Affordable Care Act Reporting Software

The Biggest Challenges of Affordable Care Act Reporting

Written by Adam Miller, HR Compliance Manager, Passport Software, Inc.

Affordable Care Act

I’ve helped hundreds of Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) manage their Affordable Care Act requirements and file their 1094-C/1095-Cs. Though each had different reporting needs, the same question kept coming up…

How do I complete Part 2?

1095-C Part II
The original source: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1095c.pdf

Lines 14, 15, and 16 make up Part 2 of the 1095-C and provide details of an employer’s offer of coverage to a full-time employee. Knowing how to correctly complete this section is imperative for Affordable Care Act compliance and avoiding penalties.

Line 14—Use code 1E.

Choosing a line 14 code requires you to know three things:

  • Was coverage offered?
  • Did it meet minimum standards?
  • Was it available to the spouse and dependents?

Deciding on the best 1A-1K code to complete line 14 has one extra nuance, and it can save you hours of scrutiny: If a full-time employee is offered coverage and has the unconditional option to add their spouse and dependents to their plan, you may use the corresponding 1E code for all employees offered coverage—even those who are not married or do not have children. Since spouse or dependent coverage doesn’t need to meet any cost standards, there is little reason not to offer it.

With this allowance, most fully ACAcompliant companies will find they can use Line 14 code 1E for every 1095-C they submit, instead of 1B for single employees, 1C for single parents, and 1D for childless couples. Your life is already easier, isn’t it?

Line 15—Forget about Line 14.

This continues to be a very tough concept to nail down. The IRS wants to know: What is the monthly employee’s share of the least expensive, employee-only plan available to this person?

Let’s review each part of that statement.

  • Employee’s share—the employee’s remaining portion after the employer’s contribution.
  • Least expensive—the qualifying plan with the lowest monthly cost available, often referred to as bronze level. This is not what the employee is paying for a more comprehensive plan.
  • Employee only—One Person. Forget that on Line 14 you reported that the offer included the spouse/dependents. For the purposes of ACA reporting, it does not matter which plan an employee actually enrolls in, only what they could have chosen and what it would have cost them.

Line 16—What happened after Line 14?

It isn’t difficult to find that code 2C applies to employees who accept an offer of coverage, or that 2B is used for a part-time employee. Things start to get murky with code 2D. Code 2D refers to the variable-hour[i] employee who is in their Initial Measurement Period, also known as the Look-Back Method.

People start to panic when it comes to employees who were offered insurance but declined. In their 1095-C Instructions, the IRS wrote 1181 words describing all the Series 2 Codes in use. Nowhere does it say “Use code __ if the employee declined coverage.” In cases where you have made an a fully qualified offer which an employee has turned down, use whichever of 2F/2G/2H matches your method for calculating their income and ensuring affordability:

  • Use 2F if you look at W-2 Wages
  • Use 2G if you use the Federal Poverty Level
  • Use 2F if you look at the employee’s Rate of Pay

Congratulations…

Not only have you completed Part 2, but unless your company self-insures, you can bypass Part 3 completely!

What’s the next step?

Knowing how to correctly use the codes and contribution fields is fundamental, but organized tracking of ACA-related information throughout the year is equally important to save time and avoid penalties. A good, regularly maintained spreadsheet is a serviceable option for smaller ALEs with straightforward ACA reporting. For larger employers, or more complicated reporting, a specially designed software solution or service will reduce the compliance workload and help avoid penalties. A good one will help you accurately manage changing and editing data and even create the 1094-C/1095-C forms or electronic files.

Passport Software’s ACA Software and Services range from on-premise software to full year-round compliance management services. Our friendly service is fast and accurate, and our customers have given us great reviews. Our software is IRS-certified and we are IRS-approved to file on behalf of our clients.

Dealing with past years reporting troubles? We can help there, too.

Learn more about Passport Software’s ACA Software and Services, or call us at 800-969-7900.

[i] variable-hour refers to cases where it is unclear whether the employee will be comfortably above or below the 130 hour per month full-time threshold.

Form 1095-C
The original source: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1095c.pdf

About the Author:

Adam Miller

Adam Miller is the HR Compliance Manager at Passport Software, Inc. He designed their ACA Software and, as a support tech, he has helped hundreds of people with Affordable Care Act compliance and reporting.  Adam has a background in engineering, the service industry, and print, which makes him a technically proficient and friendly communicator for Passport Software.

Passport Software, Inc.

181 North Waukegan Rd, #200

Northfield, IL 60093

800-969-7900

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HR Specialists Talk About Their Stances On Time Tracking | Featured Image

HR Specialists Talk About Their Stances On Time Tracking

HR Specialists Talk About Their Stances On Time Tracking | Main Image

The exponentially growing digitalization of business and life itself is disrupting almost any industry in every country, and it didn’t bypass their HR departments either. Until recently, HR has operated relatively separately from the other parts of the organization, but the evolution of HRMS and SaaS solutions made the HR embedded in everyday business just as much as Marketing or R&D. On the other hand, just like new technologies have created new forms of organizing work (think about digital nomads and virtual organizations), so must the way of managing those employees differ from the conventional ones.

