As we launch the 17th annual CedarCrestone 2014–2015 HR Systems Survey, it’s appropriate to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. I’m often asked what brought me to the field of HR and Talent research—it’s not the easiest job to explain, which I found out the hard way trying to explain my career choices to a group of elementary students (the ice cream truck driver beat me hands down for favorite presentation and career choice that day). For some, research isn’t what excites them every day; but for me, good research is the one job that has the ability to change how we view our world. Great research brings together our past, present, and future to a single point in time and plays a fundamental role in helping us shape the best future possible by allowing us to make decisions based on facts rather than conjecture. 
When Lexy Martin asked me if I’d be willing to take on the continuation of the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey after 16 years, I was truly honored and thrilled by the opportunity. The ability to partner this year with Lexy, a true pioneer in the HR research field, in conjunction with access to a large and established research community, over 1,200 annual respondents, and a historical set of data going back over a decade had my inner data geek jumping for joy. I couldn’t wait to get started! Like many in the research community, I was familiar with this research, and I thought I understood what it meant to take over this research effort. I thought I knew what I was in for when I stepped into the new role. Now, six months into my collaboration with Lexy, I have a much deeper understanding of the effort that this Survey requires and an even greater appreciation for Lexy’s immense contribution to the HR and Talent research community.
Over the past 16 years, Lexy has guided the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey with great care from the single topic of HR Self Service to covering over 30 HR applications and more HR system vendors than any other single research effort. In addition to expanding the Survey topics, Lexy spent a great deal of time thinking about ways to prove the value proposition of various HR systems and practices. This search for viable value propositions required greater levels of analysis and data cleansing each year and led to one of the most robust and highly respected surveys in the industry.
Needless to say, I have great shoes to fill, but thankfully I wasn’t alone in this year’s research efforts: Lexy and I have partnered for the Survey for her last year, and this partnership has given us the opportunity to create something very unique. I’ve come to truly appreciate the team of people it takes to bring this research to life each year, both inside CedarCrestone (now Sierra-Cedar) as well as outside of the organization. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time this year to help me learn about the Survey and its data, share their thoughts and insights, and support both Lexy and myself during the last six months and through the Survey launch. This research is truly a community effort.
As Lexy has mentioned, we’ve made some updates to the Survey this year, many due to feedback and recommendations from our research community. Other changes were based on many of the thought-provoking conversations Lexy and I have been engaged in over the past several months.
HR Self-Service Employee Experience Feedback 
One of the first conversations that Lexy and I had about the Survey was around an idea regarding user experiences. In addition to hearing from the administrators of HR systems, we wanted to get data from the source—the actual end-users of HR systems. As an added benefit, we wondered if we could provide feedback for each organization regarding their end-users’ experience. Consequently, we decided to add a secondary research effort and are launching an optional CedarCrestone HR Self-Service Employee Experience Survey to gather data directly from end-users. This short survey provides a tool for gathering anonymous user experience feedback from an organization’s employees. For organizations that are able to obtain sufficient employee responses for aggregate analysis, we will provide a quantitative view of their organization, a tool that can help set priorities, develop roadmaps, and build strategies based on end-user feedback. This survey report will also leverage the aggregate employee responses to provide an industry-wide perspective on end-user experiences with HR systems.
We’ve already seen a great deal of excitement over this new survey element from both large and small organizations and have high hopes that the CedarCrestone HR Self-Service Employee Experience Survey will be an added benefit for all Annual Survey participants. If you have any questions or would like to participate, please contact 
Talent Management Applications
The Survey has tracked the growing talent management application industry since 1999 (although then called strategic applications), with over 93% of Survey respondents reporting at least one talent management application in use today. Lexy and I have had some really interesting conversations about the application adoption path that organizations generally take—usually starting with payroll and core HRMS applications, and then moving into service delivery applications, followed by either workforce management or talent management applications.
My personal experience and previous research has shown that those organizations with complex learning and talent needs may often take a different path to HR system maturity for talent management purposes, one that is driven less by the needs for standardization and increased efficiency, and more by disruptive or operational requirements. Additional questions in several areas of the Survey will help us begin to chart the additional roadmaps that organizations are taking to reach their overall HR and talent management solution goals.  
Workforce Management
In her blog, Lexy has also mentioneded some new questions dealing with Workforce Management applications for this year. Over 78% of organizations have said that they were using at least one Workforce Management application: most of those report using Time and Attendance; only 20% of all Survey respondents were using labor scheduling and budgeting.
The need for organizations to have a clear picture of their employees, candidates, and contingent workers will only expand. The need to understand where and how the work is accomplished, and who is involved in the process, will also be important. We see a growing connection between the data gathered and technology required for an organization’s talent management and workforce management needs. It’s an area we’ll be exploring further in this year’s research. 
Expanded Topics
In this latest edition of the Survey, we’ve also enhanced questions in the business intelligence and analytics area, digging deeper into how organizations are leveraging these tools and what benefits they are seeing from their efforts. Additionally, we’ve expanded our Emerging Technology and Innovations questions to cover the topics of wearable technology, social aggregation, and even artificial intelligence and robotics this year. We realize that some of these areas may seem like science fiction today, but who would have guessed just 17 years ago at the current advances in mobile and cloud technologies. 
Wrapping Up
In conclusion, although the Survey has been expanded this year, we’ve also included extensive logic to reduce survey fatigue where possible. Every research effort faces the struggle of balancing a survey’s quality and its length. If you ask too many questions, you lose your audience; if you don’t ask enough, you may not be able to provide usable insights. Our job is to ensure that Survey participants find continuous value in the time they’ve invested in our research. Our goal is to continue the legacy of the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey, making the research available to those who are developing their HR systems strategy, devising a plan, justifying investments, and ultimately executing on their HR technology vision. We welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the CedarCrestone 2014–2015 HR Systems Survey: HR Technologies, Deployment Approaches, Integration, Analytics, and Value, 17th Annual Edition.