Discussion About NAVIGATING THE MAZE: The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR.
The goal of this post is to introduce you to the new HRExaminer report and provide a nexus for reviews, commentaries, and debates about our findings.
The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR is a guide for buyers of intelligent tools in HR Technology. It is the second annual HRExaminer report on the state of ‘AI’ in HR Technology. It builds on the work and definitions in the initial study.
‘AI’ is in quotes because, in spite of the hype, there is no ‘AI’ to be found anywhere in the industry. Still. There are tons of really interesting new intelligent tools that feature massive information processing, machine learning (ML), data models, natural language processing (NLP), algorithms, decision trees, and regression analyses. They do amazing things that were not possible even five years ago.
There is also a lot of progress to report. The number of companies producing intelligent tools exploded. There are 700% more companies building products and shipping marketing emails than there were when reported a year ago.
Something really important is happening. It just isn’t AI. It’s a sea change in what our digital tools do. Instead of old-fashioned software which gave you reformatted data from inputs, the machines are beginning to collect data unattended and return opinions.
We are used to machines that deliver facts. This mindset is behind the idea that decision making should be data driven. When we see computer generated output, we are likely to assume that it is a fact or a set of facts.
Instead, our machines now have opinions. That’s what a data model is. That’s what language processing produces. That’s what predictive analytics are. That’s what regression analysis means.
While machines get better at forming and delivering opinions, humans need to get better at understanding their limits and using them effectively. The transition will be erratic for a variety of reasons. The technology is primitive and we users are inexperienced. What’s clear is that we will get better at training, managing, and disagreeing with our increasingly intelligent machines.
Currently, we are starting to use complicated tools to try to manage complex systems. Complex systems, like weather, economies, politics, and our organizations, operate with different rules under different conditions. Complicated tools piece together a model of a static condition. Although we are getting pretty good at building models to predict last year’s results, we have a lot to learn about predicting the future.
This report is the result of six months of interviews, product demos, on-site investigations, and conversations with the people creating the tools. Almost all of the vendors are honest people working to solve difficult research problems. From time to time, the research felt like a set of field trips to small technical research laboratories.
The hype surrounding AI poses a tricky problem for companies that wish to make sales in the current market. It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There is a working consensus among most vendors that the emerging intelligent tools aren’t really AI. But, the market is clamoring for AI and the competitors say they are selling AI. It’s bad business to spend lots of time arguing about what you call something.
And so, the hype is self-perpetuating. As it was last year, the most common offerings are in Recruiting. 80% of the AI point solutions are focused on addressing some aspect of the Recruiting problem set. There is also significant growth in data governance, analytics, engagement, and learning products.
What became clear over the course of the research is just how early it is. None of the vendors we interviewed gave any thought to a future when HR Departments are saturated with multiple algorithms and data models for each employee, department, project, and division. It’s also likely that each model will present a different opinion than the others.
The report opens with a deep survey of the landscape in the Situation Report. Then we cover the important ethical and practical considerations for buying and using intelligent tools in the Ethics and Implementation sections.
Finally, we profile companies that are doing particularly interesting work in the HRExaminer Watchlist. Each company was chosen because it represents a noteworthy application of intelligence in HRTech.
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