Tech-ventures: Update from the Trenches






Larry Ellison (Executive Chairman and CTO of Oracle) nailed it in a presentation at Oracle Open World this week:  he said that “there is not a “Mobile Strategy”—there is an HCM strategy and of course it encompasses mobile.”

Starting with that point, I have been in numerous analyst briefings as we barrel into the fall lineup of HR technology events, and the results from the new technology end is indeed impressive. Here I will review just a few of those that struck me as of particular interest for HR professionals. (You will no doubt see dozens more new products and features at HR Tech/US and Amsterdam as well.)

The vendor community has been busy, as demonstrated by the innovation and new products. Innovation, perhaps a concept not ordinarily linked to HR products, reigns. As an example, ADP, known for payroll provision, has hired 115 “creatives” — agile, SCRUM-driven developers, designers, and anthropologists in a giant loft in New York City called the “Innovation Lab” to rethink not only what software can do, but how it can look and respond in the process. The current attention across solution providers to improve the user experience is driving innovators to create “cool” user interfaces that are intuitive – and, dare we say, fun to use. (Trend 1: HCM software seeks to actively engage today’s users.)

While several vendors have revised their payroll products this year, the planning behind payroll has also gotten a solid review. Saba, for one, has redesigned the compensation design and management end – the program that comp administrators use to determine competitive and fair salaries across the workforce. Algorithms link the competitiveness of pay plus other short- and long-term incentive elements to look at when – and how much – a pay alteration could reduce retention on an employee-by-employee basis. The goal is to keep the star players; TIM (The Intelligent Mentor) a software “guy” created by Saba can pop up to assist and coach managers on making these decisions. (Trend 2: Algorithmic models are invading HR).

Ultimate has an algorithm that uses comp and benefits history, job history and personal demographics to calculate retention risk (Trend 3: Retention a primary concern within HR today). Combined with two new embedded predictive analytics – the High Performer Measure and the High Performance Predictor, managers have actionable information regarding the likelihood that a star or critical employee might fly the coop. And again the focus on compensation management:  Ultimate delivers a new comp module in UltiPro with more modeling capability — easy enough for a manager to understand use without needing to be a professional compensation administrator.

Healthcare eligibility has entered the HCM software arena, allowing software to manage the sometimes complex rules that relate to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). ADP, Ultimate Software, and Ceridian provide capabilities that can track and calculate ACA actionability. Both Ceridian and ADP, as examples, integrate time, payroll and benefit calculations to determine eligibility then supports enrollment and form filing. (Trend 4: Compliance tracking reemerges as a product differentiator). You do not need to go it alone in figuring out ACA compliance.

“The Cloud” has moved up the scale (see our April 2014 report “Investments in Human Capital Management Systems 2014: What Technology Users Have and What They Will Buy in the Year Ahead”) ; it has become a “key driver” for new product decision-making for the first year. Software as a Service (SaaS) across the board—with Platform as a Service (PaaS) increasing to a “gotta have.” As one example, Oracle launched its PaaS (and the underlying Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) at OpenWorld, providing a development platform that incudes mobile, social collaboration and extensive security as the development environment, with the tools to create extensions for customers who need applications in addition to those commercially available. (Trend 5: Cloud prevails (but you knew that.))

To a one, the providers mentioned here have dedicated major development dollars to the user experience—and it shows. Tile-based, one-click to almost anywhere (ADP uses content as a navigational point), with dashboard analytics displays and – in the case of SAP-SuccessFactors, a color wheel to change the red-green alerts system to other shades for those with color vision issues. Ultimate’s tile-based “discover and unlock your potential” experience walks the person through a game-like process to find the best opportunities as a candidate or next steps as a new hire. Oracle’s Gretchen Alarcon demonstrated a new performance management interface through which managers can arrange people in terms of their performance with easy-to-use sliders. These interfaces, focusing on the user experience (Ux) are colorful, uncluttered, pictorial, and are highly likely to achieve the goal of an improved experience for both managers and their teams.

While most of what I am discussing here is multi-tenant SaaS – let me digress for one minute. At the recent Oracle OpenWorld, the large audience of on-premise PeopleSoft Human Capital Management users saw the new PeopleSoft Fluid User Interface (PeopleSoft Fluid UI) that works across smartphones, desktops, and laptops. It is delivered in the latest update to PeopleSoft HCM 9.2, which also includes a range of enhancements including payroll simplification, compliance support, and additional integrations. On-premise players are not getting left out on the innovation end. (Trend 6: Users interfaces are where the action is – intuitive, graphical, and intelligent – for users of tethered, laptop and mobile and an array of software).

And let’s look managing new releases; this sometimes hairy issue is also being addressed by today’s software providers. SAP SuccessFactors recently delivered an “Upgrade Center” for its customers that provides documentation and self-activation of new features. It displays upgrades that are recommended for each customer’s system and provides additional information including a detailed description and video of the innovation, system prerequisites and then allows a one-click upgrade. It summarizes each upgrade for tracking purposes and importantly, one can undo the upgrade if desired. (Trend 7: Customers seek easier ways to manage their HCM applications.)

A recent Glassdoor Summit drew attention to the widespread use of its solution in the recruiting and hiring processes—and further underpinning the important concept of brand in the employment process (Trend 8: Employment branding is critical – attend to your brand wisely).

And let’s go back to where I started: mobile applications. It is not “my HCM strategy + my mobile strategy” – it is “my HCM strategy is my mobile strategy.” Our love for smaller, portable devices shows no indication of slowing (Apple sold over 10 million units of iPhone 6 or 6 Plus in the first three days the devices were available[1]). (Trend 9: Your mobile strategy IS your HCM strategy – and vice versa).

Attend to the trends:

  • Trend 1: HCM software seeks to actively engage today’s users.
  • Trend 2: Algorithmic models are invading HR
  • Trend 3: Retention is a primary concern within HR today
  • Trend 4: Compliance tracking reemerges as a product differentiator
  • Trend 5: Cloud prevails (but you knew that.)
  • Trend 6: Trend 5: Users interfaces are where the action is – intuitive, graphical, and intelligent – for users of tethered, laptop and mobile and an array of software
  • Trend 7: Customers seek easier ways to manage their HCM applications.
  • Trend 8: Employment branding is critical – attend to your brand wisely
  • Trend 9: Your mobile strategy IS your HCM strategy – and vice versa


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Christa Degnan Manning

Vice President, Solution Provider Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Christa leads technology and service provider research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. In this role, she helps businesses align their workforce support strategies with appropriate third-party software developers, service partners, and governance models. A 25-year technology industry veteran, Christa’s expertise assists organizations in creating functional capabilities and employee experiences that increase productivity, engagement, and workforce efficiency. Frequently cited by business and trade media, she has presented market research on business to business trends, leading practices, and expected challenges and benefits at industry and user conferences globally throughout her career. Christa has a bachelor of arts in English from Barnard College, Columbia University, incorporating studies at University College, University of London. She also holds a master of arts degree in English from the University of Massachusetts and has completed executive coursework on business metrics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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