Dynamics 365 HR • Microsoft

HR Vision Podcast #13 – Empowering the Modern Workforce ft. Katarina Arbanas

By FourVision
Sep 8 • 1 min read
HR Vision Podcast Episode 13 ft. Katarina Arbanas - Microsoft

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HR is being asked to be a strategic partner within organizations. A welcoming shift that Microsoft is supporting heavily with their technology.

With Microsoft for almost 17 years, Katarina Arbanas spent the last 4 years as Business Applications Global Black Belt in the EMEA region for People Operations. She’s Human Capital Management Certified and a Mixed Reality Champion.

We had a chat with Katarina during her transition time to another role in Microsoft and, on this episode, she shared her personal views about the evolution of HR Tech systems, their importance and how Microsoft is empowering the modern workforce today with their partner community. A must-listen!”

Ivo:
Hey everyone, and welcome to the HR Vision podcast. I'm your host Ivo. And every week I'm going to have a conversation that matters about HR. This week I have with me: Katarina Arbanas.

Welcome Katarina! How are you?

Katarina:
Thank you Ivo. Great to have you here today. I'm feeling great. It's a sunny day here in Croatia and I'm really excited to chat with you about HR today.

Ivo:
Awesome, amazing. I'm very excited about having Katarina in the in the podcast and I'm just going to tell you why. Katarina is with Microsoft for almost 17 years, she's a global Black Belt for business applications in the EMEA region. She's Human Capital Management certified and a mixed reality champion, but more on these later, we're going to talk about it certainly. She was kind enough to take some time off her schedule to come and show to talk about the world of Dynamics 365 and how it helps empower the modern workforce. So that's the general topic for for today. So let's get to it Katarina. Are you ready?

Katarina:
Yes, all ready when you are.

Ivo:
Alright, good. So let's start with the basics. Let's start with you. Just tell us a bit about you, your experience, your background.

Katarina:
OK, cool. So I've been almost 20 years now in the workforce. I started as operations specialist in one of the regional insurance group here in Croatia and then I've joined Microsoft as Operations and Sales Excellence Specialist, in Microsoft Consulting Services Division. From there I progressed throughout my career to become a resource management as well as consulting practice leader for the region. Having both consulting and support teams in many of the countries now here in the CEE multi country area. And from there I've took over a couple of sales and business development roles, working primarily with our partners in capacity of ISV, co-sell lead, as well as the GSI support lead I was involved when back when we were launching our cloud platform services: Azure; as Partner Development Lead for Central and Eastern Europe, and for the past six years or so I am in the business applications group as a global black belt. So that's really a fancy name for someone who is specialized in a certain domain. For myself, that means people operations and human resources as well as the complementary technologies that really complete our mission here to support HR throughout a variety of their functions and needs when it comes to empowering workforce, changing culture, driving visibility in terms of their employee data, and so forth. So we're going to chat a little bit more. I think about this today.

Ivo:
For sure. A lot of information right there. So going back a bit, how did you land in HR? It was always like an interest of yours, or I believe you started with technology, more data science. Something around those lines. So how did you land there, was always an interest?

Katarina:
Yeah I started this as operations. And it always kind of like had the team of resource management; empowerment of the employees. This was actually my first job - How to make the workforce successful when they are on projects, working stuff for us in Microsoft and just make sure that they have all the support needed to be successful at their daily jobs. My passion for topics like people, operation, employee experience, culture transformation obviously started back then already and didn't come overnight, of course.

Throughout my entire career I kept close to HR throughout all of these roles. I have been part of our of several projects as diversity and inclusion ambassador for the region. I've also supported our HR department's as a manager as well as the field employee feedback provider. Went back years now when we were launching our performance management enhancements. How we measure success of our employees in Microsoft. So I always had that close interaction with HR. So when this role came up now it's going to be in September four years already, doing the the people operations and HR. I knew immediately I needed to pursue that opportunity I was so excited about.

So we were then launching our first Microsoft HR product from the Dynamics 365 side. And I was so determined to get that role because I felt that passion around human resources, already early in my career. But it was HR plus tech. So yeah, didn't really make sense for me to go into the HR department. It was more about how can we use technology to be enabler for making HR more successful. And this is why I felt like this opportunity was a great fun for me because I could combine my passions.

