From degree to director: John Hixon’s journey to R&D director and his predictions for 2021

John Hixon has been part of Cezanne HR through its different evolutions for over 20 years. His experience in the HR software industry, understanding of customer needs, and knowledge about Cezanne HR make him an indispensable member of the team. John has kindly provided some insight into his career to date, and what he sees as the most pressing challenges for HR this year.interview desk

Where did your career start and how did you come to be working with Cezanne HR?

I did a computer science degree in York, and as part of that I completed a placement year at Procter and Gamble. The degree gave me a great foundation in technology, and the work placement gave me experience getting out of my comfort zone and talking to people in a corporate environment. Working for a large organisation also gave me insight into the challenges that big business faces and how they’re solved.

My following roles were with a small organisation, and then a bank – so I got to see different business sizes and industries. I knew after those experiences that I wanted my next role to be for a smaller organisation, somewhere that would feel like a family with less bureaucracy.

I didn’t have any experience with HR when I started with HRM Software (a previous incarnation of Cezanne HR). I was excited when I was given the opportunity to lead the team that worked on replacing the business’ Access-based software with a new web-native solution. Being part of such an innovative leading project was very exciting.

HRM Software then evolved into Cezanne Software and eventually Cezanne HR. The solution has constantly been reinvented to meet current market needs and to take advantage of technological advancements. I’ve always felt very fortunate to work for a business that’s at the forefront of change and innovation – we were one of the first real SaaS (software as a service) HR platforms!

What are the most notable advancements you’ve seen in HRS over the years?

I’ve seen big changes in the industry since I started with HRM Software in 2000. In those days, HR software suppliers still had HR servers in their own offices and were just beginning to move to web versions. HR software then migrated to be more of a hosted solution, before becoming SaaS. Up until 2013 we had our own data centre, and then started working with AWS as our host. Moving to the Cloud with AWS was a big leap forward and very progressive in those days.

For the customer, the most obvious changes have been to the user interface. The first web solutions in the marketplace weren’t very user friendly. With big players like Apple then leading the way in terms of usability, they raised the bar for the rest of the technology industry and usability became a much more prominent focus.

Cezanne HR continues to refine and improve how our users experience the system with constantly evolving user functionality. And because we’re a SaaS solution, every customer gets the benefit of the updates we make automatically. No one is left behind on an old version of the software because it’s too expensive for them to upgrade – SaaS makes technology far more egalitarian than it was in the past.

I’ve also seen big improvements in system uptime. Hosting has advanced a lot, and it can now automatically recover and scale as needed. If, for instance, a server dies, a new one will immediately start up. This automatic failover means customers can enjoy far more reliable systems than were available when I started in the industry!

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing HR right now?

I think it’s a given that the biggest challenge for HR right now is the current uncertainty caused by COVID-19. It’s been a difficult 10 months, with more to come.

What we’ve seen is our customers using their Cezanne HR system a lot. They’ve been using it to issue lots of letters, documents, and notifications. We’ve also seen many requests for leave as well as leave being cancelled, alongside carryover being changed.

The next hurdle is going to be trying to get back to normality. People wondering whether or not to go back to the office, and how to communicate that to staff. Our customers use Cezanne HR’s workspaces, notifications and SMS to help keep their staff updated.

So far we’ve not seen any customer needs that weren’t already on our radar. Cezanne HR’s system is very flexible and comprehensive, and we’ll continue to tweak it to meet any new demands that might come up in the future.

How do you think Cezanne HR can help people right now?

For customers who come to us having previously used spreadsheets to manage their HR processes, we know that consolidating all their HR information, including absences, onto a Cloud system, being able to report on headcount, and using self-service to maintain data integrity – all the basics – makes a big difference to their HR function and wider business.

If a customer is coming from another HR system, it’s Cezanne HR’s SaaS approach, employees being empowered through self-service, the sophistication of the system, and having software that alerts them to issues that all make a big impact.

Our customers work with Cezanne HR for some of the same reasons I joined the team over 20 years ago. They get the intelligence and industry experience that they’d enjoy with one of the big players like Workday, with the family feel, ongoing developments, and personal service that Cezanne HR is renowned for.

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