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Businesses need to simplify HR and compliance processes to save time and reduce risk. Talx, which helps employers address concerns in hiring, pay and compliance, has now assumed the name of its parent company and become Equifax Workforce Solutions [PDF]. HR and finance professionals should recognize the parent company’s brand from its work in the consumer credit industry. The company hopes these professionals will see that Equifax Workforce Solutions offers a better approach to governance, risk and compliance. According to our research, 79 percent of organizations want a better method to identify and manage risks faster.

In the area of hiring services, Equifax has made the process of compliance for new hires simple with its I-9 management service to ensure compliance through its E-Verify integration, and through its streamlined electronic service to remove physical paper in federal, state and local forms. Providing for digital signatures and documents is one way it saves time; our research finds almost a quarter of organizations still use paper and require handwritten signatures, and more (29%) have electronic documents but still require a handwritten signature. Also, as governments provide new tax credits and incentives, Equifax can immediately assess any savings opportunities with an existing workforce and new hires, keeping on top of potential opportunities to contribute to organizations’ profitability. For example, after disasters like Sandy and Katrina, governments may provide incentives and opportunities for employers, as is now happening with the Department of Labor in New York State. In the area of pay reporting, Equifax provides a digital and physical service to manage paperless pay and the process of creating and distributing W-2s that makes things simpler for employers and provides direct access for employees. This can replace the paper and manual efforts that exist in most organizations and improve employee satisfaction and confidence.

Equifax also provides a suite of compliance services and online services to help with employment verification, unemployment cost management and employment tax management, and with supporting action on data breaches. Though our research finds that only 11 percent of organizations have experienced a significant data privacy or information breach, it is essential for companies to have policies and processes in place so they can act quickly to address such data breaches. Simplifying the methods to comply with legal and regulatory requirements is still difficult for over half of organizations (56%), though most just take on a higher cost of employee labor to ensure deadlines are not missed. Many organizations do not take risk and compliance methods as seriously as they should. Our research finds more than half of organizations (57%) use spreadsheets in these processes. Organizations need to assess controls and compliance steps to better automate the processes and eliminate labor-intensive and error-prone manual tracking.

Equifax Workforce Solutions provides workforce analytics in a product called vr_nextgenworkforce_planning_to_improve_workforce_analyticsEquifax Workforce Analytics that it gained with the acquisition of analytics technology provider eThority, which I assessed earlier this year. This offering provides not just efficient methods for interacting and discovering places for improvement, but also prebuilt content in the form of analytics and metrics that can be populated with an organization’s data. The use of spreadsheets has made it difficult to manage workforces in 42 percent of organizations according to our next-generation workforce management benchmark research. By adopting a dedicated approach to critical workforce analytics across HR processes, organizations can make more accurate and effective decisions.

Parent company Equifax will need to better promote the newly named Workforce Solutions unit, since it is still not linked from its website. Equifax Workforce Solutions provides many benefits in benchmarking workforce and compensation issues that could be an opportunity to provide relief to those under the most duress; it can even determine the load of student loans costs on a workforce. It can do these things by comparing a workforce to its overall Equifax database and reviewing its database of more than 210 million payroll records. These kinds of services can help employers improve methods to hire, engage and retain their workforce.

Organizations should consider Equifax Workforce Solutions as part of their overall human capital management strategy, and part of any specific talent management and workforce management efficiency efforts. With its abilities to save time and mitigate risk, Equifax Workforce Solutions has a place in every organization.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

IBM Watson blends existing and innovative technology into a new approach called cognitive computing. At the simplest operational level it is technology for asking natural language-based questions, getting answers and support appropriate action to be taken or provide information to make more informed decisions. The VR_TechAward_Winner_Logotechnology relies on massive processing power to yield probabilistic responses to user questions using sophisticated analytical algorithms. A cognitive system like Watson accesses structured and unstructured information within an associated knowledge base to return responses that are not simply data but contextualized information that can inform users’ actions and guide their decisions. This is a gigantic leap beyond human decision-making using experience based on random sources from the industry and internal sets of reports and data.

This innovative new approach to computing is designed to aid humans by working with natural language – English in the case of today’s Watson. This approach earned Watson the 2012 Technology Innovation Award in the category of Overall Operational Innovation.

For those of you who are not used to the word cognitive, the foundation of cognition is the sum of all the thinking processes that contrib­ute to gaining knowledge for problem-solving. In computational systems these process­es are modeled using hardware and software; machine-based cognition thus is a step toward imbuing an arti­fi­cial system with attributes we typically consider human: the abilities to think and learn. Watson builds on a foundation of evidence from preexisting decisions and knowledge sources that it can load for reference in future inquiries. The evidence-based reasoning that Watson employs to answer question is part of the big deal in its approach.

Watson supports three types of engagement – ask, discover and decide – that take natural language questions, find facts to support a decision process, then gets probabilistic guidance on decisions. This goes beyond search and retrieval technology; machine learning and processing of questions using very large volumes of data, commonly referred to as big data, is the foundation on which Watson as a cognitive system operates. Most important is the continuous learning method and what I would call adaptive intelligence. While machine learning and pattern-based analytics are part of the cognitive system, the ability to process big data efficiently to provide a probabilistic set of recommendations is just the kind of innovation many industries need.

IBM has focused much of its work on Watson on healthcare, with potential life-saving implications in an environment where doctors must make crucial decisions in the midst of pressure from the complexity, costs, overload of information and policies. Watson can ingest large volumes of information from reports and documents that can accelerate its learning processes to support a range of healthcare needs. Watson can be used in three areas in healthcare: teaching, practice and payment. IBM works with Wellpoint to support doctors in making decisions, and also eliminating waste or misapplied treatments that insurance providers have to cover. Watson is being used today to determine where improvements can be made in cancer treatment. IBM has targeted specific Watson solutions to help in the research, diagnosis and treatment, care and utilization aspects of battling cancer.

IBM has a huge opportunity to bring innovation to business vr_bti_br_whats_driving_change_to_technology_selectionthrough the use of Watson, and has been experimenting with a number of deployments to test its potential. Innovative technology is a priority today for business improvement initiatives (60%) and to improve the quality of business processes (57%) – the top two factors driving technology selection according to our business technology innovation benchmark research. IBM has been working with organizations in healthcare and financial services, but believes Watson could be useful in just about every industry that must have what I call better situation intelligence that must accommodate current conditions and preexisting information to determine the best answer. While IBM will not be the only supplier of cognitive systems, it is pretty much the sole supplier of one that can be purchased and adapted to a business today. IBM is still working to improve the methods by which its cognitive system operates, as well as the interface with which it delivers answers. As IBM moves forward, it will be challenged to create attractive packages and prices for Watson and its computing technology (i.e. hardware, memory, storage and processing potential), as this new approach is not something that organizations have experienced before. Despite this challenge, IBM Watson represents a step forward that the IT and technology industry does not see very often. After my assessment of IBM Watson at the IBM Analyst Insights (Twitter: @AnalystInsights) where I got to have an in depth discussion with the leaders of IBM Watson provided more insight to what is possible with the technology and path for its investments into its cognitive system. I would recommend that organizations take a look at the future of business technology computing that will be able to make a significant impact on the operations of any organization.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

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