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Customers, customers, customers, customers, employees.

When you look at the spending on business technologies, that's roughly the emphasis that companies place on one side of the sales wall versus the other.

On one level, it makes sense. Customers spend the money and, as we've all heard, they're always right. Then again, there's nothing that can improve the customer experience more than employees who serve customers face-to-face, in customer service centers, or even behind the scenes in technical or management roles.

Remember that flight attendant who watched your screaming kid while you took a sanity break? How about that waiter who served a joke that lightened a miserable  day? Or the bus driver who stopped where she wasn't supposed to because it was raining? Do we have the technological cart before the proverbial horse? Gartner Research Director Yvette Cameron thinks so. 

How to Get Work Done

CMSWire sat down with the 27-year IT veteran at yesterday's Achievers Aspire Executive Summit in San Francisco, where the shifting technologies for employee recruitment, engagement, collaboration and success sparked thoughtful conversation.

Cameron, who holds a degree in math and statistics, has an evangelical focus on enterprise human capital management (HCM) processes and technologies. Before her work with Gartner, she spent 14 years leading HCM product strategy and marketing at SAP, Oracle, Saba, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards.

Murphy: There are a lot of new enterprise technologies for employee engagement, employee success, customer expectation, customer success and more. Where should a company with a limited IT budget begin?

Cameron: It's a good question. With any strategy, I think the answer is to start small -- pilot programs, small programs to test success -- so you can evaluate the results and start again. This idea of failing fast and learning is really the hallmark of how we're going to achieve technology success in our organizations.

I would say, first and foremost, you want to have tools to help employees get work done. Those tools are no longer the HR systems of performance management and compensation -- those don't help to get your work done. What we're seeing is heavy adoption of work management tools, task management, collaboration, file-sharing and so forth. People need tools to connect, to share knowledge, to build community and culture and, ultimately, to get their work done, which is about serving customers.

Murphy: That whole chain of systems I mentioned before aren't interconnected at this point. Should they be? And, if so, when will they be?

Cameron: There is a tremendous amount of spin on the consumer side. Spending on customer relationship management (CRM) enterprise software is almost four times the spending on HCM software. With the workforce costing about 70 percent of what a company spends, that seems lopsided. The point is that organizations are spending a tremendous amount of money to understand their customers and to engage them. We need to do the same thing on the employee side, starting small as I said earlier.

I don't think those two types of systems -- CRM and HCM -- and the components within them are going to become one solid system. They will be discrete systems. I think the long-term answer would be, yes, it would be great if they were [a single system]. But the reality is that we're probably going to have a series of well-designed, purpose-built tools for customers, for employees, for aspects of the customer-employee relationship that eventually do need to plug in and connect. But it's going to be about integration. And the integration point -- data, process flows, etc. -- the most critical point is going to be understanding the profile of the individual. So, if the question is will they be connected, yes. They won't necessarily be on the same system, but they will be connected on the single most important point, the data, the attributes of the individual.