In my attempts to understand the challenges of managing people in large enterprises, as well as the shift in the approach that technology brings in this area, I spoke to a couple of experts in this area – a director of HR department in a large corporation, and a CEO of HR software developing company, about their views on employee time tracking as a business practice. Their rich experience in “both sides” of human resource management allowed them to discuss the benefits of this concept, but also to elaborate their objections.

It’s not for everyone

The first professional I talked to is Sonja Jovanović, head of HR in Serbian branch of accounting and advisory company Ernst&Young. Besides using manually filled timesheets for tracking revenue streams, and punching cards system for checking in and out of the building (although this serves primarily as a security measure), the company does not use any other forms of time tracking, nor do they intend to in the future. Working hours are flexible, remote work is allowed in some circumstances, and their company culture simply doesn’t leave much room for implementing this type of business practice.

The very nature of the industry of providing high-quality services to business clients requires a substantial level of professionalism and severity of their personnel. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence, followed by the strong and thorough selection, to entrust a client to a group of employees. “ […] Therefore, I do not see a situation in which a time tracking tool could bring any value to our organization,” says Sonja.

In EY, performance reviews and feedbacks are being conducted through the complex network of department managers and counselors, and though the employees do use computers, their performance simply cannot be seen nor measured by the amount of time spent on particular computer activities. “Our HRM is digitized in many ways, but tracking time does not fall into that. It simply isn’t applicable, because you cannot gauge the scope and quality of intellectual work by time,” she explains. “The more you try to frame people and their creative process, the greater the set-down will be, and the poorer results you can expect. This simple principle is something that many discipline-obsessed managers fail to understand.”

It’s about culture and priorities

In order to find which companies do find time tracking useful, or even a must have solution for their business, I spoke to Ivan Petrović, CEO of WorkPuls, a company providing time tracking solutions for businesses around the world.

“When it comes to implementation of time tracking solutions in medium and big companies, there are two basic factors that affect this. The first is the company culture, and the way productivity is understood in the company. The second factor are the individual views of managers, especially the HR Directors and their priorities”, says Ivan. WorkPuls works with various companies, from BPO companies, software and video gaming companies to construction companies and e-commerce businesses. While they think that there are certain patterns that one might observe among use cases of different customers, they say that there are also differences among specific goals different managers want to achieve.

“If you are in charge of HR in a company that has more than 500 employees like one of our clients, and your top level management has an initiative to increase productivity, or just wants to gain better insights into current ongoings, you might sometimes feel that it is impossible to know what everyone is working on currently, how happy or productive they are, and whether some teams or employees might be too loaded with work. So you want to find a way to get your insights efficiently, and this is what a good time tracking solution should provide. Such software gives you an easy overview of what your employees are doing at any given time, if this is what you want to know, but also whether they are getting more or less productive over a specific period of time; if they have too much work to do, whether they are “morning birds” or “night owls” and so on. With these insights, it is easier to work together with your employees to optimize workflow, provide a better working atmosphere, and consequently bring up the productivity of the whole company. Of course, all under the condition that your employees’ work is dominantly computer-bound,” explains Ivan.

Smaller companies, however, seem to have a different motive. “Speaking of smaller to medium size businesses, many times owners or managers look for an easier way to monitor whether everyone is working as promised, or they want to use insights to reduce the waste of time,” explains Petrović. “But there have also been cases where business owners used time tracking to see whether their employees needed any additional training with the tools they use. If some of your employees are spending way more time on those Excel sheets or Google Translate then the rest of the team, that might suggest that it’s time for additional training in that specific area.”

Since large companies already have their own payroll accounting solutions and punch in/punch out systems, the analytics side of time tracking software here becomes much more significant. Ivan mentions security related questions, along with the need to integrate time tracking data with other data in the company.

“There is an increasing need in this field to provide ever more flexible solutions, balancing the transparency for the employees with solid protection of security and privacy, within the company, but also towards the outside. Integration with other systems is also important.”

Control or motivation?

The overall impression was that for companies like these time tracking would not be yet another control mechanism, but a tool for improving the insight of HR professionals in everyday work and interactions of their people as well. It seems that if you are willing to dig deeper into the metrics, you might discover some remarkable ongoings which would hardly be detected in traditional ways of performance management. For many managers, this feels like a big step forward.

Although the digitalization of HR activities has opened great opportunities in terms of increasing the speed and quality of analytical processes and providing greater insights into organizational affairs, while at the same time reducing costs, there are still some downsides to be looked after. Downsizing the HR departments or burdening HR professionals with technical details are the first threats to successful adoption and modernization of people management. The serious threat to privacy that technology presents is the main reason why the initiative for using such tools should and must come from the HR. Bearing all this in mind, we can conclude that the basic challenge of the profession will be to recognize, develop and exploit the positive potentials of digitalization, while at the same time avoid, or at least minimize the concomitant risks.


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Employee Data and GDPR. What You Need to Know | Featured Image

Employee Data and GDPR. What You Need to Know

Employee Data and GDPR. What You Need to Know | Main Image

Every organisation that processes personal data must comply with the new GDPR rules that take effect in May 2018. There are no exemptions based on a size or sector, no staggered dates for compliance and, based on the current performance of the body responsible for policing data protection legislation, a rock-solid guarantee that the new regulations will be enforced and, where companies fall short, fines imposed.

