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November 7, 2013 in Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Location Intelligence, Operational Performance, Sales Performance, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, Workforce Performance | Tags: Cornerstone OnDemand, HR technology, Hunite, Infor, Jibe, mobile, Oracle, Peoplefluent, Recruiting, SAP, Social Collaboration, SuccessFactors, SumTotal, Talemetry, Tribe HR, Ultimate Software, Workday, Zao | by stephanmillard | Leave a comment
2013 was a big year for the annual HR Technology conference, as its well-known co-founder and leader for the past 16 years, Bill Kutik, stepped down, passing leadership of the event to Steve Boese, another familiar name in the community. Beyond the change in leadership, at this year’s show were a large number of vendors that have invested in new technology to advance human capital management (HCM). Overall I noted several interesting trends, some that were similar to those I written about earlier in the year and others that reflect the evolution of innovations seen at last year’s show, specifically expanding the use of mobile access within applications and further extending business collaboration into HCM platforms. In addition, there were other advances driven by market factors such as growth in new recruiting technologies.
There were many newer vendors at the show, and updates to existing products focused on helping companies better manage different parts of the employee recruitment process, a growth spurt that likely corresponds to the ongoing economic recovery. These vendors included Jibe, which showed new recruiting analytics that can help organizations gain visibility into their recruiting activities via features such as improved location analytics and recruiting stage analytics showing where candidates are coming from and where they are dropping off in the process. Another vendor was Zao, which created technology using social media to make the referral management process a more effective part of the recruitment funnel for candidate sourcing. In addition, several others small and large made announcements, such as Ultimate Software, which announced a redesigned recruiting offering; Oracle, which announced several recruitment-related products at OpenWorld; and Talemetry, which partners with many of the larger vendors in the market and continues to invest in its market-leading recruitment product. All of these vendors and others in the recruitment market are making products that have changed what’s possible with recruiting software. It used to be largely about applicant-tracking automation and streamlining, but now it is includes effective recruitment marketing and analytics, as well as more effective matching through big data.
Another significant highlight at this year’s show was how mobile access has become table stakes in most human capital applications. While mobility was an important trend at last year’s show, this year it is not a secondary application but a core part of the application design of many leading systems across HCM segments. Hunite presented an extreme example of how far a vendor can go with mobility in human capital at HR Tech’s Awesome New Technologies session. Its mobile technology helps users gain unified read/write access to all of their HR systems, regardless of vendor, on their mobile phones. And with the fall 2013 release of its system, SumTotal centers on the mobile user, making its entire system fully mobile and optimized for touch screens, and has deepened the platform’s social capabilities to extend across multiple parts of its product line. Cornerstone OnDemand, as I discussed earlier this year and again in the September 2013 release, built core mobile capabilities that are becoming the foundation of its application. Also, Workday has made strong investments in its mobile applications in releases 18 and 19, which I wrote about.
It is worth noting that not just the smaller or best-of-breed vendors have reached this tipping point. Large ERP vendors Infor, Oracle and SAP have also successfully released mobile capabilities within their HCM applications. Oracle has completely mobility-enabled its current release of Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud with HTML5 and released a full-featured version of Oracle Tap, its native mobile device application. SAP SuccessFactors also has mobility-enabled most parts of its HCM application, giving managers and end users easy-to-use tools. Infor has started to release mobile applications that are integrated with different parts of its HCM offering. The trend toward mobility in human capital applications has been reflected several times in our benchmark research, which shows that in the workforce management segment more than half of organizations have already deployed smartphones and tablets. And this is a growing priority, with approximately one-third presently using these devices and 18 percent planning to deploy more of them.
