Research Library Article


2015-16 HR Systems Survey, 18th Edition

David Earle


The 18th edition of the longest-running and most widely distributed research effort concerning HR-related technology applications, deployment options, vendor solutions, expenditures, and business value achieved. An essential reference for CHROs managing technological change in both large and small organizations.



This year’s survey report begins with a three-year summary of the HR technology categories where the 1,200 survey participants have have spent 25% or more of their time and money. As in prior years, business process improvement initiatives remain by far the most common category, with onboarding and recruiting the two most common projects within it.

Of added interest this year is the focus on HR’s business value, which includes not only a linked summary paper on the evolution in value measurement over the past several decades by Lexy Martin, the long time editor of the survey, but also a more nuanced analysis of value as defined today by three types or organizations: top performing organizations, data-focused organizations, and talent focused organizations.


Talent-driven organizations

There is now sufficient data for Sierra Cedar to see relationships between HR technology, HR practices, and corporate cultures — in other words, how the cultural focus of a company determines which tools they choose, and how those choices translate to business performance.

The three cultures are not mutually exclusive. To one extent or another, they all value business performance, data and talent. But they prioritize them differently, which gives them different personalities and causes them to behave differently and to make different decisions. Value chain analysis now reveals that each of these cultures creates a distinctive level of innovation through process, people and technology adoption and, depending on which approach they choose, creates a different path to superior business performance.

For example, it turns out that of the three, the culture focused on financial outcomes —  revenue and profit per employee, year over year income growth and return on equity — is less effective than the others. The emphasis on hitting financial targets tends to correlate with inferior talent outcomes (talent attraction and retention, mobility, workforce development…) and HR outcomes (engagement, productivity, cost efficiency and business alignment). Ironically, the “business first” approach does not deliver the best business outcomes. Data and talent driven organizations do better..

Ms. Martin’s article also explains how valuing HR has evolved from a narrow focus on cost savings to a much broader measure built around quantifiable business value (business growth, profits, return on equity, and so forth). This evolution nicely tracks the change in HR’s status within the executive suite. What was once largely a second-level administrative and operational support function has become, in progressive companies, a top level, strategic driver of business performance.

The report can help place your organization in the most appropriate cultural context and from there determine whether your innovation outcomes are what you intend them to be.



  • Administrative applications - core HRMS, payroll, benefits
  • Service delivery applications - employee and manager self-service, help desk, portals
  • Workforce and talent management applications
  • Social and mobile enabled applications
  • Business intelligence analytics solutions
  • Emerging technologies
  • Systems strategy and adoption blueprints
  • Integration, implementation and change management practices
  • Expenditure and resource strategies


Research Reference

2015-16 HR Systems Survey, 18th edition



Date 2016
Pages 104
URL Link