Those with HR and people responsibilities are, without a doubt, at the front line of GDPR compliance. They work with personal data all the time: in fact, their jobs could be said to rely on it.

As custodians of employee information, they’ll be the ones who will need to audit existing processes; validate their own security and that of third parties that they share HR information with such as HR software and payroll providers; take on at least some of the responsibility for compliance training and monitoring and equip themselves to report any data breaches involving employee data, as well as respond to ‘subject access requests’ from employees.

Where should you start?

For many HR teams getting to grips with GDPR is understandably daunting. Not least, because so much has been written about the higher standard of consent for processing personal data that the legislation requires – and the cost of getting it wrong.

At first glance, asking employees for consent seems reasonable. You may already let employees know why you ask them for personal information and what you use it for.

However, when it comes to collecting and processing employee data in the context of GDPR, a reading of the regulations indicates that the focus on consent is misleading and could, in fact, be damaging.

[Box out]

Under GDPR, consent is defining as meaning “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.”

In an employment context, relying on consent is problematic for three main reasons:

  1. It’s administratively complex. Since consent needs to be ‘specific’ and shown by a ‘clear affirmative action’. A catch all clause in an employment contract, or on the login screen to your HR software won’t cover it.
  2. It’s unlikely to be un-enforceable in law. In an employment relationship, demonstrating free consent is almost impossible since the relationship is not one between equals. By refusing consent, an employee may feel that they put their relationship with their employer in jeopardy.
  3. By asking an employee to give their consent to processing information, you may inadvertently give them stronger rights to have their details deleted. What would be the business implications if, for example, an employee demanded that you delete data about their absences (sickness or otherwise), performance, skills, perhaps even their address. It may seem unlikely, but it’s possible.

Legitimate business interest

Instead, HR should rely as far as possible on legitimate business interest. This should cover the data that is required to ensure the employer fulfil their contractual obligations to their employees. For example, to pay them, award paid time off, manage grievance or health and safety issues etc. It will also extend to issues relating to the effective running of the business, such as monitoring absences, performance reviews or skills audits (with a caveat in relation to automated decision making – which is also covered by GDPR).

Legitimate interest cannot be applied in all cases. For example, processing employee information related to wellness initiatives, while laudable, is likely to require consent, as is sharing personal data with third parties so they can market their services to your employees – however attractive the offer.

An essential first step for HR, therefore, is to audit and document employee information: what you gather and why, where you store it, how you ensure it is accurate and up to date and who you share it with. This forms the foundation for the other activities that HR – or someone else in the organisation – will need to address for GDPR compliance.

The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has put together a handy 12-point plan for anyone with day to day responsibility for data protection, much of which is relevant to HR.

Beyond the data audit, top priorities for HR are likely to include: updates to privacy notices, review of current consent approaches, awareness and training activities, internal and partner data security reviews, processes for reporting data breaches and a cost-effective response to subject requests for information.

For HR teams making do with spreadsheets and paper-based files, GDPR may also provide the impetus to modernise personnel record keeping. In a side note to the legislation, the regulator recommends making use of employee self- service HR software, so that employees can both see, and where appropriate correct, the data their employer holds on them.

Consolidating HR information in a single, secure HR software system has other benefits for GDPR compliance. It’s generally easier to demonstrate that you have appropriate security in place if personnel records are held behind a secure login than in spreadsheets or office filing cabinets and approval workflows and audit capabilities make tracing and tracking infinitely easier than trawling through historic emails.

Although GDPR will not be in force until May 2018, the new regulations will have significant implications for the way that companies manage their HR data. HR need to start to prepare now.

Please note: this article is based on our understanding of the requirements of GDPR and should not be relied upon as legal advice or to determine how GDPR might apply to you and your organisation.  You should refer to the legislation and, if in doubt, work with a legally qualified professional to discuss GDPR, how it applies specifically to your organisation, and how best to ensure compliance.


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BYOD Doesn’t Have to Be the Biggest Headache for Companies

BYOD Doesn’t Have to Be the Biggest Headache for Companies

Written by Manish Bhardwaj, Sr. Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

BYOD Doesn’t Have To Be the Biggest Headache for Companies in the Middle East

8 Best Practices to Protect Your Enterprise Network

Manish Bhardwaj, Sr. Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
Manish Bhardwaj, Sr. Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Smartphones and other personal devices can now be found in most businesses as users are staying connected to the corporate network from anywhere, any time. It’s the stuff that keeps IT and security managers up at night — mobile users, multiple devices per user, and enterprise data on the move.

Security for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and mobile must now be part of a larger conversation when securing the network for the new digital workplace. Based on existing customers’ best practices, this paper outlines eight things you can do to boost network security amidst BYOD.

Assign Roles to Users and Devices

With users carrying multiple devices, it’s smart to standardize on user roles across the organization, and then assign device roles, too. A smartphone issued by IT for a specific purpose may require more access privileges than a personal device. IT-issued laptops would have different roles than smartphones and tablets. The value is your ability to create different rules for each device type or role.

User and device roles also let you differentiate privileges by device type for the same user. An IT administrator would be allowed to change switch and controller configurations with a laptop assigned a corporate role. But, that same person would not be able to access sensitive networking equipment using a tablet assigned a BYOD role.

