HR Tech Alive and Kicking! Market and Customer Insights (Vendor Perspective)

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Two weeks ago, I attended the annual HR Technology show in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo. It was a very busy event to say the least, which was good to see, especially only one week after the tragic event that occurred the week prior. Still shaking my head at that one and feeling for all those impacted…

Unfortunately, I had little time to attend any sessions because I was constantly busy at the booth or in meetings with analysts or investors, and more importantly, talking to prospects and customers looking to make the HCM leap to the Cloud and solve their challenges, which I always enjoy!

As an HR Cloud Technology Company that brings both products and services to market, it’s always interesting to be close to the market, to see, hear and feel what’s really going on with customers. HR Tech 2017

Here’s what I observed this year:

  1. A lot of vendors focusing on cool tech like AI, chatbots, and integrations.
  2. A lot of customers looking for basic solutions to traditional HR challenges.
  3. An overwhelming feeling that HCM technology is not getting simpler, it’s getting well, overwhelming.

Allow me to elaborate on each.

First, enterprise technology, as a whole, is really sexy right now. What with chatbots, artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, etc., it’s a good time to showcase the fact that HR technology is a cool place to be. HCM tech vendors and analysts are all about marketing the latest/greatest technologies that are becoming available and will eventually become mainstream. And investors are clearly looking for ways to deploy capital making VC and PE firms, and advisors, very busy searching for their next M&A or investment deal.

Second, customers are still struggling with early Millennium HR tech problems such as: I have a bunch of disparate HR technologies and want to move to a single HCM suite but aren’t sure how to go about selecting the right technology vendor or knowing who to trust; unbeknownst to me, I have unrealistic expectations about making the journey to the cloud (more common); I have a ton of job description pain but didn’t know that the pain point now had a solution, which we hear a lot; etc.

Third, vendors and customers are really struggling to find ways to match a need to a solution. For example, this year I saw nearly as many vendors visiting other vendors to see if there were synergies and business opportunities than ever before. This is likely due to several reasons: 1) customer problems aren’t getting any simpler and vendors can’t solve the problems on their own; 2) vendors are looking for channels to generate new business; 3) the pace of innovation is such that everyone is looking for the next great idea.

What should we take-away from these observations? It depends on your perspective of course.

If you’re a customer, do not oversimplify the world of HR technology. While enterprise technology has come a long way over the last 5 years, it’s encumbant on customers to educate themselves so they can make informed decisions, especially when looking to make transformational investments or solving “real pain” that needs a long-term, scalable solution. Finding a trusted partner(s) may be your first crucial step. Doing so isn’t always easy though. To help point you in the right direction, vendors with experience in their domain, with credible references and credentials, are usually a good sign. And while hard to do, going at it alone isn’t advised, in my humble opinion, because while customers have the benefit of being the budget holder with internal insight, vendors/partners/trusted advisors have the benefit of working with many customers, technologies, industries and geographies that help to bring a more realistic perspective to the customer before they make important decisions, whether it be an HR technology strategy, an implementation partner, platform vs. point solution decisions, PaaS and extensibility, etc. The challenge is what you don’t know (even if you think you do).

If you’re a vendor, it’s figuring out what your real value is to the customer and what your target market really is, which isn’t easy, as all enterprise organizations have HR functions and HR technology needs and opportunities to be more effective. How do you focus on the right customer segments without losing out on business opportunities? Tough decisions.

If you’re an analyst or investor, what technologies will the market really need and use and have longevity and growth potential? What will be sticky and add real tangible value to customers? What does so without adding too much complexity? What will be of interest to strategic buyers 5 years from now?

At HRIZONS, we’re constantly striving to bring targeted services and products to market. For example, at HR Tech, our focus was very clear:

1. Educate the US enterprise market about our HRZ® CLOUD APPS software products. In our case, we have two products geared towards the “agnostic” customer looking for: A) a solution to their job description pain that will integrate into the existing HR technology landscape. For this we offer JDMS® | Job Descriptions Made Simple; B) a solution to help HR gain better visibility into the organization without having to implement a massive HR analytics product but one that can leverage HR data from one or multiple data sources. For this we offer OrgInsight™ | Visualize Your Workforce.

2. Educate the SAP SuccessFactors customer base about our HRZ® CLOUD APPS, powered by SAP Cloud Platform, and how they can seamlessly extend their SAP SuccessFactors platform and reduce deployment and change management challenges as a result. For SAP SuccessFactors customers we have three products: A) JDMS® | Job Descriptions Made Simple for SAP SuccessFactors, which is fully integrated to SAP SuccessFactors; B) OrgInsight™ | Visualize Your Workforce for SAP SuccessFactors, which comes with a pre-packaged integration so you can easily leverage your HR data stored in SAP SuccessFactors; and C) our newest product PAD™ | Performance Accountability Dashboard, which extends SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals to give leaders and HR a macro view of goal execution and the ability to prescribe master goals that are closely aligned to the business strategy and strategic initiatives.

3. As a by-product of #2, educate customers about our ability to resell SAP SuccessFactors and our three service lines and domain expertise for SAP SuccessFactors, which includes HRZ® STRATEGY (Consulting), HRZ® EXECUTION (Implementation) and HRZ® EVOLUTION (Post Go-Live Services) to support customers using SAP SuccessFactors or our products of course.

This helped us to identify a large number of prospects that clearly understood what we offer and how it could, or would not help them with their challenges. In my opinion, it’s probably more important to identify those we can’t help so we can send them on their way to finding the right solution, which allows us to focus on those we know we can really help.

From my perspective, it’s important that customers know who we are, what we do, and what we don’t do. Our challenge is how best to message this to the market, and to read what the market needs and wants now and in the near future. Because, while we’re excited about what we do offer the market today, we’re just as excited about evolving our existing products and services and what new products and services we will bring to market.

So, if you were in attendance, I hope you found what you were looking for and learned what you needed to learn. If not, at least you’ll have my insight and perspective on the event and the market.

Parting thoughts…  when you stop learning and stop trying to innovate and improve, you stop. Enough said!

Best,

Jim Newman, President & CEO, HRIZONS

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With nearly 20 years of strategic human resources, talent management and HCM technology consulting experience, Jim founded HRIZONS to help clients realize their human capital potential. He is the thought leader behind the HRZ® lines of business and is a certified SuccessFactors consultant (Align & Perform and Talent Management).