I remember, back then, it was funny, but I will share with you. Once I got the role, I reach out to a global lead just to say thanks like for taking a chance with me and everything and he said something I'll never forget. I'll quote him, he said: "Well, I felt like I didn't really have choice really. It was either that or joining a witness protection program, just to get away from you, because you were so persistent to get the role.". So a good career advice for anyone watching this podcast now: fight passionately for your dreams.

Ivo:
Alright, that's a great message. OK, so you always had that passion and you just pursued it ferociously. Let's say.

Katarina:
Yeah, absolutely. And I didn't regret it. I mean, it was an amazing experience and when I look at the progress we have been making across the board in Microsoft. Also with you with partners, on building, the elements and components to complete some of the gaps we had. It was a huge, collaborative effort and such a great experience. So it's a great time to be in this space for sure.

Ivo:
Absolutely, that's a very good introduction. I think it's a great starting point for the conversation that we're having here today.

So if we're going to focus now on Dynamics 365, the whole suite, the HR environment, and this HR technology that Microsoft is coming up with, how it can help to empower the modern workforce. Let's start in the beginning or with your general thoughts about you know, what is special about this. About this this environment in Microsoft and what is the impact.

What are your general thoughts on the impact that this software, the HR technology can have on HR people?

Katarina:
Well, we all know. Every business, anything we start with it starts with people and ends with people. So think about somebody joining the company. So the journey of that individual really starts when they start the interview process. Apart from the fact that obviously hiring folks needs to figure out who is the right fit and the right final candidate, the candidate itself has to validate that job and company with their culture. And their mission and vision really aligns to their personal beliefs. All of the last service out there an underlying that the purpose is far much more important than perks paid, daily jobs, etc. So how do you do that if you don't have the right technology and tools in place, for both your hiring managers, for HR to recruit people - to onboard people?

And then, once they join, to really make sure that you are capitalizing on your investments right, to maximize their talent development. Track their success throughout the journey in the organization and at the end, all the way through up boarding and potentially separation. Once they leave your workforce. How do you make that experience smooth and seamless for them? If you don't have the right tools and technologies in place? And that's really what's so special with all of the investments we are making. Because for me it was always about the bigger investments. We are coming from Microsoft, taking the advantage of different services and different solutions we have across business applications. We have Azure, we have modern work obviously now taking a huge leap with employee experience and Viva. As the ultimate employee experience destination. And for us in Microsoft, I mean we are at, I believe in the right place at the right time to make that experience really seamless. And to create that journey for the employee joining the company smooth and easy and exciting for them. So they have the collaboration tools they need. They interact with HR like with any other employee across the company. With that experience that we are making. So it really becomes one seamless solution or let's say a set of solutions that serves on behalf of HR.

So these tools, like modern work tools, they're designed for all departments. But it's for HR to see how we can really put them to be more connected with people, specially during these times now, in the current pandemic, where people are so disconnected, let's say. And they're not coming to the office. And you need to make sure you maintain that collaboration. Check the pulse of those employees and just make sure you are there for them. You could support them as needed, so that's really where I see the biggest value that we can provide by using our technology to work on behalf of HR and on behalf of the employees as well.

Ivo:
Yeah, still on that I think. It also will help the professionals the HR profession, the IT professional be less worried about the processes and the administrative stuff that you can do and focus more on people, on taking the space, look at the data and help the business strategize around people more than doing administrative tasks. Right?

Katarina:
Yes, absolutely. I mean it really underpins that IT agility, that we need to have from the IT side so they are not being viewed as a department where you go when something is broken, but more like enabler, right and a digital hub, if you will. To support the businesses to work smoothly. And this is where we are all heading. And that line between IT, HR, Finance are kind of blurry. As we work in one unique and consolidated way these days.

Ivo:
Absolutely. There was this study that I was reading last week, or a couple weeks ago from PwC, that showed that developing people to reach their full potential improving the employee experience and workforce planning are between the top five issues driving HR technology decisions. So these are the drivers, basically.

So from your experience, dealing with this everyday working this technology. Do you agree with this and how do you think Dynamics 365 can help overcome these issues?

Katarina:
Yeah well, certainly I do agree and I think everyone in this business will agree. Yeah, in current times and challenges around us more than more than ever. So people development and workforce planning, both operational and strategic, have been a challenge for us for quite some time now. Do I have the right visibility on upcoming skills I will be needing in my company? How do I tap into my own employee base? Understanding their current skills and how they potentially could evolve and ultimately, how do I make this plan actionable to use these sites. So these challenges have been here for a while now. And companies are still, I think, trying to figure out how to maintain and be agile, as the workforce is changing. To maintain and to do this strategic and operational workforce planning properly for their own organization. On the other hand, employee experience has started to gain spotlight heavily with the current pandemic. When you think about the companies out there, they really quickly realized what enormous impact the same can have on their entire business. And when we think about Dynamics HR, the other apps from Dynamics. Like customer service, Modern work tools. Microsoft Teams. All of these can help customers overcome those issues, those challenges. So think about employee data consolidation. 'One single source of truth' as we say it, having close interactions and connections with employees using employee self service, using Power Apps, using Microsoft Teams. And then having the data insights needed for the workforce planning always accessible in real time, to make those plans for the future successful for their companies. So it's all blending together.

As we mentioned, in the introduction: Without the right tools in place, those challenges would be huge these days. I think the times are long gone. When we had couple of spreadsheets for managing employees, there is a need now for the organization to really many organizations out there to really figure out like what drives employees; how they like to work these days, do they like hybrid. Do they like more office days, or start to be more flexible in meeting their own needs as well. And this is where HR plays a critical role, and HR without the tools to support them would not be successful in this mission. So it's kind of like it all comes together at the end.

Ivo:
Yeah, it's funny you say that because that's still a big thing or a big discussion. Especially when we talk in this podcast for example, with some of our consultants, or people around the area or the field. Uhm, there's still a lot of companies using those spreadsheets. It's still a Microsoft product, let's say, but...

Katarina:
Excel is the best friend of HR. Let's face it. It always has been.

Ivo:
Yeah, still a Microsoft product, but not the best way to consolidate your data and everything regarding people, information and all and all that. But there's still a lot of a lot of companies using that, and it seems to be the biggest challenge. This seems always to be to get everybody on board, to identify that we need this, and how and how this can actually transform the way we manage people. And we get information secured, consolidated and moving forward. How would you convince someone? Thinking about these things, but they don't know to start this conversation within their company, but don't know how to start; don't know where to start. So what what would you say to someone like that, to encourage them to move towards a more seamless and integrated system for managing people.

Katarina:
Yeah, I think back in the days when life was maybe simpler than today. You could get away with files and just manage manage employee's data. Just in terms of when they join to the company, how long they are in the company and what's their first name, last name and so forth. But in today's world that's just simply not enough anymore. HR is being tasked to provide data and intelligence about the people, their journeys in the company, their performance, their skills. So who do we have now, crucial skills we need to have? How do we develop those guys to be successful five years from now. So it's starting to become from passive data to inactive data. For giving that insights around the workforce, for which a simple file or tool cannot provide anymore.

So, I think that change is driven also from HR demanding better solutions to really serve their leadership teams and their organization as a true business partner, not just someone who will provide data about you. To know how many employees we have, for example. So these days are gone and I think we don't need to convince anybody anymore about this. Because the the situation we are all in right now pushes us heavily to understand that right. And to get that insights about what the workforce consists of. What do they care about? How do we maintain them? How do we keep them in the company? What makes them happy? And for that you need to have a little bit more right. You need to provide a deeper intelligence about some of the data that lies in the HCM system. But you also need to pull some of the data outside in from your collaboration tools, to understand how do people actually collaborate these days? Want to take care about? from social aspects, for example.

Why do they think it's great for work for their organization, what do they believe. So it's coming to one bigger bigger problem that you might have on top of the Human Capital Management system. And that's why I see that shift in terms of just going for all of these answers in the HCM system. Rather than complimenting that feedback and tools you have in the HCM systems. With some other tools you might be using within the organization, to really provide that solid intelligence and to be at serve properly to your organization, and you can't do this anymore with files. So it's kind of like already there, that transformation happened. Now it's a matter of, taking this to the next level, really understanding what the future will bring with, hybrid work. How do we support our employees and what can we do from that cultural shift in a digital culture change, and what do we need to do in terms of the people investments to make that leap happen. So it's becoming a more of the question of what do we do with all these data, insights and intelligence rather than know? How do I get this state. So we kind of moved I think to a second stage now with with human resources and so many more topics around the organizational workforce to really provide those insights.

Ivo:
Very well put. Very well said, nothing to add. Here's your reason, listen to Katarina. OK, let's move a bit on. I just want to have some background. You've been at Microsoft for almost 17 years. It's been awhile, let's say. You have a great deal, especially in last six years. Like I said with with people operations. What can you say, if you can say a small thing about the evolution of Microsoft products for HCM, you know? How has it been in the last six years or something? How do you see that and how much effort is Microsoft putting in those systems?

Katarina:
Yeah, well, that's a really good question. When I look at the big picture and investments we have been making in the past years, I'm literally amazed right in the plethora of innovation and progress we've made. What's important to mention here though is that we see products, as we mentioned before, for HR spanning across Dynamics 365, Azure, modern work. Of course, now taking a big focus with with Viva for employee experience and on top obviously our extended family with LinkedIn give us a leading position here to serve HR from finding, hiring, onboarding, development, performance, learning all the way to offboarding. So we kind of like have end-to-end footprint with with our solutions across the board. And when you think about all of the innovations and all the products we have been putting on the market that could work also on behalf of the HR, it's a double down investments and more than ever. We are shifting our focus to HR up and I'm really excited to see this shift right as HR comes from the back-end supporting function to the frontline on defining company culture, talent attraction, employee experience, organizational readiness and so much more. So we we see that happening across the board. And for us it's more about, How do we? How do we put that technology? As I mentioned, to serve and to work on behalf of all of these changes we are seeing where HR is in the driver seat, not somewhere in behind. Really creating that future of work. And all of the elements one organization needs to have to make that successful transition.

So huge investments, exciting times. No matter, if you look at Dynamics 365. Everything we are doing around HR, customer service for example; Power Platform with Power Apps, so many great scenarios we can build around with Power Apps and automation processes. And then when you go to the Employee Experience, when you go to insights with power BI, it's so much of different options, a different tools to serve for a different purpose. But on one platform behind right. And that's really the key value here: We are bringing with our partners the support to our enterprise customers throughout this transition.

I often call digital transformation also a people transformation, and the process transformation as well. Because you don't have successful digital transformations unless you think about people and the transformations and the changes you have to make there. Culture transformation, reskilling and upskilling your workforce, so it's so much broader these days and the elements you need to think about are really big in many ways. So for that, I think on our side in Microsoft and all of the investments we have been making in this space, makes us in a really great position to support our customers and partners.

Ivo:
Great, that's great information. I think indeed, we've seen a shift in the last 10-15 years. HR used to be the last wagon on the train right? It's like an administrative task. "Yeah, we need to focus on CRM's and ERP's and Finance and Legal, because those are supporting really the strategy of the business, and it seems it's shifting. I think you can agree with me that Microsoft is pulling the HR and HCM systems to the same level as the CRMs and all that. Because they have the same importance for the strategy of the business, right?

Katarina:
Yep, that's something that's new. That's something that we've seen shifting and trending in the past couple couple of years, and the investments for example in the employee experience. And when you think about employee experience also from Dynamics 365 side: We are putting a lot of our processes and workflows in Microsoft Teams as well to make that seamless experience for the end users happening in their favorite collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. So we are making those investments and the employee experience as a theme is becoming as a lot of analysts say 'The next big thing after CRM and ERP'. It's now EXP; Employee Experience and everything we can do around that. And when I think about employee experience, it really depends on your organizational unique aspect around the industry you are in, around the unique business procedures and elements you are doing with your employees. It can happen, that those experiences are happening in Microsoft Teams, but it can be, for the first line workers working in manufacturing, those will be in manufacturing or assembly lines for example. So how do you make that they're not on the PC or on the mobile. How do you make that employee experience working for them? And for that we are investing heavily as well in mixed reality tools. For example holographic learning. We all know that the biggest success of learning comes from learn by doing, to learn by doing instead of learning online for example.

