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2017 in retrospect: The Nordic HR tech year summed up


I don’t know if it’s me or the industry in general, but every year seems to go by quicker than the last one – and 2017 was no exception. Let’s take a moment to catch our breaths and reflect on what we have experienced and what developments we have seen in the HR industry throughout 2017.

Having worked with HR tech for more than 15 years, I always find it interesting to read the predictions at the beginning of the year and compare notes towards the end. My experience is that most of the predictions usually come true, but very often it takes much longer to reach mainstream than market analysts initially envision.

The robots are coming

At the start of the year we heard a lot about AI (artificial intelligence), chatbots, prescriptive analytics, engagement apps, etc. All very exciting, and I am positive that we will see amazing ways of bringing new technology into HR tech. But did all this take off in the HR domain in 2017? Well, some of it happened, but there are more pre-dominant HR tech initiatives than AI that have kept HR executives busy this year, and will most probably be keeping them busy for years to come.

Cloud has (finally!) become the standard

None of the above mentioned futuristic tech trends has kept HR professionals in the Nordics as busy as some fundamental issues that have been around for years. We have definitely seen it coming, but in 2017 the HR tech market took a dramatic turn from earlier fragmented buying patterns with a mix of on-premise and cloud, to a solid upswing for cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) suites. Almost no one bought on-premise HCM suites in 2017. Almost no one bought HCM suites combined with payroll. The market seems to have unanimously decided that HR tech is best when it is cloud-based and HCM software and payroll are two separate systems. Global analysts have been predicting this for years, and now it has finally happened in 2017.

Thank you, Brussels!

The most important driver for HR tech these days comes from Brussels. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has definitely pushed investments in HR tech higher on the priority list for many companies. Executive teams and boards of most companies have understood the severe consequences of non-compliance, and have asked HR and IT to prioritise technology investment for handling employee data in a more secure manner. GDPR has given HR executives an important leg up to get approval for a business case for investing in HR tech. I would almost go as far as to say that the GDPR has made investment approval a piece of cake.

With the GDPR, incentives for becoming compliant have perhaps been more in the form of a whip than a carrot, but we mustn’t forget that there are other major upsides to compliancy other than avoiding the fines. Companies should embrace this process and value the opportunity to really clean out their closet. Goodbye to inefficient processes, old data, and risky document handling and hello to valuable HR analytics, data security and a more strategic HR function – all of which creates an attractive and modern employer for future employees.


HR including secure and efficient handling of master data, process support for onboarding/offboarding, and well-functioning integrations with other IT systems has been the most desired piece of technology by modern, Nordic HR executives in 2017. And HR’s biggest supporter in this wish has been the CIO. IT is dependent on up-to-date HR data for identity management related to the whole IT infrastructure. Due to ever increasing data security threats, identity management is at the top of CIOs’ list and they rely fully on HR to get this done.

Were the analyst predictions for 2017 wrong? Well, it depends on the perspective you have. If you look at what most HR executives actually spent time on, the analysts were certainly wrong. However, the analysts were probably right if you look at the trends that started in 2017 and will gain velocity in the coming years.

What can we expect from 2018? (Hint: The robots are coming…) Well, that is a topic for another blog.

Happy New Year!

Avtar S. Jasser

Avtar S. Jasser, 28 December 2017

Avtar er administrerende direktør i CatalystOne og har jobbet med HR- og ledelsesprosesser i over 25 år. Han er en av Nordens nestorer innenfor Performance Management og deler generøst av sin kunnskap til både ansatte og kunder. Avtars ledelsesfilosofi er "Leading with a warm heart, a cool mind, and a desire to make a difference for colleagues & customers."

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