My HRE colleagues and I spend a lot of time during the show meeting with vendors, and while some of them seem to want to spend all of our limited time hawking their products (boring!) others are genuinely interested in talking about the state of the HCM market (and yeah, I know human capital management is a tiresome and annoying buzzword to some, but I digress).
Anyway, Charles Coy, director of product marketing at Cornerstone OnDemand, said product differentiation is getting tougher and tougher every year for talent-management vendors like his firm. “Look around the show floor,” he told me, gesturing at the crowded booths covering the exhibit floor at this year’s HR Technology® Conference.
“So many of us are selling what are essentially the same products, delivered the same way [via SaaS]–how do you stand out from the crowd?” Cornerstone’s strategy will be to distinguish itself from others by pointing out to prospective clients that its suite of tools were developed “organically” (in-house), unlike other vendors, who are assembling suites by going out and purchasing other vendors and integrating their products. “Our products run on the same data platform,” said Coy. “I may be wrong, but I do think that’s a differentiator.”
Coy also chatted at length about the Cornerstone Foundation, a nonprofit foundation created by his firm which — among other things — donates free Cornerstone software to outfits like Teach for America and various charities. “Nonprofits are really underserved in this area,” he said. Interesting …
Michael Custers and Brad Everett of Northgate Arinso chatted about their firm, which recently completed its purchase of Convergys Corp.’s HR business-process outsourcing operations, which makes them one of the largest such vendors in North America, putting them in direct competition with the folks at Hewitt, IBM and Accenture. “We’re a global firm, not US-centric, and we think that will differentiate us,” said Everett.
Over at Saba, they’re feeling pretty confident that collaboration as an actual, workable reality (as opposed to a topic that no one but industry analysts is talking about) is finally taking off, said Yvette Cameron, vice president and general manager.
“HR people are really starting to drive collaboration and networking within their organizations, and we think that’s great–we want to see them get out in front of this, not hang back and let other departments take the lead,” she told me. Yvette has some self-interest at stake, of course: Saba’s just introduced Saba People Systems, a suite of collaboration, learning and performance applications that’s designed to “power up the individuals in the organization.” Hmmmmm …
Meanwhile, Successfactors and Workday are vigorously going after the core HR systems market, with Successfactors asserting that the market is eager for core HR products from best-of-breed vendors. Successfactors can indeed boast of winning over giant technology firm EMC, which is replacing its PeopleSoft enterprise system with SuccessFactors’ EmployeeCentral product for core HR.
And Workday is continuing to go after the large-enterprise market, having used the show to demonstrate how Flextronics (which itself is practially the size of a small country) is one of the small-but-growing cadre of big corporations that are moving away from ERP to SaaS-based enterprise systems.
And what about the regular stream of software updates that SaaS customers receive–which, if you’re a large and complex organization like Flextronics, can wreak havoc on your internal processes?
“We’re getting much more proactive at communication, letting our customers know ahead of time what these updates will do so they can make sure nothing gets messed up,” said Workday’s Andy McCarthy. Interesting times. We’ll see how things look next year in Las Vegas, where the 2011 HR Technology® Conference will be held at the Mandalay Bay resort.