.

And then the other piece, obviously from a RevOps standpoint, is utilization. We want our consultants, and we reward our employees for, looking for new opportunities. We want them to be engaged in various projects throughout their tenure with the organization throughout the year. So that’s a big component.

And the other aspect that goes with that is organizations. We have some professional service automation tools that allow us to effectively manage the resource allocations for our employees all the way through the projects that they’re working on. And along with that, then how the projects are doing. And so we can drill down and roll these up at a very high level so that we, as management, can take a look and see how are we doing as a company? How are these projects going? Are they green? Are they red? And are they yellow? And we need to intervene.

And basically, it handles that all the way to the recording of their time, hours, milestones, projects, and tasks, all the way to billing our clients. It’s pretty sophisticated from that standpoint. And thematically, you’ll hear me say a lot, probably throughout the rest of this podcast, that we’re all about providing automation and optimization. I mean, that’s what we do as far as working with these tools to be able to, and with our clients, evaluate their processes and look at how we can make things better. And we use that same principle internally. When we’re looking at very manual tasks, how can we do that in a more efficient manner so that we can continue to grow, be more efficient, and potentially apply those same skills to our clients?

Barry: Yes, absolutely. It’s always a pleasure to see companies actually practice their own principles that they preach. I know personally that sometimes I give advice and I don’t listen to my own advice. Organizations do the same thing that maybe their marketing gives advice or they talk about it and then they forget to do it themselves. Or don’t even use their own product.

Robert: Right.

Automation to Scale RevOps

Barry: I really want to hone in on that last piece that you’re talking about, the automation. Maybe we could go deeper into that because that is interesting for multiple reasons. One, it could actually help a CS team, for example, a customer success team. A RevOps person at a SaaS company. It sounds like it’s something that could build for the CS team. It’s helping not just consulting companies. But also, obviously, any person working at a consulting company, I feel like that’s super critical and important to be able to measure the projects that you’re working on with your clients. So I guess we could start with the why. Why is it important to measure it?

Robert: The reality is that there is a lot of inherent inefficiency within any organization, especially as you continue to grow in employee size. And there are some reasons for that. I mean, part of it is that, especially in the US, and I know this also affects other organizations that are in other countries, but there are a lot more compliance requirements that are associated with it based on the government. So whatever government entity, whether it’s a federal level of government or in the US states to local, the complexity continues to increase as far as what you need to do.

With that complexity usually comes a lot of manual processes to intercede to account for that. And then it’s usually something that goes on the wayside and continues to compound as you continue to grow, or you do mergers or divestitures or whatever it is, it continues to compound because you end up having this legacy process that doesn’t match your current needs as an organization.

So what we do and why it’s so important is that there’s a lot of additional dollars that are being spent, additional resources being thrown at these tasks that in a lot of ways can be automated and helps a company streamline, meet their legal or compliance requirements. And then, in addition to that, it allows them to scale more easily. Because as they continue to grow, things will continue to get more and more complex, which comes back to that feedback cycle. So if you’re able to nip it in the bud and essentially start addressing it sooner than later, then it’s less resources you’re going to have to commit to that, and it makes it so that you can scale much more efficiently. And today, that’s the big thing. I mean, the expectation is that companies can be agile and that they can do things more quickly with information, with technology.

And it’s funny because again, even though that’s the case, we’re 2022. Every organization we go into, we basically work through their processes and say, “Oh, this is a very manual process for you. Prone to error to put you at legal risk. Maybe this is something that we can work to help fix for you.”

Barry: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. So I want to focus now on some of the automation that you’re doing as a consulting company for yourself, for your own internal team.

Robert: Sure.

Utilization is the Bread and Butter of a Consulting Company

Barry: That you mentioned earlier, I think it was the third piece of the three things that you elaborated on before was that people, their time is tracked, and their billing is forwarded to the company. Maybe you can go deeper into that, what you built there, and if someone wants to duplicate it, not to compete with you, but for their own CS team or for their own consulting company. We can even go as technical as you’d like to go.

Robert: Yeah. So the big piece that you run into as a consulting company is that especially, so we have currently, and we’re a small business generally, we have about 40 employees, but we’re also fast growing. So we fully anticipate that we’ll be at least double in size this time next year, if not larger. And we have independent consultants too. So the 40 is just ours. And then we have more independent consultants that we use. So the challenger issue that comes into play when you have these many individuals that are working on various different products is ensuring, A, what are they working on or what aren’t they working on? So that you can best allocate those resources.

Because as I mentioned earlier, utilization is the bread and butter for a consulting company. Typically these individuals can be billed by the hour, or they can be billed by the project or project milestone. But at the end of the day, you need to be able to track that information. And then what happens from there is that you need to be able to engage them as soon as the sales opportunity is close. Or maybe even during the sales process, during the pre-sales process.