Another trend that is approaching a tipping point is business collaboration functionality embedded in HCM applications, a topic we discussed last year as well. While not as mature as the evolution of mobility within HCM, business collaboration is powerful. In past years business collaboration has existed mostly in the recruiting and learning segments of HCM products. However, vendors have now extended it into other processes within HCM, and deeper within those products. In the best-of-breed category Peoplefluent, which received this year’s Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award for Business Collaboration, has embedded business collaboration capabilities and real-time communication capabilities across its product suite. SumTotal Systems and Cornerstone OnDemand also extended business collaboration outside learning and recruiting, though both historically are learning system vendors embedding business collaboration capabilities in performance management, core HR management and other application areas. TribeHR, which is being acquired by NetSuite, provides core business collaboration capabilities that span its suite of HCM products for small and midsize businesses. Vendors including Oracle, SAP and Infor similarly have started to embed business collaboration in core processes of their HCM suites. SAP is using the SAP Jam product to build business collaboration across most of its HR processes such as performance, learning, onboarding and HR management. Similarly, Oracle uses its Oracle Social Cloud infrastructure to provide business collaboration capabilities across its HCM applications. Also, Infor has created Infor Ming.le, a business collaboration product that embeds business collaboration capabilities directly into the company’s HCM suite. Other and not as well known providers like Newsgator provide a social collaboration platform that can integrate to other HCM offerings like Oracle and SAP and can be used as an employee portal and also accessed via mobile technology. Another great example is RoundPegg that takes the context of culture and uses collaboration to engage employees on the mission, values and goals of an organization.
Also new this year are more extensive business collaboration capabilities in workforce management systems. Several vendors, including market leaders ADP, Ceridian, Infor, and Kronos have increased workforce scheduling efficiencies with Twitter-like broadcast capabilities and Facebook-like wall posting to help workers find shifts they want and help managers fill them more effectively. According to our benchmark research on next-generation workforce management, these are in the top five most popular business collaboration capabilities. Our upcoming Next-Generation Workforce Management Value Index will evaluate leading vendors in this area of business collaboration.
The growth and evolution of recruiting, mobile access and business collaboration in HCM are trends that benefit HR leaders by helping them meet their ultimate business goals more effectively. Such investments by vendors are also making the user experience more compelling and will therefore improve usability, which our benchmark research shows is the most important factor in evaluating technology products. So take a look at these new and updated products if your business is going to be conducting an evaluation in the coming months. Used correctly this next generation of products can improve the way your processes flow, the quality of your information and the way your people interact.
VP & Research Director
November 6, 2013 in Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Operational Performance, Sales Performance, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, Workforce Performance | Tags: Analytics, Big data, Call Center, Cloud Computing, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Customer Service, Speech Analytics, Text Analytics | by Richard Snow | Leave a comment
Infor is a vendor I haven’t covered much in the past, but after attending the recent Infor on the Road day in the U.K. that is about to change. I viewed Infor as basically a CRM vendor, and I don’t believe such systems have much impact on customer engagement and the customer experience. Indeed if you view Infor website’s product page, it features several product categories focused on internal processes: CRM, Asset Management, Financial Management, Resource Planning, Human Capital Management and Product Management. (By the way, my colleague Robert Kugel wrote about some of these after his visit to Inforum.) If like me you are not technically minded, you might skip the technology section, which is where Infor showcases innovation in business applications.
In the opening keynote at the event I attended, Stephan Scholl and Duncan Angove, co-presidents of Infor, highlighted this in a dramatic way. They made it clear that Infor wants to open up a new order for business applications in which applications are much easier to use, the architecture takes full advantage of the Internet and other new ways of working, and mobile, social and analytics technologies come together to improve collaboration across the enterprise, generate better customer engagement, and enable better-informed decisions based on all available data. From what I saw and heard, the latest version of its products, Infor 10x, delivers on many of these promises.
