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HR self-service software exits Texas college from email era

Big Texas community college system moves out of email era into automated HR self-service and HR project management with SaaS software from cloud services vendor.

Lone Star College's employees and HR administrators have bid farewell to the email era.

The sprawling Texas community college system replaced often chaotic employee email communications with cloud-based HR self-service software from ServiceNow, a cloud computing provider with a significant HR tech presence.

"The premise was pretty simple. The employee had no gateway into HR to open dialogue, to see what was happening and to see it come to resolution," said Link Alander, vice chancellor and CIO of the Woodlands, Texas-based eight-campus system. "What they had was a billion and one emails."

"If a person changed jobs or something else happened or an email just didn't get responded to, things were being dropped," Alander said. "So, that's why we went to the HR module from ServiceNow to handle all those requests that an employee has."

Swelling to more than 11,000 during the school year with the arrival of adjunct instructors, Lone Star has a big workforce, and those employees require service. So, the college sought HR self-service from a vendor whose name largely personifies service -- and that was already embedded in the IT ecosystem of the network of community colleges.

Link Alander, Lone Star CollegeLink Alander

The HR module from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor interfaces with Lone Star's payroll system by handling employees' payroll problems or requests for payroll information. For core human capital management (HCM) and payroll, the college system uses Oracle and its Taleo recruiting platform.

ServiceNow has grown sharply in recent years with its business proposition of optimizing organizations' IT systems by means of the cloud. The vendor has focused on internet service management, and Lone Star's renewable, annual $379,000 public contract with the vendor includes IT service management and dedicated HR services, Alander explained.

The premise was pretty simple. The employee had no gateway into HR to open dialogue, to see what was happening and to see it come to resolution. What they had was a billion and one emails.
Link AlanderLone Star College

ServiceNow's HR self-service system has led to a "complete transformation for the HR staff" of nearly 70 at Lone Star, Alander said.

"Now, they had to get used to queue management and enterprise service management principles," he said.

In addition to HR self-service for such things as payroll, Americans with Disabilities Act issues and IT security roles, Lone Star is using ServiceNow for project management of reorganization requests, such as reforming departments and divisions.

The college also uses ServiceNow for employee self-service around the benefits piece of HR, a particularly complex issue for the state-run higher education system because some benefits come from the state and others vary from campus to campus.

"If a person is thinking about retiring, they'll start the process in ServiceNow," Alander said.

For ServiceNow, HR self-service and other HR functions are newer incarnations of a broad suite of cloud business process service offerings that originated in pure IT 11 years ago when the company spun off from the former Glidesoft, Inc. and changed its name.

Deepak Bharadwaj, general manager of the HR and facilities business unit at ServiceNow, said the company's HR line started around 2014 when some of the then existing customers started to tailor the vendor's platform for their HR needs.

Deepak Bharadwaj, ServiceNowDeepak Bharadwaj

The HR business unit came together in late 2015, and ServiceNow started investing in HR tech -- not only on the product side, but also in marketing and sales, Bharadwaj said.

Two years later, ServiceNow numbers some 500 customers on its platform for HR, among a customer base of about 4,000 overall, he said.

"The opportunity is huge," Bharadwaj said.

Interestingly, ServiceNow doesn't regard itself as competing with the big HCM players, nor does it see itself as pitched against the smaller specialized vendors that are finding new niches to mine, such as in benefits, wellness or iterations of talent acquisition.

The company's principal opponent, Bharadwaj declared, is "email."

"It's a space in itself that has as big a potential as what is known as human capital management today," Bharadwaj said.

Indeed, ServiceNow seeks to work on a partnership basis with the leading HCM vendors, such as Oracle, Workday and ADP.

"We don't compete with them for any of those offerings," Bharadwaj said. "What we are trying to do is address the issue around employees getting service the right way."

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