Essentially, being able to integrate with your CRM or your customer relationship management solution so that you know where these deals are at and when they’re going to be expecting people in resources. That was the reason that we went this route, is that the complexity, it compounds and it becomes exponential almost when you’re managing a large number of projects across a variety of different clients with, again, our expectation is that we’re going to provide best in class service for our clients.

So with that comes that need to be able to track all the way from sales to get the right resources on, to planning out tasks, and recording against those tasks, recording against the milestones. And then, at the end of the day, as you also referred to, tracking the time from a billing standpoint and then actually billing the client on whatever pay period frequency or pay frequency that you’ve established contractually.

It’s peeling back your processes, looking at them, and figuring out like, “How can I ensure that all this data is flowing in lockstep with one another so that from sales or pre-sales all the way to actually executing the project and invoicing the client that all of that is seamless.” And so that’s what we’ve created for our team.

Digital Transformation in RevOps

Barry: So it even sounds like forecasting.

Robert: Sure. You can forecast the utilization hours, billable rates, and things like that are all things that we’re able to look at in fine detail. Because the other thing I didn’t mention is that the other big belief that we have is that the reality is that in this time that we’re in, we’re in a data transformation era. For some of your listeners out there, they may remember pre-internet to internet. Brick and mortar to your internet, cloud-based organizations. Well, we’re in a similar era of a major transformation that’s happening right now. And that’s the preponderance of all this data and information.

So the companies that can integrate, bring that information in and analyze it are going to be able to make actionable insights off of that information much quicker, which is going to be a competitive advantage. And within the next five, or maybe even sooner, but I would say within the next five years, those companies that are good at capturing data, analyzing it, creating actionable insights, and being able to utilize it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Those are the ones that are going to succeed and leave what would be the equivalent brick and mortar companies behind. They’ll lead and leave these other organizations behind. So what we’re all about is not only integration and automation but also being able to look at the information and make changes at a management level as quickly as possible. And that’s also inherent in that PSA tool.

Barry: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. One interesting thing that I wanted to grab from it is that once you automate things, they become more accurate.

Robert: Yes, you’re absolutely correct. And it allows us to scale much more efficiently. And that’s why I was mentioning earlier about our growth. What we put into place, I mean, we could theoretically manage thousands of consultants. And that’s ultimately the goal, and the other great thing from reporting and capturing all this data is that we’re able to go and analyze. If we may have certain partners that we work with, usually HCM vendors who will refer business our way because we’re handling problems for their clients. We can go in and take a look at all the projects that are underneath that for that particular partner that’s been referred to us.

And again, continue to fine-tune what type of projects are we seeing? What type of tasks are we working on? And then be able to give that feedback to them, which allows them to think about, “All right, well, maybe we’ll bring RJ Reliance in for this or that.” Because they’re seeing this as a trend, so it’s not only a great operations tool, but it ultimately becomes a great sales tool and a sales and marketing tool for us as well.

Barry: Yeah. Like a thought leadership.

Robert: Yeah. Exactly.

Maximizing Profitability

Barry: I have the data. This is what works. And then you can also filter out who your favorite partners are also based on that, like, “Oh, I made maybe $1 million from Company X, but I made per hour more million from Company Y and if I only have certain consultants, then that’s the company I’d rather be working with right now.”

Robert: That’s right. So again, it helps to steer the dollars, the time that you as a consulting company, are spending and putting those in the right spaces that are going to maximize your profitability. Or there might be strategic reasons that you’re working with a particular vendor that will merit greater returns down the road, but you’re absolutely right.

It not only improves our operating efficiency, but it becomes something that we can use to forecast, to look at our revenue streams, to make us that much more efficient as an organization. And that’s just one example. Again, we’re talking about PSA tools for consulting companies that we work with, but the same mentality is what we try to bring to our clients. Like, “How can we make you more automated, more efficient in what you do so that maybe you can create additional revenue streams. Because now you’re able to bring in data.” Or the other aspect, which you alluded to, is now you can trust your data more because you don’t have somebody manually keying it in.

And that’s also a challenge or issue for some organizations is they don’t trust what they’re seeing because it’s fraught with error based on how it’s being run. So anyway. That’s all good stuff from that standpoint.

Organizational Change Management

Barry: Yes, absolutely. I’d love to hear from you since you work with many clients. What are three things that make a good client in the sense that they are more operational efficient? And three bad things? It could be like technical, it could be not technical, soft. It could be change management, people, processes, or technology. I’m curious to hear some of your thoughts on that.

Robert: Sure. I’ll start with the last piece because that usually is one of the areas of weakness that we see, especially when you get into these enterprise-class implementations. Because as you might imagine, we work with clients anywhere along the life spectrum, so cradle to grave, as far as the tool sets they’re using. So in some cases, clients are migrating to a new solution, and we’ll get involved and help them with the implementation. Or they have something, and they want to maximize the value knowing that there might be an end of life in the future, but if they can maximize the value, they’ll utilize that solution longer. So as touched upon, sadly for most organizations of this size in a lot of ways, the communications aspect, the OCM change management piece of it is usually an afterthought.

