Posted by: Ron Hanscome | September 28, 2009

10 Years After – A look back at Fall 1999

As we all prepare for the HR Technology Conference & Exposition later this week ( if you still need to sign up), I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look back at the end of the last century. 10 years ago we were all in the midst of the final throes of the run up to Y2k, and whoever hadn’t completed their system changes and multiple rounds of testing was really under the gun. Remember the dire predictions of system collapse, the recommendations to order food, water and ammo? Talk about a big fizzle…although one might well argue that the drastic calls to action in the mid-1990s had the desired result of stimulating action. Thankfully, we aren’t facing an HR technology issue of the magnitude of Y2k as we contemplate the advent of the year 2010…although some may claim that SaaS/Cloud versus on-premise, arguments over the definition of talent management, or the impact of social software on the HR function are topics that may ultimately have more impact on the HCM landscape. Only time will tell…

Since HR Tech is always ‘old home week’ for the small world that is HCM technology, I thought I’d stimulate some memories by looking at the October/November 1999 issue of the IHRIM.Link magazine. The focus of the issue was knowledge management, and Guest Editor Michael Theimer (then a consultant at Towers Perrin) asked, “Is KM just another fad, or will it be like the Internet and bring profound change to the marketplace?” Major articles included:

  • Knowledgebases in HR Customer Service – multiple examples (CIGNA, Nortel) of how KM positively impacted HR customer service
  • Knowledge Management in a Virtual World – case study of implementing KM for Crestone International
  • Using KM to Improve Employee Retention and Customer Loyalty – case study of Sears Roebuck and Co.
  • Maintaining HR Intranets and Knowledgebases using Collaborative Web Technology
  • Teleworking in Europe: A Win-Win for Employees and Employers
  • Function Focus: Compensation — Market Pricing and the HRIS Professional
  • Country Focus: Spain
  • Point/Counterpoint: Middle Market Vendors versus Large Vendors
  • Y2K Countdown: Liability and HR Responsibility
  • Private Eye: An HR Information Code of Practice
  • In My Opinion: Portals – Another New Word in Systems-Land

So, whatever happended to knowledge management? In my view, KM is alive and well in the business world, albeit in a form unforeseen by the writers of 10 years ago. The rise of collaborative technologies (e.g., wikis, social networks) has resulted in KM being accomplished in a much more unstructured, organic way. As for teleworking, much progress has been made in this becoming mainstream – note that I have worked in a series of roles from a home office since 2000, and recently telework has gotten even more support from proponents of the ‘green’ movement and corporate social responsibility. Delivery of HR processes via a portal to multiple roles is a mainstream required capability. We still experience the divide between large and mid-market systems, although a number of the main players in 1999 no longer exist due to merger, acquisition or bankruptcy. Compliance and data privacy remain the foundation of competent HCM Technology execution.

So, our mutual look back reveals a mixed bag of issues — some have survived and evolved to stay in the forefront, others have moved to the mainstream, still others have faded into the background of the expected. What “hot topics” of today will still be meaningful in Fall 2019?



  1. Thanks for the memories, Ron. I believe HR Technology was 10 years ago on the same bandwagon and featured Leif Edvisson as a closing keynoter, considered by many to be the father of Knowledge Management. Look forward to seeing you in Chicago on Wednesday for “old home week.”

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