Unifying IT Systems in the Post-Stack Era

“The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.”

– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

As Marc Andreessen famously said: software is eating the world.

The evidence? The government vertical spent $425M in IT technology in 2015; communications spent $429M and insurance $183M.

The HR software market alone saw hundreds of vendors emerge in 2015. That’s new growth on top of the legacy players, mind you. No matter the vertical, the day of one-size-fits all systems is coming to a close. With so many options available, IT departments are now required to manage a set of heterogenous systems, each with unique workflows and interfaces.

According to Sierra Cedar, 46% of HR executives expect to increase IT spending from 2015-16. A decade ago a CIO on such a shopping spree would exclaim “we’re a Microsoft shop” and march over to their sales rep to buy the new system they needed. Today, there are dozens of solutions available to every CIO.

“Best of breed” has morphed into “best for your needs.”

Embracing heterogeneity has its merits: You get more tailored solutions for unique business processes, rather than having to adapt your business to use the software. The downside for most IT departments is the added burden of integration, but the rise of APIs, extensible platforms, and open-application architectures has curbed the pain of those complex integrations.

The real challenge comes when you deploy all these one-off systems to end users. Today’s workforce requires real-time access to enterprise information, but there’s a productivity cost when you ask workers to navigate across dozens of applications, each with unique interfaces, data-acquisition protocols, and account provisions and governance .

How can we unify disparate systems and present a consistent, efficient experience for end users?

Enter Stage Right: Intelligent Interface

Let’s continue with HR systems as our example.

The typical HR stack has a mix of solutions for the most common HR processes. You might have a recruiting and onboarding solution, a separate benefits and retirement management system, and expense reports and reimbursement systems that are likewise siloed.

Each of these systems is highly specialized and serves a distinct purpose for a specific business process. Today’s HR service desk was invented as the analogue interface where people help employees navigate each individual system, often answering complex questions over email or phone.

What if you could deliver an intelligent interface to unify all of these systems? What if the HR service desk was an intelligent virtual assistant, or IVA? What if that IVA could give employees conversation-based answers to questions that require access to various legacy and SaaS HR systems?

In that world, every employee has immediate access to the information they need, and they get it through the same conversational experience they’ve come to expect from HR. The learning curve that usually accompanies new application roll outs is eliminated, saving training time and preventing user frustration. The HR team, in turn, gets to focus on innovation, culture, and employee engagement.

Most importantly, HR can continue to invest in emerging technologies, swapping in new tools that optimize their operations, all without sacrificing or interrupting the employee experience.

Whether it’s HR or any other department in the enterprise, the modern IT landscape offers enormous choice. It’s time to stop focusing on the back-end systems and begin delivering interfaces that can unify IT and drive workforce productivity.

It’s not just business; it’s intelligence.