With many of my waking moments being occupied by the near-manic pursuit of a college short list for not one but two daughters in their senior year, my blogging has fallen off the cliff. Add to the mix the insanity of preparing to do the HR tech shootout, and overstimulation reigns.
But I’ve got the shootout behind me, and the entire Lawson team was beaming with pride and enthusiasm over our performance….in spite of 2nd place. For me, it’s primarily about showing off the work of our amazing employees and giving them a dose of adrenaline for the continued work of building, fixing, supporting, selling and implementing these great products. Plus lots of customers get to see a perspective on our stuff they probably wouldn’t see otherwise. It’s all good.
The HR capitalist did a good job of summarizing the highlights, so I won’t bother. Look here for a recap.
This one takes a village, and as the post notes, the entire population was sitting behind Dave while he ran the computer. But I couldn’t have done it without all of them — my sincere thanks to the entire Lawson team. It was a great experience, and I also appreciate all of the audience support for our products and the way we presented them. And seriously — reading from a script? I couldn’t imagine doing it. Ever.
Ok, so I don’t have much credibility in the world of linguistics, but my product strategist, Cecile Alper-Leroux used the word ‘integrally’ to describe our talent management system. What does it mean? Building integrally means to create an integrated solution with integrity. I kinda like it — provided that I can figure out how to use it in a way that is gramatically correct — an obsession of mine. We’ll see.
But I wanted to write about it because of what Josh Bersin said in his recent blog post about his assessment of the state of the economy as it relates to talent management technology. He made an astute observation: that “integration” is more important than “functionality.” It got me thinking about what Cecile said, and I liked the connection.
The integrity part is about delivering the technology that can enable the rapidly evolving talent management business process — and the integration part speaks for itself.
I’m not sure I love it so much that I’m willing to try to coin a new term (the narcissist in me likes the idea), but I thought I’d put it out there — what do you think?
Well, my fifteen minutes of fame as the headliner for the Bill Kutik radio show have ended with this week’s broadcast featuring Jim Holincheck from Gartner. Jim never disappoints — lots of great stuff on the show, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
I took note of Jim’s comments related to how the economy will shape organizations efforts to leverage the products (and vendors) they already work with. His observation about upgrade cycles with ERP vendors in particular, caught my attention. As we’ve been building the Lawson Talent Management application, we made a big, hairy commitment to our customers — that they could add talent management functionality without a forced upgrade. I joke about the notion that says, “You can have succession management — just upgrade your payroll system!” This is the reality for many companies (but not for those who chose Lawson).
Net-net: our customers can add talent management functions to any supported version of their current platform. No upgrade required. Lawson customers? You deserve it!
Recovery after HR Tech is always a challenge, so I am a few days late in the promised post.
The economy took center stage at this year’s conference — put perhaps not for the reasons you might have expected. I spent more time commisserating with my friends and colleagues about the damage to our 401k portfolios than how the business climate would hurt our industry! But aside from that, here are a few summary observations:
- There is little doubt that the economy will impact our industry, but the conference offered us little tangible evidence of how challenging it might be. Bill Kutik’s unscientific survey at the conference gave us a glimpse, and will serve as an interesting baseline to compare against. He wrote about it in his most recent column here.
- The talent management technology market continues to mature — but the vendors still have a way to go, as does the market. One thing I noticed for sure (systematichr also commented on the subject in this recent post): companies are increasingly serious about getting the right kind of long-term integration strategy between their HRMS system of record data and their talent management databases. We, of course, love that trend.
- Web 2.0 is still in its infancy — HR leaders are leveraging the wide range of open source tools to assemble collaboration environments (wikis, blogs, instant messaging, social networking), but no one is really tying together those elements are part of the HCM platform.
Overall, another great conference with lots of reason (macroeconomic dynamics aside) to be excited to an HR technology practitioner.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t finish this post with a plug for my interview on the Bill Kutik Radio Show this Wednesday, October 29 at Noon Eastern. Or, for those of you that are iTunes subscribers — I hope I do my part to distract you on the treadmill!
Day 2 was full of action both in the session rooms and on the show floor. Overall, the trade show events were well attended and at this point, I’d predict that if we see results worse than last year, it won’t be by a large margin.
In continuing with my video blogging, I had a great opportunity to chat today with fellow blogger Vinnie Mirchandani who shared with me some perspectives on the show, specifically some of the products he thinks should be showing up in the booths that haven’t. Take a look at it here.
In the Lawson booth, we’ve had our ‘corporate magician’ entertaining the troops. He did a great job of making a stop by the booth fun and interesting, and I’m happy to report many folks hung around for the Lawson pitch that followed — even after missing out on the opportunity to win the $100 bill he offered (due to his skilled slight-of-hand).