And we really try and we do have OCM people on our team because we recognize that this is a very important area for the success of any solution you put out there. Because the reality is that if you don’t get good adoption, it doesn’t matter how good your tool is. If people are not as efficient in putting information into that solution, then you get the whole garbage-in-garbage-out scenario. And it can really kill an implementation if you don’t get good adoption. That’s one of the things that we strongly encourage and suggest is that there are planned communication that’s going out from the key stakeholders to the remaining stakeholders within the organization. That there are thoughts around training.

How are we going to get these individuals up to speed on the changes that are coming? And that usually it’s customized because similar to the integration piece I was talking about earlier. Sure. Any general HCM solution has some level of training. The problem is that it’s usually training across all the different ways that you might use the application but not specific enough for a particular company because a particular company may turn on this feature or turn off that feature. And you only want to highlight to your employees or the people that are going to be consuming the tool, those pieces that are relevant for their day-to-day job. So one of the big areas is ensuring that there’s good training and good change management.

I think the other, the third area that is also often overlooked is expectations around testing. Because the reality, when you’re talking about, again, these particular tools we work with, there’s a lot of compliance aspect to this. You want to make sure that whatever you’re doing, it’s working the way that’s intended. Or that, as a company, you’re comfortable with whatever legal risk you might be taking on, how small or great that is. So testing is also an area that, in some ways, we feel like we have to help lead or hold the client’s hand to get through that process. And it’s one of the things that we do offer because we have both technology consultants and business side experts. So professionals can have and run these operations, whether it’s HR, payroll, or time and labor management. So we do a lot of the heavy lifting.

We set up all the test scripts and we do most of the testing for the client. But there’s got to be, in some areas, we still need them to sign off for their own comfort and legal reasons. And so we have to be able to schedule time with them accordingly.

What Makes a Good Client?

Robert: And so, the other question was generally the three things for a good client. So a good client understands the complexity of that. I think generally, the other aspect I would say is that a lot of times clients underestimate their own involvement or need to be involved with these implementations. And that goes outside of utilizing us specifically for maybe configuration and just implementation in general. Because the reality is the people that are going to utilize this on a go-forward basis are those people that are doing the day-to-day run support for these tools. The big thing is for them to be able to forecasts, like, “I need my payroll director, my CHRO involved in these particular areas as we go through the implementation in ensuring that we’re able to carve out time for those individuals.” And how we, as RJ Reliance, do that is that because we have these business side experts, we’re able to backfill those positions for our clients.

As an example, I mentioned the payroll piece. We’re able to say, “Look, we’ll bring in somebody for a period of time to help do your run support.” So that those individuals can focus strategically on how they best want to utilize this tool on a go-forward basis. So back to that question, the clients that get it, that understand that as you’re going through these very complex implementations, that they’re going to need key resources on it and that they’re planning for that Whether they’re using our staff aug or using another consultant or another company staff augmentation through that implementation process.

Barry: I love that last piece that you guys provide someone to do some of the work. That’s fantastic.

Robert: It’s so overlooked. I mean really. And as you look at a lot of consulting firms, I think that’s what makes us a bit unique. Because not only do we have the business side people, but we have the technology people, and a lot of consulting firms are focused usually on one or the other. So they don’t realize that those pieces overlap. And there is a need, especially as you get into these complex implementations to be able to support both sides of the fence essentially. And so that’s a really strong area that we have or practice that we have.

Honestly, I think those are the main pieces. The clients that have gone through this before, obviously. Generally, the reality is the other piece that we run into is clients that think they can do these implementations on their own. Usually, what’ll happen is the client will basically say, “All right, we’re going to take this on.” But they’re usually sourced, they’re staffed to be lean in these areas. So bringing on this level of complexity usually is an incredible challenge for people that are just trying to get the payroll out.

From that standpoint, being able to use a third party, because the reality is the people that are doing the implementation are not really the resources that you need to do day-to-day run support, assuming the implementation went well. So there are different types of employees and a company that, unless you’re doing this kind of work, you’re not going to have those kinds of employees. And, again, just to be knowledgeable of that and willing to reach out and get that expertise for that implementation knowing that on a go-forward basis, yes, you can have resources to run it. And hopefully, less resources if you pick a great solution that has that automation and optimization aspect. So those are the three main areas that I would say generally.

Barry: Absolutely. All right. Well, I think we covered a lot here, Robert. I really appreciate your time. We covered people. We covered technology. We covered processes. We got automation in. Consulting for your company. Consulting for your clients. So we got it all in this podcast. So thanks again for your time. 

Robert: Yeah. Thank you, Barry. It was really nice to meet you, and I hope there’s some value that we covered for your listeners out there, but really enjoyed the time and meeting you as well. So yeah, definitely, let’s keep in touch for sure.