The October 2019 issue of HR Executive includes a special edition of their Executive Q&A section. It features interviews with executives from top HR technology companies including eTrade, Ultimate Software, ServiceNow and Access. The goal of the series is to provide executive audiences with valuable insights about how best to remain proactive and prepared in a rapidly changing landscape. The responses from Steve Engdahl, Access’ Chief Product Officer, are featured below.


Where should HR leaders be focusing their HR technology investment in the next 12 to 24 months?

HR leaders are facing the challenges of a rapidly evolving workforce, sustained pressure on cost of operations, and a regulatory landscape which is introducing new requirements that are not optional.

It’s critical for HR leaders to change the modes in which they engage their current and prospective employees, providing simple tools for employees to obtain information or request assistance. We’re seeing a continued move to HR shared services as a means to support company growth and cost efficiency within the HR team, operating on a core backbone of integrated SaaS systems. But, data privacy and retention laws designed to protect consumers now vary by country and even by state, compounding how sensitive employee information can be obtained, shared, stored and managed.

It’s tough, but not impossible, to serve these competing masters simultaneously. In fact, as leading companies develop their technology strategy for HR, they often discover that systems consolidation and centralization projects which reduce overall cost can also provide a platform to more easily roll out new tools to enhance the employee experience, and to adopt a sound information management strategy to drive compliance.

What emerging technologies are likely to have the greatest impact on HR effectiveness and business performance?

The very technologies which can have the greatest impact on HR effectiveness also can have the least impact. Very powerful emerging technologies such as AI, which is getting a lot of interest at the moment, are nothing more than the next shiny object unless their deployment into HR processes is very focused around solving specific business problems.

Rather than focusing on specific technologies we find that the most successful companies and technology projects begin with an assessment of their business problems and opportunities, then find the right solutions to address them. AI can be great, and we’ve seen it be really impactful in areas such as automating employee communications and reducing the HR administrative burden of processing information during the employee onboarding process, for example. But without a clear use case, it becomes an expensive (and often failed) experiment.

On a practical level, the HCM system serves as the operating system of the HR department. It’s important to recognize that even the best HCM systems won’t cater to every need. We’re finding that when it comes to information governance, one area that is commonly underestimated is management of employee documents, where it’s too easy for multiple copies get propagated around the organization and where lack of visibility prevents HR from being proactive about spotting incomplete, inaccurate or expired information which could lead to out-of-compliance situations. Luckily, there are more options today than there were even a year or two ago which can help.

How can HR departments ensure a smooth and successful implementation and execution of new HR technologies?

Think big for strategy, but execute in small chunks. The world HR operates in is changing rapidly, so long projects can get outdated before they ever go live.

Think about the sequence of events, which can de-risk the entire project. For example, when implementing a cloud HCM system, how can you leverage the rest of your ecosystem to facilitate your transition from old to new? We find that some HR technologies are very well suited not only to de-risking core system migrations, but also help accelerate data and system migration following merger/acquisition events. Find those technologies, and get them in place first.

Recognize, with every project, that employee data and documents must be treated as sensitively as consumer data. Keeping that in mind at the start of each project rather than as an afterthought will help your company stay out of the headlines.

About the Executive:
Steve Engdahl
Chief Product Officer

Steve leads the product and engineering teams driving Access’s growth through SaaS software solutions. Steve has enabled both public and private software companies to successfully achieve market and revenue expansion through solid vision, highly motivated teams, market-focused product development roadmaps and customer-focused delivery. Prior to joining Access, Steve was Head of Technology Products for Altisource Portfolio Solutions, and has held global strategy, product, customer success and marketing leadership roles with Goldensource Corporation, Charles River Development and CheckFree (now FISERV). Steve began his career as a systems analyst at M&T Bank and holds a BA degree from Cornell University.