Ten Minutes with Larry Dunivan - Marketing Maverick

Larry Dunivan, senior vice president of Global HCM Products for Lawson Software, shares his insight on how great data about people can drive organizational performance.


Despite the sluggish economy, why is now the right time for organizations to think about their talent management strategy?

Organizations have more need than ever for great data about their people and unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons. They have to make tough decisions about who to keep and who they might have to release in order to get their costs in alignment with revised revenue targets. At the same time, as they think about what we can all only hope is an inevitable rebound in the economy, organizations are going to need to be ready not only to go out and recruit in the open market, but more importantly think about who the best people are to take the organization forward. The reality is at the end of the day, whether it's good news or bad news, it's the same problem - do we have great data about people that is actionable?

The real challenge is in the context of the challenging economic climate. How do you make the right prioritization decisions? That's where we're starting to see some data that suggests that some of the classic talent programs are going to be harder to defend and other programs perhaps a bit harder in return on investment.

How can organizations best apply talent management programs, processes, and systems for the greatest business impact?

I talk about this in the context of actionable data. Organizations today have built technology solutions to help them become more efficient. They've automated core activities in payroll and HR. Many of them have become more effective by using tools like employee and manager self-service so HR managers can be more focused on the more complex and value-added activities that HR professionals need to address. But really, the Holy Grail is insight.

Insight is actionable, credible data about people for decision-making. That's what organizations need in order to be really effective. It's also the hardest thing to get. But Talent Management programs and systems are the foundations for doing that. It's things like having a great profile of what good looks like with respect to knowledge, skills, abilities, competencies. It is about really understanding the way in which you want to manage those core HR processes and all elements of the value chain whether it's recruiting against a success profile, making sure that goals and pay for performance are aligned with what good looks like, and in measuring performance. Or, it's about the right development and succession programs to prepare people or measure them for readiness potential and fit for target positions. All of that comes down to rich, actionable data about individuals and then the ability to aggregate that in meaningful ways.

If you take a retail or healthcare example, who are the people that are best positioned to take those first leadership roles as a nurse manager or as a store manager and then what does good look like. What are the characteristics about performance in the very best nurse managers or best store managers that you want to screen for, both when you recruit from the outside as well as when you develop for promotion. That all comes down to a rich data about what the organization thinks good looks like and the inividual and how they measure up against that.

I read that Lawson has just announced an extension of their relationship with IBM to bring human resource capabilities to the mid-market. How is the solution tailored for this sector and how will it help smaller companies meet their unique challenges in maximizing employee potential?

The way IBM defines the mid-market is around the 2,500-10,000 employee range. These are decent size organizations with complex people issues. What we've done is combine skills within IBM around consulting and change transformation with Lawson software products. We are able to go into a customer and say not only will we help you understand what the drivers are around some of these organizational challenges, but lay out the business process changes and more importantly help build a change management structure that will allow those changes to be adopted well in addition to providing the more traditional software and software implementation services products that organizations need as they manage the technology transition.

You took a hiatus from the industry a few years back – what did you discover about yourself? For people undergoing a transition in their career either by choice or as a result of downsizing, what advice would you offer them?

The answer to both questions is similar. I left to explore a career in corporate America as opposed to the software industry. I decided that I wanted to be a CIO and so I spent the better part of three years in Best Buy stores in a corporate environment. What I discovered was because I wasn't working in HR technology at all, I walked away from an industry and area of domain expertise that I spent nearly 20 years building and it's hard to become that much of an expert in something. While I love the retail industry and I was learning a ton I was never going to have the level of expertise as a technologist in retail that I was going to have in HR. When the opportunity to come back to Lawson presented itself at a time when Lawson wanted to rev up it's commitment to HCM products, it was a good combination for me to answer the question what was I passionate about and then how can I best leverage that.

The advice to other people is don’t abandon those areas where you're an expert if they're still of some interest to you. Especially In this economy, you really have to leverage your expertise because that's what's going to differentiate you.

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