I was bombarded by folks as the show floor opened today at 10am, with everyone asking me — “Did you attend the analyst roundtable this morning?” Thanks to a reporter (who shall remain nameless) that no-showed for our 9am appointment, I missed it. I should have been there — evidently two of the analysts (Lisa and Zach — thanks!) specifically pointed out that Lawson’s work in talent management was differentiating us from the rest of the ERP pack. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
In my final video clip, I’ve included one of the magic tricks that Charles performed and also an interview with Lanny Sperry, the Director of HRIS at Spectrum Health, one of our new talent management customers. More importantly, I asked him to recap the discussion in the analyst session for your viewing pleasure.
I’ll have some final show comments tomorrow after the event closes. Enjoy!
The chatter around Harry’s comments about SaaS continues — this time it’s the interview of Dave Duffield on Bill Kutik’s radio show. I actually liked the way Dave presented it. The dialogue continues to help me refine my thinking on why what we’re doing is truly differentiated. To wit, a few facts:
- 85% of the companies that have bought our new talent management products have opted for a licensing model other than a subscription. Why? Because customers asked. They want to own the software that they are acquiring for such a strategic purpose (not so important for payroll processing, I’d say…).
- 100% of those same companies have opted for a managed service delivery model — a uniform version of the software, fully managed by Lawson. So they’re enjoying all of the benefits that Dave said were so important. Not one customer is on the ‘patch-fix treadmill.’ From a delivery perspective, it’s SaaS, but because it’s not sold as a subscription, I guess the purists would criticize me for labelling it that way, so I won’t.
- 75% of our customers in the pipeline have expressed a preference to own the software vs. renting it via subscription. I anticipate the vast majority of them will still opt to have Lawson manage the environment — the benefit of the SaaS delivery model is real, and customers will continue to opt for it in large numbers. It’s paying the license forever that doesn’t make any sense.
At the end of the day, customers buying talent management solutions want choice. If companies like Lawson and Workday deliver great value managing the environment and application, why would they want to do it themselves? But when the software takes hold in the company and offers mission critical benefits, the value of having an ownership stake in that product will be beneficial. From a cost perspective, because they can pay for just the portions that provide ongoing value (staying off the ‘treadmill’), Lawson clients will reap a more attractive long-term return on their investment.
Note to Bill Kutik: as far as backpedaling, I’m not sure I see it. While we are offering customers more options, they are all centered around delivering great high-quality software applications to customers, advancing our economies of scale around managed care and building the kind of market share that will ultimately define Lawson as the gorilla in this market. SaaS or otherwise.
Thanks to Jason Corsello’s recent blog post, the HCM community is buzzing about some recent statements made by Harry Debes, our CEO, about the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. First of all, I’m impressed by Jason’s reach. I haven’t talked to anyone in the industry since he published the post that didn’t ask me about it – Jason, your readership is listening! The real question: does the old adage ‘all publicity is good publicity’ still hold? In this case, I think so.
But seriously – let me put the debate on this topic to bed. Harry was commenting about the role of SaaS in the global Lawson business – our suite of manfacturing, financials, procurement, supply chain and HCM products. And he stands by his position – he simply doesn’t believe that companies like Lawson have a viable business model in serving the market exclusively through SaaS. With that said, we’ve had his consistent support for the work we’ve done in launching Lawson Talent Management with a SaaS model.
The reality, though, is this – we’ve been hearing from our customers for 18 months that they want choice. They want to choose how they license our software (perpetual or subscription pricing), where they deploy it (on premise or via SaaS) and which applications in talent management they buy (and when). If you’d like to read more about our thoughts on this, look here.
So what about SaaS – we are delivering our Talent Management applications in this model, and have been doing so since the day we started selling the product. We will continue to offer that option to customers, and the market will decide. The best news? We know how to deliver our customers a choice, and can do it with the best Talent Management functionality in the business.
Want to learn more? Send me an e-mail, leave a comment or come and see us next month at HR Technology, when we’ll be ready to tell you the whole story.
Kudos to Bill Kutik in his most recent column for (mostly) calling out what’s real about Oracle’s Fusion initiative – which is pretty much nothing, at least as far as HCM is concerned.