Use Profiling to Create Device Categories

Accurately profiled devices should be a cornerstone of your plan when rolling out a secure BYOD initiative. As BYOD permeates throughout your environment, not all users will be diligent about downloading the latest versions of the operating system. You’ll want to capture context that allows you to see who is running what versions on iOS, Android, Chrome and other operating systems.

As new releases become available, this data will give you the visibility to help identify why authentications may be failing, the types of devices that are experiencing issues, and more.

An understanding of location can also help determine if a problem is specific to Wi-Fi equipment if the enterprise is operating a multivendor environment.

Use Context Within Policies

It’s important to leverage multiple sources of context to manage access. Data can consist of user role, device profiling, location, and once a certificate is issued to a specific user’s device, the assumption is that it’s a BYOD. Doing this greatly enhances productivity, usability and security. By enabling the use of known data you can stop users from coming up with ways to bypass policies.

The use of device categories should also be explored. The idea is to again leverage context to enforce privileges across a large category of devices. All BYOD endpoints connecting over a VPN can be treated differently than when connecting in the office. Printers can be managed differently than game consoles or Apple TVs.

Manage Mobile App Use

Enterprises need to define and enforce policies that dictate who can access specific types of data from which devices, with the ability to differentiate between smartphones, tablets, laptops or IoT devices. To be effective, enforcement must extend across MDM/EMM, a policy management platform, and firewalls.

Automate and Simplify

Automation is essential for both initial onboarding and to take action on non-compliant devices (for example, quarantining them until they are compliant). MDM/EMM solutions should share device posture with a NAC solution to ensure that devices meet compliance before being given access. Integrating with helpdesk applications and SIEM can provide an enhanced experience for the user and IT for improved problem resolution.

By automating the discovery and onboarding of non-compliant devices, you can reduce costs and improve your security posture. This also allows users to re-onboard their own devices when smartphones and tablets are replaced, which also reduces the time IT has to spend on device onboarding.

Go with Certificates – They’re More Secure Than Passwords

Users will connect to guest networks more frequently leaving passwords exposed to theft, which makes certificates a cornerstone of a secure mobile device deployment. As the use of active directory and an internal PKI for BYOD is not a best practice, an independent Certificate Authority (CA) built to support personal devices is preferred.

A policy management solution that includes the ability to distribute and update, as well as revoke certificates should be explored. Integration with an MDM/EMM solution should be an option in the event that device management was deployed prior to investing in a network access policy management solution.

Make Everyone Happy – Simplify SSIDs

Multiple SSIDs complicate life for IT and users alike. With effective policy management enforcement in place, BYOD and corporate-owned devices can connect to common SSIDs. Reducing the options for users to choose from simplifies the user experience, and makes it easier for IT to maintain SSIDs across multiple locations. Consolidation of SSIDs can also improve Wi-Fi performance.

The key to improving your security posture revolves around your ability to leverage roles, location and policy enforcement to ensure that devices receive the access that IT expects, even when using common SSIDs. When personal devices are connected to a common 802.1X network, IT can provide Internet access only if desired.

Consider Next-Generation Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

These days, enterprise data access is often initiated from smartphones and tablets. As these devices are easily shared, many IT professionals are turning to new forms of MFA to ensure that the user of a device is really the person requesting access. Instead of token generation devices that are easily lost, there’s a better way.

Now when a user connects to a network or opens an application, IT can require a secondary challenge that is as simple as picking up your smartphone and scanning your fingerprint, taking a selfie, or clicking on a pre-determined image from within the images library.

Conclusion

The continued rise of BYOD is inevitable, and few corporate leaders will pass up the productivity gains of a mobile workforce that pays for their own devices. But it is easy to lose track of long-term goals if you don’t have a solid plan. The eight ideas presented in this paper are just some of the things that IT should consider when preparing for BYOD.

In the end, a central component that brings everything together starts with an advanced policy management platform. One that includes AAA services, NAC, BYOD onboarding and third-party integration with event-driven remediation.


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Developing A Proactive Crisis Management Plan

Developing A Proactive Crisis Management Plan

Reputation

Since the arrival of platforms like blogs and social media, brands have been granted many more opportunities to be transparent, authentic, and accessible to their audience. The capacity for instantaneous communication, however, have also created spaces in which negative narratives can spin out of control faster than ever before.

While no brand ever intends for something to negatively impact the online reputation of its business, it’s still crucial to have a contingency plan in place. 59% of businesses will encounter a crisis at some point in their lifespan, and the after-effects can continue to plague their search results long after they navigate through it.

How To Manage a Reputation Crisis for Your Business

Preparation is key in mitigating future problems, so it’s worth taking the time to develop an actionable crisis management plan with your brand’s key stakeholders and communication experts before a crisis strikes. Forming a crisis management plan drastically reduces the probability that an erroneous or negative article will rank in your top search results long-term.

Engage With Your Customers

According to a study conducted by global advertising agency Havas, consumers are more likely to support companies that take the time to engage with their audiences. Make sure you know where people are talking about you, and keep track of what’s being said. It’s easy to focus on one platform or a single negative article and lose sight of the big picture as it relates to your brand.

Engaging with your audience through social media has many benefits, but it’s important to go about it the right way. It’s impossible to foresee every scenario, but there are a few things to keep in mind when attempting to strike the right balance.