It all starts with the user interface, which makes the products easier to use and thus more likely to be adopted and accepted. Our business technology innovation benchmark research shows that this is a critical factor: Usability is the primary factor impacting organizational decisions on software purchases. Infor sees that devices such as smartphones and tablets have changed the way almost everyone expects to access applications and information, and indeed what we expect applications to do; on the consumer side this includes a well-defined set of tasks such as paying bills, finding locations, and comparing prices of products. And people are carrying those expectations into what they expect of business applications; in this context hierarchical lists, screens full of irrelevant data fields, navigation across multiple screens to complete a simple task, and having to search for information and metrics are unacceptable. Users want to point and click to find and access different functions, data and information, they want to see only relevant information, and many of them don’t think in terms of end-to-end processes any more but want to focus on a well-defined task such as create new customer, close an opportunity or schedule a meeting. In this context Infor has created Hook & Loop, its “internal creative agency,” which I believe is a radical but sensible way to redesign the user experience. The team doesn’t include typical software engineers but rather people who look at computing from a user perspective and create a user experience that matches those expectations. Then the software engineers get involved to turn these concepts into a user interface. This is the sort of approach I suggest to companies in designing mobile apps or virtual agent scripts. In both cases it is a big mistake to have internal business users and IT design them; they should enlist customers in the design and respond to their demands. (Maybe if companies took the same approach with their IVR and Web self-service systems, those would be more successful.) In Infor’s case, I was impressed by the new user experience and look forward to seeing it develop further.
Infor is developing individual applications on ION, which it describes as a “purpose-built middleware platform.” ION is in essence a software suite that enables integration, both for Infor applications and third-party systems. The concept is straightforward: If you define a common format for inbound and outbound transactions and events and build applications and interfaces that conform to those definitions, transactions and data can flow from one to component to another without much development effort. Such a platform enables different operational applications to be integrated, eases administration and creates a scalable, distributed architecture. Transactions can be routed based on built-in rules, allowing, for example, data to be routed to Infor’s analytics tools so users can create analyses, reports and dashboards. The rules can also be programmed to spot exceptions and thus raise alerts in another system; for example, if a machine generates readings indicating a possible impending breakdown, an engineer will be told to take a closer look at it.
The reinvention of business applications continues with another product called Ming.le. Like certain other vendors, Infor positions this as its product to support social business, which is a classification I don’t believe in. Nevertheless Ming.leprovides Facebook-like capabilities that help employees collaborate using wall-based discussions, share information and raise actions. Our research consistently shows that organizational silos are one of the biggest barriers to providing customers with superior service and experiences, and greater collaboration is a way to break them down. Viewed from that perspective,Ming.le met my expectations and so I recommend that companies evaluate it, to improve not just customer service but all customer-focused activities.
The final piece of technology I saw was Infor Motion. It supports mobility in two ways, by providing employees with access to systems and information on the move and by providing a platform on which to build mobile customer service apps. In the latter case, Infor has created a service similar to Hook & Loop that works with organizations to design mobile apps that will appeal to customers and again drive greater adoption and use.
Addressing the audience at the road show, Peter and Duncan were adamant that they will continue to enhance all product lines and support all their micro-vertical products (customized versions of the applications to support granular vertical business sections, for example not just transportation but businesses in different type of transportation). All products, including the micro-verticals, will be available for deployment on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. Commitment to the last is re-enforced by packaged pricing and services intended to make it attractive for old and new customers to move to the cloud.
It was clear to me that Infor has added customer engagement to traditional CRM in its portfolio. It continues to develop an application called Customer Interaction Hub. This brings together the marketing products, CRM, Interaction Advisor, ION, Ming.le and an interaction data store to support multichannel engagement. Interaction Advisor is the key to this packaged solution as it uses customer and interaction data and rules-based logic to determine the best response, which might be the best up-sell offer, personalized responses or putting the response into the context of the overall customer relationship. It was built for the financial services and telecommunications industries, but as customer experience management becomes the focal point for more companies, I expect to see it extended into other industries.
All together this is an ambitious program; Infor seems to be succeeding with it because its financial results have improved, numbers of customers have grown and the company is adding internal resources. The Infor 10x product release addresses all the six innovative technologies our business technology innovation benchmark shows are important to companies. For my research practice the new user experience and the customer information hub are most significant. For as long as I can remember companies, consultants and analysts have derided CRM for not delivering to companies’ expectations. This has had a lot to do with complexity of use and functionality not focused on the customer and the customer experience. Infor is addressing both issues, so I will watch it more closely in the future, and I recommend you do, too.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement