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Call Centers and Enterprise Portals Alleviate Infoglut

October 1, 1999
Related Topics: Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Featured Article
Understanding and harnessing new technologies is a necessary step to achieving the full potential from HR software. Fortunately, while there are many, rapidly changing components, there are only two significant technology concepts that are likely to have a significant impact on achieving a high-performance workforce model.

The first of these is the convergence of call center, self-service and knowledgebase systems.

Call-center technology has been used for some time to handle commonly asked questions, provide consistent answers, and process transactions on behalf of employees, managers, applicants and retirees. Many of these were originally implemented to support complex benefits issues, and to achieve a more cost effective response to these needed employee services.

Interactive voice and intranet-based self-service technology are used in applications that enable employees to have direct data access, process their own transactions and find many answers on their own. Management self-service applications enable access to a manager’s direct reports, and enable the processing of a full range of workplace events, such as pay changes, promotions, transfers and so on.

Most recently, new technologies that offer knowledge databases have emerged that can support both the call-center specialist, as well as the employee or manager who needs guidance regarding a particular transaction or decision that is about to be made.

The convergence of the call center, self-service and knowledgebase technologies holds great promise for achieving several objectives:

  1. As the nature of call-center activity migrates from mostly routine to increasingly complex, these functions can become "expertise centers," providing the best, personalized, most specific support available. Technology has often been accused of "depersonalizing" the HR function, making us all "just a number." This convergence can "repersonalize" HR by enabling more time to be available for personal contact and employee support.
  2. As employees and managers become increasingly self-sufficient with routine workplace transactions and decisions, more time becomes available both for the employees and for HR to focus on higher performance objectives.
  3. As knowledgebases provide the best answers and the best guidance, the intellectual assets of the human resources organization can be significantly leveraged. More importantly, this can also establish the foundation for capturing and disseminating the broader human capital assets of the entire organization.

The second major technology trend is known as "enterprise portals." In simple terms, this can be defined as a personalized home page that provides transactions, knowledge and business metrics that increase an individual’s effectiveness, and improves enterprise performance. These personalized home pages are often unique to each employee, and are designed to support specific roles within an organization.

Portals provide a solution to what has been described as the "infoglut" problem. Today’s knowledge worker, tapped into both an internal intranet and the external Web, has too much information and not enough time. Enterprise portals can address several aspects of this growing information overload problem by:

  1. Providing and organizing employee role-specific information. For example, for all sales employees, pricing and contracting guidelines may be designed into their portals.
  2. Increasing efficiency by providing information links that are pre-connected to targeted data sources.
  3. Increasing attention to focused metrics and role-specific results—for instance, by displaying outstanding proposals, shipments to customers or inventory available, all accessible via their home page.
  4. Providing end-to-end transactions and workflow, by automating common transactions and approval routings for each employee’s role.
  5. Providing "approved" merchant (i.e. external) content, such as connections to online travel services, or office equipment procurement services that have been authorized by the company.

Enterprise portal concepts can be directed at many roles within an organization. HR software can be used to identify and "clone" high performer characteristics, and the lessons learned in the technology convergence discussed earlier can establish the self-service, knowledgebase and "expertise center" foundation that support the enterprise portal. The objective is the "high performance workforce," and HR can play the pivotal role in sponsoring and harnessing the emerging technologies to achieve that goal.

Workforce, October 1999, Vol. 78, No. 10, pp. 102-103.

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