  • Always be mindful of tone and context when posting.
  • Respectfully acknowledge and reply to complaints and criticisms of your business online, don’t avoid them.
  • Promote your brand, but don’t overdo it.

A recent study found that 85% of respondents needed to see a product or service more than once before deciding to purchase it, but that 58% were annoyed by too many promotional messages on social media.

For more tips on how to prepare for a crisis – and weather the storm if you find yourself in the midst of one – check out the following guide:

The 4 Pillars of Crisis Management by Reputation Management | The HR Tech Weekly®


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Why Businesses Should Embrace Machine Learning

If you’re still unsure of machine learning and it’s benefits, consider these scenarios. 

In 2016, Google’s net worth was reported to be $336 billion, and this is largely due to the advanced learning algorithms the company employs.

Google was the first company to realize the importance of incorporating machine learning in business processes. And the technology powerhouse doesn’t stop at any given point; it keeps modifying its algorithms to better suit the needs of its users continuously.

And how does it accomplish the difficult task of observing the browsing pattern of thousands (or millions) of its users?

The answer is simple. By analysing the data, which it has accumulated by introducing machine learning to its business operating model.

This is just one example of how machine learning processes in the recording and processing of data can help businesses grow.

Here are three more ways in which machine learning can help various business sectors:

1. It removes physical restrictions

If we have accomplished one thing by automating and digitalizing business processes, it is that we have removed the physical limitations that restrict growth.

Before the technological age, what was the biggest problem faced by businesses? Operating within a limited space accessible only by a limited number of people. For a designer, it was necessary to completely clear out the previous inventory before utilising the shelf space for new designs. By embracing machine learning and diving into the world of e-commerce, you don’t ever have to worry about running out of shelves.

2. It provides a deeper understanding of your consumers

With the introduction of automated processes, businesses have become increasingly consumer-centric. To be able to survive the competition of catering to your customers’ needs, you as a business owner have to understand the needs of your consumers.

If you do not deliver what consumers are looking for, there is a high probability that you will lose potential customers to competition. Machine learning plays an important part in solving the mystery of consumer preferences. All required information is hidden behind the data accumulated by the business. You just have to crunch the code, and voila—you know what your customers are actively searching for.

3. It automated processes, boosting efficiency

Imagine standing in line in a supermarket; someone with a long haul is standing ahead of you and the cashier’s machine suddenly breaks. It’s a nightmare, right? You could be spending those precious minutes watching your favourite series on Netflix.

Now imagine that the machine is not broken but in fact was never invented. The cashier has to manually enter every purchase and tally it with the existing stock. Incorporating automated processes to record inventory stock and purchase order data is not a luxury, it’s a necessity in today’s world. Machine learning has increased the efficiency of businesses and minimized the room for error.

Want to learn more about how to incorporate Big Data analytics to propel your business towards growth? Visit Simplilearn for useful insights into the subject. For more interesting content about data analytics follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Source: Why Businesses Should Embrace Machine Learning | Ronald van Loon | Pulse | LinkedIn

Overcoming IT Barriers to Digital Transformation

Overcoming IT Barriers to Digital Transformation

Written by Elie Dib, Senior Managing Director, METNA at Riverbed

Overcoming IT Barriers to Digital Transformation

Today, the role of the CIO and IT department is more closely aligned than ever to business operations. This is because, in order to ensure a seamless digital transformation, both CIOs and their IT departments have to be able to ensure that business objectives are at the centre of their strategies. In fact, this is critical if they want to drive innovation, deliver better customer satisfaction levels, increase workforce productivity, and reduce bottom line costs during a new project.

Elie Dib, Senior Managing Director METNA at Riverbed
Elie Dib, Senior Managing Director METNA at Riverbed

There is one element of IT delivery that is however often overlooked within all these considerations. This is ensuring excellence in user experience. It is the most fundamental measure of success, as without measuring this before and after any digital transformation programme, there is no empirical metrics to help validate claims of any clear change in the experience with confidence. And user experience often determines increase of productivity, employee engagement, cost savings and can also result in better customer service being delivered.
There are four common barriers to digital transformation initiatives. Below we explore the steps an enterprise can take to overcome them.

1. Operational In-Efficiency

Business unit leaders and IT professionals, are often summoned to a war-room meetings to explain why an IT-related project or change aimed at improving business productivity or customer service resulted in so much negative feeling toward the initiative. Unfortunately, this is often because all parties are not aligned. More often than not, these situations can easily be avoided by first starting at the vantage point of the end-user experience to see how IT services are being consumed.

Both business unit leaders and IT professionals need to sit down together and map out objectives and KPIs for technology changes. The plan could be tested with a small group of end-users. But ultimately if both parties know what the outcome must be, there is no room for confusion in delivery — and it can help both parties to get back to their respective roles in supporting the business.

2. Sub-Optimal Application Performance

Organisations are using hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications. New applications are constantly being deployed, whether the new version are upgrades or replacements for old legacy applications. This all brings risk. Poor application performance can significantly impact competitiveness, and, in sectors such as healthcare, can directly affect patient care or put sensitive data at risk.

Application upgrades can be a key catalyst for issues that impact productivity. With so much variation in hardware, location, network, and user expectation across the business it becomes an ever bigger and more complex task to thoroughly test every combination of how an application could be consumed by different users. Data centre monitoring solutions are partially helpful in reporting on the availability of centrally hosted applications, backed by reports and dashboards with lots of positive results. However, this information alone is rarely indicative of a positive experience for end-users on the receiving end.

