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Workday 10: Talent Management And HRMS Converge

Monday, March 22, 2010
Over the last five years, one of the fastest markets for enterprise software has been "talent management."  Talent Management Suites, now offered by more than 30 different providers, deliver a set of features and functionality which allow human resources and line managers automate, monitor, plan, and analyze all the "people-related" processes in a company.  This fast-growing software market started with the standalone areas of performance appraisals, training administration (LMS), and applicant tracking - and now encompasses all these areas plus various elements of employee compensation, succession management, and workforce planning.

The two companies which have created the most excitement around this market are SuccessFactors and Taleo, each publically traded companies worth over $1B in valuation, trading at 5-10X sales.  (In other words, the public markets expect these companies to grow significantly.)  The rest of the players are attracting attention as well:  Peopleclick Authoria is now the largest private player with more than $100M in revenues and just attracted a significant round of funding, SumTotal was acquired by a private equity company because of its potential for growth, Saba's stock is going up, and many other players are investing in this market.

All these providers sell SaaS and licensed software designed to work with and connect to a company's existing HRMS and payroll systems.  (HRMS is the core "human resource management system" which is essentially the "system of record" for all employees, contractors, ex-employees, and retirees).  As the talent management systems market has grown, the HRMS vendors (Oracle, PeopleSoft, Lawson, Ultimate, Accero, ADP, Ceridian, SAP, and many others) have started to introduce talent management offerings of their own.  The simple argument has been that customers who have already invested millions in their HRMS would much rather "add on" additional integrated modules than buy a brand new software system which manages "talent-related" information.

Unfortunately, these HRMS vendors have been somewhat unsuccessful in their talent management strategies to date.  Why?  Because talent management software is quite complex and they make plenty of money on core HR.  The focused talent management players have more functionality, their sales and service teams understand this market much better, and buyers are so fervently shopping that they want the "best solution" - not the most "integrated solution."  Our 2009 Talent Management Systems Satisfaction research validated this - only 13% of all buyers we surveyed were seriously considering their ERP or HRMS vendor as their talent management vendor.

The World is Changing


Silkroad, a mid-sized talent management systems vendor, acquired a next-generation HRMS company last year and now offers a very best-of-breed HRMS to deliver a "total HR solution."  Softscape, one of the pioneers in HR software, now sells its HRMS to more than half of its customers. SuccessFactors Employee Central, which is far from an HRMS, is designed to chip away at HRMS needs.  And I would not be surprised to see Plateau, Saba, and other strategic talent management software companies build or buy HRMS features in the future.   In fact, one of the hottest "new" applications of talent management is workforce planning - which needs many of the foundational elements of an HRMS to be done well in a large organization.

On the other side of the world, HRMS vendors have now totally woken up to this opportunity, and they are pouring investment dollars into the talent management market.  Oracle/PeopleSoft, SAP, Lawson, ADP, Accero, and many other HRMS/Payroll providers now have major talent management offerings available - and they will slowly and surely get better over time.  ADP's Workforce Now, which is just being introduced, is the beginning of a whole new talent platform for mid-sized companies.

Enter Workday
Which leads us to Workday, one of the more interesting and forward-thinking vendors in this market.  Workday, founded by Dave Duffield, the original founder of PeopleSoft, has developed a next-generation SaaS-based HRMS which uses a highly flexible object-oriented architecture to solve many of the complexities and inflexibility of traditional HRMS and ERP systems.  While Workday positions itself as an HRMS company, in many ways the company has built a whole new approach to ERP systems as a whole, with HR and payroll being their first core area.

The company has a very aggressive development agenda, and is rapidly spending the $100s of millions it has received in a new breed of HR software application that will eventually "replace" the billions of dollars invested in HRMS, payroll, and other HR-related infrastructure.  To date the company has only 133 customers, 80 or so of which are in production (compared to more than 1,500 for SuccessFactors and several thousand for Taleo and thousands for Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP).   But these customers are relatively large (most with more than 5,000 employees) and they are doing things with Workday which are very difficult to do with traditional HRMS software.

Workday's products (we describe Workday in detail in our research bulletin on Workday, available to Bersin & Associates research members) enable companies to integrate all elements of HR and financials into a single application, and therefore see things like "total spend per employee" and "goal alignment with financial targets" in a highly integrated way.  Workday enables all the systems' business rules, workflow rules, and custom data elements to be maintained and automatically reorganized whenever the company goes through a reorganization, merger, or acquisition.  (One of the biggest complaints companies have with their HRMS infrastructure today is that they have many HRMS systems - whenever they buy or merge with another company, they must maintain both systems - so in most large companies there is really no "single employee system of record" at all.)

