Why it's time for the CIO to take on HR

Interview: HR need to step up or watch the IT department eat their lunch, says MIT business guru...

data centre

It could soon be time for the CIO to step out of the server room and get more involved in running HR, according to MIT business expert Jeanne RossPhoto: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

On the face of it, the HR and IT departments couldn't be more different - one looks after people, the other machines.

But as technology becomes ever more integral to running an effective workforce, the time is ripe for parts of the IT and HR departments to merge, according to Jeanne Ross, director and principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Information Systems Research.

"Technology and human capability are so closely tied together that you don't want them very far apart in your organisational chart. One possibility is that HR and IT are going to merge - those are two units that should seriously consider being linked," Ross told silicon.com.

IT has the potential to allow companies to better measure and improve staff effectiveness, Ross said, with software providing tools for compensation management, performance management, recruiting, retention, settling in new employees, talent analysis and training.

Yet many organisations are making limited use of technologies aimed at employee development, leaving the door open for the IT department to take charge of their implementation.

"If HR doesn't step up [to this challenge], we will find that the great IT leaders are going to say, 'Man, we've got to do more around the effective use of technology and staff development'," she said.

"The great leader will emerge as someone who understands this very tight relationship between using technology and information well, and making people more effective."

The possibility of the IT department stepping into HR's shoes is also born out of what Ross sees as the failure of HR staff to move beyond hiring, firing and staff promotion, and deliver on their brief of improving staff performance.

"It's not so much what HR is currently doing for firms, it's what HR ought to do but isn't doing," she said.

"Responsibility for making people effective in a lot of companies has been...