IHRIM Q&A: CEO Lynne Mealy Discusses IHRIM’s 30th Year, Conference Expectations

By Aliah D. Wright Apr 28, 2010

When the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) HRMStrategies Conference & Technology Expo convenes in Las Vegas May 2-5, 2010, it will celebrate its 30th anniversary. As IHRIM marks this momentous occasion, we posed some questions to IHRIM's president and CEO Lynne Mealy. She addressed issues important to HR systems professionals, IHRIM’s future virtual plans, and the turnaround in the economy and how that is impacting the business of human resource information management:

As IHRIM celebrates its 30th anniversary, can you tell us what IHRIM was like then and compare it to now? What are your members’ backgrounds?

Originally IHRIM started to bring together HRIS and IT to achieve a singular vision. At that time, computer systems ran on mainframes. HR professionals were dependent on programmers to select or develop systems primarily to pay people. Little other functionality was available, and HR and IT “talked different languages” and the two were unable to effectively communicate.IHRIM [or “HRSP”—Human Resource Systems Professionals, as it was known then] brought together professionals from both disciplines to learn from each other. Our organization enabled HR professionals to network with [IT] and learn how others had been able to better utilize existing systems.

Since technology has shifted much of the responsibility to the system users, HR staff have become more technically savvy, but there still needs to be people in IT to interpret HR’s needs to maintain and expand the functionality to manage human resources.

IHRIM continues to be the organization for those involved in HR systems including—to name a few—HR management, functional managers, HRIT specialists from HR and IT, as well as consultants and vendors.

The beginning culture of the organization is a lot like today’s culture: members sharing their knowledge and experiences with others, seeking better ways in which HR can make a difference. Much of what has changed is the “how” we do that. Members have told us that they like delivery via the web; it allows them to get to continue to develop their professional knowledge as well as get the information they need when they need it. Thus many of our offerings are online—webinars, via CORE (our online community) and publications. However, our members still treasure face-to-face communication via participation in IHRIM educational courses, local events and especially our annual conference which continues to be the premier HR technology event in the industry.

Are there more attendees at this year’s conference than last?

We are very pleased at the how registration is going. We have been running over 30 percent above last year’s registrations and—at two weeks before conference—we had exceeded last year’s final number.

What can people expect from this year’s conference?

There will be a continuation of high-quality educational programming, an exhibit hall with key HR service providers, and a variety of networking opportunities. In terms of educational sessions, IHRIM’s Conference Content Review Committee works hard to ensure a balance of sessions—fundamental versus strategic; topic focus; case studies versus lectures—even industry representation. We have a wide representation of attendees at our conference—from senior VPs to business analysts to HR managers to IT specialists—and we want to ensure we provide all attendees with a meaningful education experience.

What are the highlights? What are some of the things you’re hoping people take away from the conference?

One of our main goals is to have people walk away from the conference with ideas or solutions they can take back to their office and put to work. The conference is not a standalone event.IHRIM provides the network for attendees to continue to connect with other HR systems professionals they meet at the conference. We encourage our attendees to share information and knowledge throughout the year. Our iStream sessions—facilitated discussions around a topic—were chosen this year by poll, thus ensuring we cover topics that are most meaningful to our attendees.

Are there any innovations this year? Anything new?

It seems that presentation topics reflect what is hot in the HR systems area—or what people are focusing on in their workplace. This year’s agenda has a number of software-as-a-service (SAAS) presentations, for example. And, while Web 2.0, talent management and portals still remain hot, we are seeing an increase in interest in the fundamentals of project management, data management, and ROI.

Does IHRIM plan to offer any virtual components of its conferences in the future?

In September 2010, we are partnering with the Southern California chapter on a Virtual Vendor Showcase—a series of webcasts that will allow HR systems and service providers the opportunity to showcase their product—no travel needed. And we will look at ways to deliver components of the annual conference to those who are unable to attend the event in person.

Last year was brutal for those managing human resource information technologies because of the economy. Are we seeing a turnaround? Are the hard times over?

Yes, we are seeing a turnaround. IHRIM members in the consulting space are reporting an increase in business and with people beginning to look at upgrades or new purchases. I would not say that the hard times are over; companies are still being cautious in their spending. But with the increase in conference registrations and membership, we are optimistic that things are on the upturn.

For those wanting to follow IHRIM coverage, what’s the Twitter hashtag? Is there a Facebook page or a blog people can follow?

Twitter hashtag: #IHRIMconf or follow @IHRIM. Facebook – IHRIM Group.

Lastly, why Vegas?

IHRIM prefers to hold our conference in hotels rather than convention centers. This allows a more intimate meeting experience and facilitates networking. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of properties with the needed meeting space. One of the cities that does have the space is Las Vegas. We held a conference in Las Vegas in 2003 and it was well received; people suggested we return.

We try to alternate regions. Next year we will be on the East Coast at the Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland. Right outside Washington, D.C., the Gaylord offers a great venue for meeting space and networking.

Aliah D. Wright, an online editor/manager for SHRM, will be covering IHRIM’s 30th Annual Conference and Technology Expo. You can view daily coverage on the SHRM Technology Discipline Page and follow her tweets live @1SHRMScribe.


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