The system has many other very exciting features - including the ability to right click on nearly any element and get an action-oriented menu (totally role-based) which enables managers or HR staff to take action immediately.  This feature is quite sophisticated:  not only is it a novel and creative user interface, it actually means that the system integrates "behaviors" with "data," something unique to an object-oriented architecture.  For you as a user it means that the system is far more useful in getting work done.

Today the system is very compelling - but the company's growth is somewhat limited by the long "slog" of trying to find companies that want to replace their existing legacy systems.   So slowly and patiently Workday is talking with large, multi-national companies and helping them build the business case to move off their legacy investment and invest in the new, efficient, flexible Workday solution.

Workday 10

Which leads me to my point (I know this blog is a bit long, but there's a lot to say).  In the latest release of Workday, (release 10) the company has now introduced a important feature set which puts the company squarely into the talent management systems market.

In Release 10 (the company releases 3-4 new versions per year), Workday now has delivered a set of core features for performance management, succession management, goal linking and alignment, and flexible reporting and analytics which make the product set highly competitive with existing talent management players.  While the feature set of release 10 may not fully meet all talent management RFPs, one can quickly see that the core functionality is more than enough to implement a robust talent management solution and Workday will rapidly build the remaining features in the next 6-12 months.

Workday does not have plans to build an applicant tracking system (recruiting) or a learning management system - so buyers who badly need these types of solutions will find that Workday is starting to partner with leading providers in these two markets to deliver an integrated solution.  In the release 10 product set Workday introduced an integration with Taleo Business Edition and Mr Ted, and near term plans to integrate its product with Taleo Enterprise.  I would expect Workday to announce integrations with a few LMS vendors in the coming months and more vendors in these two markets over time.

But despite the lack of functionality in these areas, Workday's core talent management solution is quite compelling.  Not only does the company's performance management and succession feature set appear to meet the basic needs of most organizations, the company's flexible architecture will enable it to add talent mobility, pooling, segmentation, and other features quickly.   And by tightly integrating the talent management features with the HRMS, many capabilities in Workday are far ahead of standalone talent management suites.

For example, one can develop a performance plan and goals which directly links to various HR measures like employee spend, turnover, workmen's compensation, etc. to rapidly identify the impact of various performance measures on talent outcomes in the company.  Readiness plans and succession pools can be dynamically updated during any organizational change and the system stays fully accurate at all times with no extra work by IT.  This means that existing Workday customers are going to have a very hard time cost-justifying the acquisition of a third-party talent management system for their core performance, succession, and talent management needs.

Finally, in Workday 10 the company released a very powerful new solution for reporting and analytics. Without making this blog any longer, let me simply say that it seems to blend the best of multi-dimensional reporting and dynamic data warehousing into a very easy to use toolset. The tools now available to customers were initially used by Workday engineers to build system reports - so the functionality is very powerful, it reaches into all elements of the system database, and appears to be very easy to use. And it incorporates the use of "widgets" which enable users to create a report or chart and then just "paste" it into a web-page so it can be shared and reused easily.

What Does this Mean?

While Workday is still a relatively small player in the world of HR systems, the company's progress toward talent management is significant for two reasons.  First,  Workday now becomes a potential solution provider in this red-hot, still under-penetrated market - giving buyers a new and highly differentiated solution to consider.  Second, this release demonstrates that a major transition taking place:  standalone talent management systems are slowly but surely being fully integrated into HRMS-based solutions.

Today, of course, billions of dollars have been invested in HRMS and payroll systems around the world - and no major company will replace this infrastructure without a lot of careful analysis.  This "legacy system" problem is what enabled the talent management systems market to grow so quickly over the last few years, and will continue to fuel their growth into the future.

But I believe Workday's announcement signals that a major shift is taking place.  Companies can now start to consider talent management part of their core HR infrastructure - and depending on their growth plans, size, and payroll strategies, should look harder than ever at their HRMS provider as a potential provider of talent management functionality.

Our research will continue to focus heavily on the talent management systems market (and the sub-markets of talent acquisition and learning management) - because so many companies still need these systems as separate applications.  But to help you understand the growing market for 'next-generation' HRMS solutions, we have also embarked on a research program in the HRMS market - and we will publish this research in the summer or early Fall.  And we plan to focus heavily in the area of customer satisfaction as well, with a major launch of this research at the HR Technology Conference this coming Fall.

Workday's formal entry into the talent management world is important - and we will continue to update our research members on all the important players throughout the year.
By the way, please join us at our upcoming IMPACT 2010 Research Conference to learn more - we will have several panels of leading talent management systems practitioners talking about their experiences with this important new area of HR software

Josh Bersin writes on the ever-changing landscape of business-driven learning and talent management. His favorite topics include strategic talent management, creating high-impact learning organizations, and how organizations drive business change and competitive advantage through talent strategy and technology.


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