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Jul 24, 2008


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How can we support and advocate for the effective business line managers who are becoming smarter and smarter "people managers; retaining and nurturing their talent which adds dollar-value to the enterprise"?

Well, first let's not reinvent the wheel. Believe it or not, tremendous value can reside in the siloed, even tactical practices of our HR and marketing functions. So, how might we go about excavating the pertinent information? How might we garner this information from our “partners” within HR and other functions? Are there ways for us to come together and speak the same language?

I’m beginning there might be some hope. Quite by accident, I used the term “Talent Portfolio” while trying to convey some ideas to a few of my IAOP colleagues and the resulting discussions and responses have been a lot of fun.

In fact, it was one of those incredibly “effective business line managers” who proceeded to call me in the two weeks following our first “Talent Portfolio” discussion to share that he had never thought of his team or talent management responsibilities in the same way. Viewing his team as his “talent portfolio” resonated with him as he intuitively began applying all of the “financial portfolio” considerations to his role in “talent” planning, acquisition, development, retention, performance analysis and management, etc.

I am not professing that the term, “Talent Portfolio” or the management practice of “Talent Portfolio Management” (analogous to HR, Human Capital or Talent Management) is a silver bullet to the profound challenge originally sited in this post. However, I do think that communication gaps such as the long-term one that has existed between HR and business as well as the more recent occurrences between US, Indian and Nicaraguan teams have and will continue to create and recreate silos.

I do think it is therefore imperative that we communicate conscientiously and adapt solutions from wherever they may currently exist to help each individual who is willing to make the individual investment needed to improve “people-management, marketing, and financial planning across the product and service lines globally and set performance metrics that us directly accountable to aligned corporate performance.”

“If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less. General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, US Army.

Traditional business support functions will lose their relevance if they don’t evolve and change along with the companies they support. C-suite tenure change is just part of that evolution in terms of bringing in fresh ideas. But each functional department must move from striving for “continuous improvement”, to “continuous innovation” to achieve and maintain relevance.

Further, it takes bold ideas and strategies to stay relevant in today’s business climate. Better yet, it takes clear strategy and bold leaders to drive innovation, thus relevance, throughout each functional component of the company. Business process outsourcing, offshoring is one option but so is, silo busting - full integration of functions, enhanced technology/automation and/or web-based support.

Truthfully I think it is critical to drive an internal innovative culture, to stay relevant not only in functional departments, but as a company, in today’s business competitive climate.

1. Deliver. The best way to keep your job is be worth it
2. Manage expectations. You will be expected to deliver the impossible. Get reasonable expectations set and then beat them. You are only valued when people are positively surprised by your performance.
3. Repeat if necessary.


From my perspective, staying relevant requires an inner desire to take the time to constantly scour the horizon for the latest information in your respective field and then apply it to your current situation.

Have a vision for where you want to take your organization. In today's busy work place, this is often a huge challenge as it is too easy to work only on the here and now as opposed to thinking about "how will I make this a better place in the future."

Kind regards,
Ken Thomas

This is an excellent and bold article. You have nailed on the head the real issues of business support functions being increasingly alienated from the rest of the business. Today's companies are clearly challenged to re-structure their HR, marketing etc to get these functions closer to the core business - or outsource them.

Robert Andrews

A few thoughts:

Commoditization of administrative functions makes the make vs. buy decision easier. Maturity of vendors enhances the opportunity.

Leadership in administrative functions is focused on costs, not value, because the value is difficult to calculate. The result is administrative functions become less relevant. This is the fall out of the "if it moves, measure it" theology that administrative and operations teams have adopted - and what has stifled innovation.

Marketplace dynamics is putting the focus on product innovation. Administrative functions cannot flex fast enough to support the innovation.

The role of the business is much more diverse. They source their own vendors, develop their own products, develop marketing strategies, and provider their own support services. Why? Because the centralized functions are simply too inflexible to react to the top line pressures.

I met one CHRO who wanted to outsource for only one reason: to create a contract that would limit the budget reductions the CFO asked him to make every year. I suppose many CIOs have done the same. Cost focused deals have exploded when supplier profitability failed to meet market expectations.

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