And when people, for example, join the company, they need to onboard, they have to figure out how to work on a certain machine. Using our innovation tools we are doing with mixed reality with Dynamics 365 guides, remote assist that really defines that next level of employee experience there as well. So employee experience is a big theme. It involves a lot of different tools and processes and we are from Microsoft side, I think, investing a lot right in Microsoft Teams but also in other tools and in other solutions that can support that overall team of employee experience.

Ivo:
Very interesting indeed. You almost touching the thing that I want to talk a bit later, but we'll be there, we'll get there. Two more things for you: One of the things, of course, is the partner community. That we are one of Microsoft partners at FourVision, like many others. What do you think is the power of the Microsoft community to grow Microsoft and how does Microsoft see that the partner community, and how helpful can it be to the whole ecosystem?

Katarina:
Well, partners are at the center of everything we do. So it's part of who we are as a company and certainly part of the family. So for us, when we were launching our HR product and throughout the whole journey so far, it was essential to have partners, such as yourself at FourVision, to be able to scale and drive that significant momentum we have had in the past years across the world. And partners are our extended arm, and very often these deep specializations on business functions, like for example in today's talk we focus on HR, can be found only working with partners. So every successful pitch, every business plan to support customer and implementation resulting with a good reference would not be possible without our partners. So they are here with us from the beginning all the way to the end. And often they're staying with with our customers for support later on. So it's a of, as I mentioned, who we are, and I think for us we would never be successful.

Without having a strong partner ecosystem behind us supporting and believing in our mission, so I'm taking the opportunity here now to thank you guys as well. For the awesome collaboration so far. It's it's togetherness that makes us all successful in the end.

Ivo:
Well, thank you for the words. I just want to say that I really think, the partner community and the way Microsoft Works with partners, at least from our experience, it makes Microsoft a more relatable company. Of course you are a giant company. Everybody knows that. You have your hands in many things. But the fact that you allow people or you allow companies to come in to be part of the community to make partnerships that can actually enhance and make your products even better. I think it shows a lot of the type of company that we're talking about. And so thank you and thank you back. That's whatI wanted to say.

Katarina:
Yep, it's always a win-win, right. And it was always like that for us. And when I just think about my last role now here in Microsoft. And all of the engagements we had together, it wouldn't be successful without having the right partners with us on this journey. And what I really appreciate is, the innovation when we start to launch something, you partners are the first in being with us, and also trying and being ready for the risks. Maybe while we figure out things and just learn from there and with that learning be able to support our customers better with innovation and solutions. We are bringing out there for them to be successful. So yes, that's that's definitely a great question and I'm always happy to see partners growing in their workforce as well. And I've seen FourVision as well, new people joining all the time. Somebody new is coming, so you guys are growing as well and it's great to see that we are building that ecosystem of HR partners as well across the board. That is great indeed.

Ivo:
All right, looking at the future now. You are a mixed reality champion. So first of all, let's try to understand what that is. But my question in the end is, do you think mixed reality; These types of technology are the most exciting trend that you see in HR technology? Or if there are any others, please enlighten us.

Katarina:
Yeah, well mixed reality. I mean, I've been a while now in my mixed reality journey, I think a couple years now. And the reason I went deeper in mixed reality was the fact I got so excited about the potential of using technologies like MR in the context of improving employee experience; onboarding new employees, as we mentioned in the example of manufacturing workers. And essentially support them, when people are joining organizations. For me, mixed reality in the context of thinking about how it can support as well. HR and workforce, and people joining the company to really be faster in onboarding, completing their working tasks and get the support they need and so forth. So it has a lot of connections with the things I have been doing from the people operations side. And I wanted to go deeper to really understand those, use cases how we can support our customers at the end.

Thinking about all the stuff we have been talking about today; cultural transformation. It requires to think about the change management. So it's different. When you use holographic experience - when you have your headsets on, trying to do something and trying to perform tasks. So it requires a lot of change. For that also, it requires to change that culture. How do we enable workforce? How do we change and how do we drive readiness for the organization, so it's all connected at the end.