I’ve worked for software companies for nearly 25 years, and over the years I’ve built up some credibility and expertise when it comes to effectively communicating with people about a given set of strategies (some may call it “spin,” but I prefer “effective communication”). But one communication strategy I never (I repeat never) subscribed to is hard-core secrecy. What I know for certain about the ‘secrecy approach’ is this: you only keep things top secret when your messages will be received as controversial at least, or damaging, at worst. From my deliciously critical perch atop the HCM hill, I would offer some speculation as to why Oracle is being so secretive about Fusion:
- Oracle is suffering from a crisis of consensus internally, and no one can agree on what really should be done, resulting in the paralysis that could easily befall an organization made up of experts in HCM from three different and successful software companies. When Bill Kutik interviewed Oracle’s Gretchen Alarcon on his radio show (you can find the podcast here), she took the 5th on all of Bill’s softball questions about Fusion. Yawn.
- Oracle is months (if not years) behind schedule relative to the original Fusion communications. If you’ve religiously refused to talk about dates, you can always hedge your bets when you have delays. But there are a number of public statements that (at a minimum) led customers to believe that the first HCM products from Fusion would arrive in 2008. From everything observers can tell, this is not happening. Good news for guys like me!
- Oracle (like so many companies) is worried about the Sarbanes-Oxley patrol catching up with them. As a result, most companies tend to take extreme measures to avoid any implication of impropriety. I work for a publicly-traded software company, so I know the challenges Sarbanes-Oxley brings in terms of revenue recognition. In layman’s terms – if you talk too much about products that aren’t available, you have to ‘defer’ the revenue until the product is delivered, and it can have a near-term impact on reported revenues that Wall Street loves to hate. This is totally counterintuitive, but it could be a plausible explanation for why Oracle isn’t saying anything.
- Bill reported that Gartner said Oracle may be giving up on trying delivering that mother-of-all-migration-paths they’ve been touting for 3 years and are planning to focus on new customers as they launch Fusion for HCM. Knowing how complex the dynamics are in my customer base of 1,000-plus companies, this one seems feasible, if not likely. I wouldn’t want to be at the user group meeting where this one is announced!
So that’s my speculation on this. But realistically, Oracle doesn’t have to tell us anything – it’s a free world. And as far as I’m concerned, I hope they keep quiet. Their silence gives me time to mature our already-released products, develop deeper relationships with Oracle clients and reap the spoils when those Fusion upgrade projects are so expensive that VPs of HR run screaming for cover at the thought of a meeting with the CEO (or worse, board of directors) to ask for the big dollars that will inevitably needed to make Fusion work.
Silence can, as we all know, be golden.
One more post about my experience at the HR forum two weeks ago………….
Some of you are probably aware that this event has a ‘pay for play’ element to it — suppliers pay to participate, and the delegates attend for free in exchange for a commitment to a certain number of meetings to hear about offerings from the various suppliers. There’s an elaborate (and I would say effective) matching process to get folks with like interests talking to each other. But with the goal to make sure that every supplier gets a certain number of ‘meetings,’ you always have a few with someone you quickly discover couldn’t care less about what you have to offer (or vice versa).
Knowing there would be some of that (and in some cases I could even tell in advance), these delegates became my ‘focus group’ targets — I tested our strategies to see how these folks would react eventhough they probably wouldn’t be our target customer. A particularly insightful meeting was with a large, national retailer with over 100,000 employees who’s identity I will opt not to disclose. The delegate, a senior HR person, was telling me about their talent management technology strategy, and the conversation went something like this (paraphrased for brevity, and might slightly miss on a detail or two):
Supplier (me): How are you addressing your talent management technology needs?
Delegate: We have a enterprise-wide LMS installed that’s having a real impact on delivering training in the stores, we just started an implementation of a recruiting system, and performance management is next.
Supplier: How many vendors are providing that technology?
Supplier: Are you concerned with the issues of technical integration? Do you hope to leverage infrastructure like organizational and supervisor structure across those products?
Supplier: How are you going to do it? Is IT engaged in the process?
Delegate: <moment of silence>.. IT is looking at it
And so went the discussion..we also explored how they anticipated leveraging data for decision-making across the full organizational development value chain, and concluded that while those issues had been discussed, these integration elements (see my previous post) are not central to the creation of their technology strategy — at the moment.
I would anticipate that this organization has a real shot at efficient and effective management of their core transactional business processes in talent management. For training, they’re already doing it. But at the end of the day, after all those operational benefits are achieved and they want to really get those systems talking together they are either going to spend a fortune consolidating data into one of those systems (and hope that the one is good enough to manage the data from the others) or they will be building the mother-of-all-data-warehouses. And let’s face it — HR is always number 11 on a priority list of 10, and after all of the money they’ve spent on getting the operational stuff right it will require real clout to get the funding for yet another major HR technology initiative.
Everyone knows about my bias here — that an integrated, ERP-class talent management solution aligned with the system-of-record data about people is the only realistic way for organizations to do breakthrough talent management. It’s about great operational efficiency AND actionable data about people, and the organizations that get both right will be at a significant advantage.