By contrast, effective end-user experience monitoring allows benchmarks to be created over time which clearly show precise historic application performance metrics. Then, upon application upgrade or migration, any positive or negative deviation in performance can be viewed immediately with the analytics to show exactly where the change in response time and experience is occurring.

3. Ineffective  Change Management and User Adoption

Adoption is key to the success of products and services. Within Riverbed’s collective frame of reference, users tend to only embrace change when they feel confident and experience an incremental improvement in their interaction with an application or desktop.

Users need to be brought on the journey of change. Reasoning behind the changes need to be explained, and effective training put in place to make any change in strategy or a transformation as positive as possible. In addition, for future change initiatives, empirical evidence in the form of data from monitoring can prove invaluable. Businesses must be able to measure system performance against end-user productivity over time to ensure there’s no real negative impact, but rather only improvement.

4. Pure Visibility of the End-User Experience

The three previous topics can easily be combined within the one single category of poor visibility of the end-user experience: in other words — the visibility gap. In short, this relates to the lack of insight into how IT services or change initiatives and digital transformations actually impact the experience of users, which ultimately impacts business performance.

The key thing to keep in mind is that any effect on end-user experience can only be measured from the end-user’s perspective of how they are consuming IT services — and with proactive alerting so when there is a deviation in performance, IT is notified directly, and doesn’t rely on the workforce calling their IT team or the CIO to complain.

So what has enables organisations to embrace IT change for the greater good of the business?

Close the Visibility Gap and Overcome Barriers to Change

The bottom line is that no enterprise business can manage or improve until it can measure. Therefore, the recommendation is equally simple. Measure and benchmark your business’ existing user experience and instantly compare any variations when a change is made.

To conclude, whether the business is looking to change a specific IT component or to enable full-scale digital business transformation (in a positive manner) CIOs, IT professionals and their business unit partners need to ensure the experience for their end-users is optimised as part of the project — in effect, treating them like IT consumers.

What’s more, no business can rely on IT end-users as the primary source to the business to problems. To achieve this, the business needs easy access to real empirical user experience data that enables it to easily compare the before and after of changes. So, the first step in this approach, and for your next IT transformation task, is to start with end-user experience to help ensure a successful outcome.


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AI – The Present in the Making

AI – The Present in the Making

I attended the Huawei European Innovation Day recently, and was enthralled by how the new technology is giving rise to industrial revolutions. These revolutions are what will eventually unlock the development potential around the world. It is important to leverage the emerging technologies, since they are the resources which will lead us to innovation and progress. Huawei is innovative in its partnerships and collaboration to define the future, and the event was a huge success.

For many people, the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a thing of the future. It is the technology that has yet to be introduced. But Professor Jon Oberlander disagrees. He was quick to point out that AI is not in the future, it is now in the making. He began by mentioning Alexa, Amazon’s star product. It’s an artificial intelligent personal assistant, which was made popular by Amazon Echo devices. With a plethora of functions, Alexa quickly gained much popularity and fame. It is used for home automation, music streaming, sports updates, messaging and email, and even to order food.

With all these skills, Alexa is still in the stages of being updated as more features and functions are added to the already long list. This innovation has certainly changed the perspective of AI being a technology of the future. Al is the past, the present, and the future.

Valkyrie is another example of how AI exists in the present. There are only a handful of these in the world, and one of them is owned by NASA. They are a platform for establishing human-robot interaction, and were built in 2013 by a Johnson Space Center (JSC) Engineering directorate. This humanoid robot is designed to be able to work in damaged and degraded environments.

The previous two were a bit too obvious. Let’s take it a notch higher.

The next thing on Professor Jon Oberlander’s list was labeling images on search engines. For example, if we searched for an image of a dog, the search engine is going to show all the images that contain a dog, even if it’s not a focal point. The connected component labeling is used in computer vision, and is another great example of how AI is developing in present times.

Over the years, machine translation has also gained popularity as numerous people around the world rely on these translators. Over the past year, there has been a massive leap forward in the quality of machine translations. There has definitely been a dramatic increase in the quality as algorithms are revised and new technology is incorporated to enhance the service.

To start with a guess, and end up close to the truth. That’s the basic ideology behind Bayes Rule, a law of conditional probability.

But how did we get here? All these great inventions and innovations have played a major role in making AI a possibility in the present. And these four steps led us to this technological triumph;

  • Starting
  • Coding
  • Learning
  • Networking

Now that we are here, where would this path take us? It has been a great journey so far, and it’s bound to get more exciting in the future. The only way we can eventually end up fulfilling our goals is through;

  • Application
  • Specialization
  • Hybridization
  • Explanation

With extensive learning systems, it has become imperative to devise fast changing technologies, which will in turn facilitate the spread of AI across the world. With technologies such as deep fine-grained classifier and the Internet of Things, AI is readily gaining coverage. And this is all due to Thomas Bayes, who laid the foundations of intellectual technology.

If you would like to read more from Ronald van Loon on the possibilities of AI, please click Follow and connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Source: AI – The Present in the Making | Ronald van Loon | Pulse | LinkedIn

Is HR Responsible for Web Security? | Featured Image

Is HR Responsible for Web Security?

