Meet Jennifer Trzepacz, the new face of IT. She's never coded anything. She wouldn't even say she's tech savvy. As professional experience goes, she may be as far as you can get from corporate information systems and the data center, because it's her job to deal with the flesh-and-blood of business.
She's the VP of human resources at LivingSocial, a daily deals service that, along with Groupon, is reshaping local commerce. Thanks to a more than $575 million cash infusion from the likes of Amazon and others in 2011 alone, it's also a company growing at warp speeds, which is real reason to take note of Jennifer Trzepacz.
After arriving at LivingSocial in May, 2011, she was handed her marching orders--to fuel a rapid national and international expansion, she had to on board what turned out to be 4,100 new employees. All by year's end. And she had to do it with a starter HR staff of three, no CIO, no corporate IT to speak of, and no HR systems to speak of--not unless you want to count the 15-page Word document that sufficed as an annual review process for the 600 employees that preceded her there.
She conquered that hiring binge--with impressive results. And in so doing, she stands as yet another harbinger of a major new dynamic in IT: the ever-increasing group of line-of-business managers willing to take on key corporate technology initiatives themselves, and doing so well enough to embolden their bosses to let others do the same. "Having tech resources involved wasn't that necessary," she told me as we discussed her "technical" role at LivingSocial. "Tech has evolved so much that it's possible for non-hardcore tech people to deploy something effectively, especially with things in the cloud."
IT leaders, are you saying, "Oh-oh" to yourself yet? And gulping over the enormous challenge of losing control at the same time you're commanded by fiduciary responsibility to sustain it? I'm not a CIO, nor a minion of the data center, and even I get queasy contemplating your dilemma. To be fair, the forty-something Trzepacz isn't exactly a Luddite. Before LivingSocial she worked in HR at Salesforce.com, Electronic Arts, Yahoo, and CNET Networks. (Full disclosure: I was her colleague at Yahoo and CNET.) Each of those stints brought her shoulder-to-shoulder with engineering and product development talent that bestowed her with an uncommon comfort-level when it comes to all things tech.
Even as LivingSocial was hiring as many as 250 people a month, Trzepacz and team took it upon themselves to optimize her recruiting system (JobVite), install a new payroll services provider (ADP), and launch a new HR information system--all cloud-based.
Along with all that, she evaluated, selected, and implemented--in six weeks--an employee performance management system, Rypple, now Saleforce.com's Work.com. More than any other HR system, this had to serve her company's young employee base consisting primarily of a generation right out of a scene from Aaron Sorkin's "The Social Network."
Because a performance system goes to the heart of the company's compensation scheme--and thus to the soul of its employees--it also has to reflect core company values and the most aspirational tenets of its corporate culture. For Trzepacz, that meant enabling her "LivingSocialites," as they call themselves, to collaborate in setting and measuring goals. That also meant supplying conversational props through a no-manual-needed, Facebook-like interface that reflected the "whimsical" nature of the company's approach to consumers and everything else.
Not only did she get it all done, but she also delivered some extraordinary results as she tells it.
Get this: Some 93% of LivingSocial's employees completed self-reviews. Even more--98%--received peer reviews. About 1,600 contributed "upward" feedback to their own bosses and others above them. Those are not hallmarks of a system employees love to hate, and I know because I loved to hate many of them myself.
The system also included what's become 83 "attaboy" badges, some associated with financial incentives. And if you think badges are silly, don’t. They work. In the case of one inside sales team, the badges-for-bucks increased revenue-generating call volume by 82%.
If the program expands with similar results, it could result in a material and direct contribution to LivingSocial's bottom line. I won't go so far as to say that would make Trzepacz's HR department a profit center. But there's an ROI case to be made, for sure.
And perhaps that's the biggest reason Jennifer Trzepacz and others like her--managers who know their disciplines more intimately IT could--are destined to command ever bigger shares of enterprise technology budgets.
They who command the budget are they who wield ultimate decision-making power, making for a new and far different kind of IT.