Don't fall under the spell of the "bright shiny ball"

Employers often make purchasing decisions based on how the software looks or performs, not on the problems it solves. This approach lies in mistakenly thinking of technology as a “what,” instead of a “how.” Gruppo Marcucci consultants help employers focus on defining the “what” before looking for the “how” when purchasing technology.

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Don't fall under the spell of the "bright shiny ball"

Posted on 09/27/2018

“Relax, take a deep breath and keep your eye OFF the bright shiny ball.”

This may sound like odd advice for employers looking to buy HR and benefits administration technology, but it’s one of the best pieces of advice an employer can receive. It is also one of the most frequent pieces of advice the Gruppo Marcucci team offers, as it’s very easy to get hypnotized by the “bright shiny objects” associated with the vast amount of technology available to support organizational strategy, automation and compliance.

Most basic technology is not particularly interesting. Functional? Yes. Efficient? Yes. Cool and exciting? No. So, it’s easy to understand the allure of the growing number of attention-grabbing features included with new solutions. Many of these flashy elements are very helpful and deliver significant value…if you need them.

And there’s the rub. Frequently, employers find themselves charmed into purchase decisions based on how the software looks or performs, not on the problems it solves. This approach lies in mistakenly thinking of technology as a “what,” instead of a “how.” Following is an abridged version of the advice Gallagher’s HR & Benefits Technology consultants offer employers interested in purchasing technology.

Technology is a “how,” not a “what”

First, define the “what” you’re trying to accomplish before looking for the “how” (technology). Take the example of time tracking software. What’s your goal? Perhaps you’re looking to automate time tracking while at the same time comply with regulatory reporting, or to determine if it’s cheaper to hire another person than to pay overtime. Or, maybe you want to use the time to understand worker productivity, or if employees are spending time on activities that support business goals.

These are very specific and different objectives. And while there are tools to accomplish each, without first defining your needs, it can be easy to make a purchase decision based on a far less strategic basis — including attraction to a bright shiny ball.

Defining your “what”

Sometimes your “what” gets defined for you, e.g., a new state or federal law regarding time reporting. More often, however, it will require critical thinking about the challenges you’re trying to solve for in your business. Your employees are your most important asset but don’t approach this exercise as solving for HR challenges. Think about the company’s objectives and the CEO’s agenda. Employees will figure largely in any strategy to deliver on that agenda.

Following is a list of core workforce management areas and examples of a related “what.” These “whats” may not be your “whats,” but they should spark your thinking about your organization’s strategic objectives and how HR and benefits administration technology (the “how”) can support those objectives.

  • Talent Acquisition: Hire faster or hire better.
  • Onboarding: Shape new hires’ experience during the first three months of employment to increase the rate of retention.
  • Core HR: Monitor compliance reporting, e.g., EEO-1, visa expiration, Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.
  • Performance: Change the performance management process from an annual review to continuous feedback.
  • Succession Planning: Identify future positions that will need to be filled and a pipeline of qualified people.
  • Compensation: Understand if you have a pay equity problem.
  • Learning: Determine the need for re-training or upskilling associated with increased automation.

Getting to the “how”

Defining the “what” will lead you to the “how.” The increasing sophistication of industry technology and ease of integration with existing or other new tools means that it’s possible to identify technology solutions that address multiple “whats.” Further, it’s likely many of these solutions include bright shiny balls, which you are now free to look at and enjoy.


Gruppo Marcucci, which operates as Gallagher’s HR & Benefits Technology practice, provides outsourcing intelligence and consulting to help organizations navigate benefits and HR technology challenges, and identify best-fit service technology solutions and providers based on well-defined needs.


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About Gruppo Marcucci

Gruppo Marcucci (GPM), a division of Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., provides outsourcing intelligence and associated consulting to stakeholders in the Benefits and HR Technology & Outsourcing industry. Our in-depth understanding of the service provider market and our vast experience sourcing and implementing solutions is key to our clients achieving full operational success.

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