The potential here if you ask me is really big. Technologies like HoloLens and the apps on top are becoming, I think, part of our daily lives at work. It's a journey. But I was really glad to be able to have the opportunity to go deeper in the possibilities there. I think it's makes me much more prepared to what's next in the workforce out there.

Ivo:
That's very exciting technology for sure. How practical it is at this time, like how widespread will be or how long it will take to be a technology that everybody can can adopt. When do you think it will be possible?

Katarina:
Well, I think it depends on the industry and the unique use cases you want to drive. And everybody will start with something with one use case. So for example we see industries like manufacturing and automotive automotive really taking the lead, because there are so many use cases. So for example support for technicians to get that remote support form the experts. Working on something in the manufacturing plant and they cannot travel these days. So you are kind of like forced to to really find the right up enablement and the right tools to get your business continuity going. So we see a huge leap there in some of the industries.

Obviously Healthcare is one of them as well, where you see enormous innovation coming from from surgeons. We had that day of holographic surgeon experience. I think it was back in February 2021, where around 30 surgeons across the world perform the operations with assistance more experienced doctors across the world, using HoloLens. And using using our technology. So you'll see some industries innovate and maybe taking that lead much faster than some others. Because the unique situation they are need there in right now will just naturally push them to leverage technology like HoloLens, like Dynamics 365 apps and our partners' apps that we have in the ecosystem, to really maintain and support their end customers. And the others will definitely follow.

If you think about the retail for example. Inspections for example is a great use case for HoloLens as well. So lots of different use cases and I don't really know how long it will take. It's already there. As I mentioned in some industries more than others. But we all need to start to think about what it means for our organizations. And that's really something that takes me to another thing. It's not really a trend, more like a necessity. Is that need to embrace the change.

What's happening right now, is that change management and culture shift investments in reskilling and upskilling entire workforces to be ready for the future. This is something I see an immediate need for today, and it is something that organizations will start investing in more than ever to be prepared for the future of work. And for that HR and the leadership teams across the organizations will need professional guidance; How to put all of it together to make that change? And that's an opportunity for us working in the Microsoft ecosystem; to make that transition successful with our customers going through a massive change, how we work and how we collaborate. So I believe hybrid type of work for majority of companies is here to stay and digital culture change is happening right now for so many companies out there and we in HR tech need to figure out how we can help them to just transform and thrive ahead of the opportunities they have. So that's really where I see trends also blending with the needs of the HR and the leadership to really be successful throughout this transition.

Ivo:
Fascinating stuff. This was really interesting. To finish this episode, I have a... yeah I call it challenge but it's not, because I never include this on the topics or whatever we discuss. But my question for you is: If you had one thing to say to HR professionals around the around the world, that are maybe considering thinking that they want to move away from one Microsoft product which is spreadsheets to another Microsoft product. So imagine imagine the people that are looking for a system and they don't fully understand what. How can it improve for them their work lives. So if you have, if you have an advice to give them what, what would you say?

Katarina:
So I think first of all, what is important before even talking about technology, is for the HR and the leadership teams of every organization. They would need to figure out what they want to achieve, what their current culture is. Is there a need to change? And how technology in that journey could support them. How do they see, for example, tools like employee experience? Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365 publication could fit into that mission? It's more about understanding the organizational aspect and then how technology can complement that?

For those already on the Microsoft journey, using a lot of our applications already. I think it's natural as well to think about how they can extend that and leverage already made investments in Microsoft, to consolidate some of the major challenges they have and depends on the challenges, whatever they have in terms of data Insights, employee consumerization, employee master data for example, communication with the employees, there is a certain aspect and part of our technology that can support them with that, right? So it's a matter of understanding really where the challenges are for the organization and then tying those challenges to potential technology that could really help them thrive and be successful in terms of moving to the next step they want to be as an organization.

Ivo:
Perfect! Here's some advice for you, from Katarina from Microsoft. Thank you so much for taking the time. Once again this was mostly insightful. I really appreciate the conversation. I hope you like it too.

Katarina:
Yes, it was really, really great. Super flexible. Thanks Ivo for inviting me and I'm looking forward to watch the new podcasts you guys will bring throughout LinkedIn and other networks out there. So thanks for having me today.

Ivo:
Alright, thank you so much for coming. Guys out there. Take care will see you next time.

Katarina:
Cheers.


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