Is HR Responsible for Web Security? | Image 1

It is safe to say that cybersecurity should be among a business’s top priorities. While malware like WannaCry spreads around the globe, ruining company after company, small and large businesses alike should be focused on strengthening their digital defenses and building a workplace culture focused on security. Undoubtedly, most HR professionals will wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment – but many won’t lift a finger to address gaps in their employers’ cybersecurity.

There are often concerns over who should build and maintain cybersecurity within a business. On one hand, security software is installed on tech devices, which belong in IT’s wheelhouse. Then again, a security breach affects customer relations, so perhaps the customer service department should ensure every device is protected. However, the truth is that HR should take the bulk of the responsibility for keeping a business safe. Here’s why.

HR Protects the Business and Its People

Through incentivization efforts, behavior-monitoring, policy-setting, management of resources, and more, HR departments work to reinforce the integrity of the business’s foundation: its people. Furthermore, HR provides support for the business, its employees, and ultimately its customers, assisting in the achievement of personal and organizational goals that benefit everyone. Because security should be a primary goal for modern businesses, web security measures should be a top concern for HR departments, too.

When a cyberattack is successful, it isn’t just the faceless company that suffers. Often, employee private information, perhaps including payment data, is leaked as well as business-related financial information. Conversely, a business’s tech assets are hardly imperiled by hackers, who are rarely interested in destroying software or able to impact hardware, so the IT department has little to fear from cyberattack. Because HR serves the business and its employees, who are most threatened by cyber-dangers, HR should work to ensure such data is well-protected by comprehensive web security software.

Is HR Responsible for Web Security? | Image 2

HR Influences Corporate Culture

Yet, effective security software is just one piece of the cyber-protection puzzle. Security experts assert that more often than not, a business’s employees are responsible for data breaches and successful cyberattacks. After all, it is the employees who visit questionable websites, who open shady emails, who click suspicious links, and who fail to install timely updates. Because HR is responsible for employee behavior, HR professionals should actively work against these unhealthy and insecure practices by influencing the culture of the workplace.

HR already has a massive impact on corporate culture. Recruiting efforts can target certain personalities, which form the foundation of a workplace culture. Additionally, HR designs policies and guidelines which shape how employees behave. HR departments should use this sway to establish a culture focused on security. Hiring security-minded workers, hosting regular security trainings, and instilling the idea that security is everyone’s job are ways to ensure employees are aware and alert to security.

HR Understands Compliance Rules

There are all sorts of laws and regulations outlining how businesses should behave, and HR should be familiar with all of them to keep the business safe from fines, litigation, and worse. Often, these rules concern payment minimums and structures, mandatory vacation time, and termination means and methods – but increasingly, the government is turning its attention to online behavior. Already, seven major industries have compliance obligations for digital data. Because HR professionals are already well-versed in adhering to compliance rules, it is hardly a stretch for them to understand burgeoning security regulations. Instead of trying to manage compliance and action in different departments, businesses can streamline the process by giving HR total control over web security efforts.

HR Relies on Technology

These days, every aspect of a business relies on technology – including the HR department. HR professionals use all sorts of digital tools to manage their workforces, from payroll platforms to internal messaging services to online recruitment processes. Should a business’s network be compromised by cyberattack, HR will be as unable to complete their tasks as any other department. If for no other reason than this, HR should be concerned about internet security.

Security failures are bad for business, but they are particularly bad for HR. Because HR departments’ goals align with those of security efforts – and because HR professionals are already well-equipped to handle the intricacies of cybersecurity – HR should be responsible for a business’s web security.

About the Author:

Tiffany Rowe

Tiffany Rowe is a leader in marketing authority, she assists Seek Visibility and our clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web. Tiffany prides herself in her ability to create and provide high quality content that audiences find valuable. She also enjoys connecting with other bloggers and collaborating for exclusive content in various niches. With many years of experience, Tiffany has found herself more passionate than ever to continue developing content and relationship across multiple platforms and audiences.


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10 Things You Need to Know About Digital Transformation | Featured Image

10 Things You Need to Know About Digital Transformation

Digital Transfomration

Digital transformation isn’t just a phase or a buzzword. Business leaders are now fast waking up to the important role technology is set to play in their growth strategies, with the latest report from Gartner showing a rise in the number of CEOs ranking IT as a priority – “The IT-related area rose from 19% mentioning it as a priority for 2016/2017 to 31% in 2017/2018.”[i] The recent explosion of connected devices and platforms, for example, has made it imperative for companies to quickly adapt their products, services and processes, and move towards the digital world. This, naturally, requires transformation of some kind.

However, the reality is that digital transformation will require some tough choices to ensure your business isn’t dragged along or left behind. But we all know that change is not easy. You might be thinking how do you start transforming? Does it have to cost lots of money? Or perhaps you’re experiencing resistance to change. What’s the problem with doing things the ‘old’ way anyway? Here are ten considerations that that will help companies on their digital transformation journey.

Digital transformation will change your business, but focussing on the right level of change is key

New digital technologies should be seen as an enabler for better, more seamless and streamlined business operations that make your business competitive – driving growth. Focusing on where digital transformation can deliver the most benefits and add the most value in your quest for growth should be where you begin the change process.

Technology investment is crucial to growth but just because the technology is new, doesn’t mean it’s right for you

Sometimes less is more. The right use of technology can radically improve your business, but the deployment of technology for technology’s sake can be self-defeating. Being open to the transformative impact of new technologies is the most important consideration for companies around the world.

Consider where your company is on its digital transformation journey

Growing your technology platform doesn’t necessarily mean your business will grow too. Sometimes it’s better to have fewer solutions than more, but it can be challenging for business managers to keep on top of the latest tech trends and new solutions being launched in the market.

Many competing technologies profess to drive digital transformation, however, the utility of solutions depend on the stage your company is at in the transformation journey. From mobile sales and field services, to wireless sales counters and warehouses, to advanced inventory management – different solutions provide new ways to reduce costs, improve the customer experience, and improve the bottom line.

Not everyone in your company will feel comfortable with digital transformation

Society and technology are changing more quickly than most companies can adapt. From enterprise resource planning (ERP) to cloud computing, new tools, platforms, and channels are creating unprecedented opportunities to connect with customers and improve internal processes—but only for the businesses agile enough to transform and adapt to these new digital realities.

Even so, there’s no single roadmap for digital transformation and the path is different for every company and industry. However, there must be attempts to get employee buy-in from the start. This requires a commitment to digital technology from the boardroom to all levels of staff. You should have leaders with the right mind-set and motivation to lead the digital transformation process.

It’s no good having data if you don’t know what it means

Firms that undergo a true digital transformation programme put data and information at the heart of their technology focused business models. Many are shocked to see just how much information they had but were not utilising properly. The new data landscape provides you with unique opportunities to turn data into insights – the fuel for any digital transformation journey – with real-time updates providing opportunities for better business decision making.

In fact, Forrester Research has found that more than 70% of decision-makers report planned or current initiatives to encourage more data-driven decisions, making unlocking the value of integrated business data critical to success in today’s modern distribution marketplace.

Digital transformation won’t grow your profits overnight – embrace change as part of a wider growth strategy with measurable goals

Change is a constant in today’s dynamic marketplace, but it’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve in a short time. A recent survey we sponsored, highlighted how high-growth companies embrace change. Seventy-six per cent of high-growth companies prefer constant innovation to business stability, while only 49% of low-growth companies do so. In an age where innovation is driven by rising customer expectations, growing companies have distinct short-term goals that embrace innovation and business change as part of a wider transformation journey for growth.

Digital transformation should make your business more adaptable but it won’t make you immune to competition

It has never been more important for business leaders to carry the torch for digital transformation, but the most important factor is making sure digital potential is translated into competitive advantage. This requires top executives to champion the deployment of flexible, digital technologies that change the way they engage with their customers.

As Gartner rightly states, “technology shapes business strategy, but market, political and financial factors prevail.”[ii] Nevertheless, embracing the right technology brings people together, allows businesses to land and expand into new geographic locations with minimum resources, and makes the product development lifecycle more responsive to consumer demand than ever before. 

It takes more than just digital technology to encourage collaboration across departments and divisions

To begin digital transformation, you need to look at your business from the inside out – consider the tools and systems you use, what works well, what doesn’t and ways these can be improved. But when technology is heralded above all else, there becomes an even greater disconnect between employees and the challenges that their business is trying to solve.

There might be isolated investments that are doing very well, but they’re still isolated. New solutions must be an enabler aligned with a bigger mission – to evolve internal processes, structure and culture, or to match the evolution in customers’ behaviour. Consider how you communicate both internally and externally, the strengths and weaknesses of your staff and if their skills are fit for purpose. Do you need staff with more digital skills and will you need to recruit them throughout the process?

Your customers don’t think about your digital transformation, but they do expect it to happen

The digital trends that are impacting every part of business operations will not slow down, and it’s the same playing field for all of your competitors, and every start-up that’s gunning for a piece of your world. Your customers expect that you are embracing digital transformation because they are doing so, and they need you to join them on the journey. 

You can talk the talk, but make sure you walk the walk

To make digital transformation happen, high-growth companies don’t just pay lip service to ideas such as new technology and innovation – they back them up with investment. The growth survey we did, found that in the coming year, 88% of high-growth companies are planning significant investments in technology and innovation, while only 49% of slow-growth companies are doing so.

Digital transformation is different for every business. While some manufacturers will have more challenges than others, and while some will also embrace more technologies than others, being aware of the ten considerations above will be helpful to every business that is embarking – or has already embarked on – this journey.

[i] Gartner, 2017 CEO Survey: CIOs Must Scale Up Digital Business (March 2017)

[ii] Gartner, 2017 CEO Survey: CIOs Must Scale Up Digital Business (March 2017)

About the Author:

Sabby Gill, EVP, Epicor Software

Sabby Gill brings more than 20 years of international sales, operations and enterprise software industry experience to Epicor. In the role of executive vice president (EVP), International, Gill is responsible for operations including sales, professional services, and field marketing, with a focus on accelerating company growth throughout Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC).

Prior to Epicor, Gill was senior vice president of International Sales for IGT, a gaming technology company. He has also held executive management roles with leading technology companies including HP, CA Technologies, Oracle, PeopleSoft (acquired by Oracle), and DEC.


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