Appirio outlines 2013 focus; Eyes HCM as springboard

The cloud consulting firm's master plan revolves around expanding its HCM practice to make "people-based processes less tactical and more transformational."
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Appirio, a cloud integration and consulting firm, outlined its 2013 plans and indicated that it plans to use its human capital management focus as a springboard to new implementations in mobile, CRM and collaboration.

The company on Thursday outlined a deal to make Cornerstone OnDemand as its preferred talent management partner. That partnership, along with the acquisition of Knowledge Infusion, has made Appirio the go-to cloud HCM integration outfit.

Not surprisingly, Appirio's 2013 focus areas break down like this:

  • Expand the HCM practice and make "people-based processes less tactical and more transformational -- across every functional area." In HCM, Appirio is pushing Workday and Cornerstone. According to Cornerstone CEO Adam Miller, speaking on a November earnings conference call, his company is a partner with Workday, but may tread on co-opetition. Appirio will have to be Switzerland should those two partners wind up duking it out.
  • Appirio will take CloudSpokes, its community and cloud platform, and extend it more to independent software vendors.
  • The company aims to bring more analytics and metrics to customers.
  • And add global development centers around the world to support its core efforts as well as "a growing number of CRM, HCM, collaboration and mobile-focused customer engagements."

In a nutshell, Appirio plans to take its HCM focus into other areas. What's unclear is whether SAP and Oracle customers eyeing mixed deployments will bite completely on Appirio's cloud pitch or keep their core ERP and financial applications. To date, Appirio's stack looks like this:



Going forward, Appirio may have to add to that roster. Perhaps it needs RackSpace in infrastructure. Dennis Howlett noted NetSuite could fit into the mix. Does Appirio have to ponder adding Oracle's cloud wares at some point?

What does Appirio's latest moves mean for CXOs?

  • The consulting firm becomes a go-to partner for "people process" projects?
  • Your existing vendors such as Oracle and SAP will be pitching cloud HCM tools too. 
  • Workday, if it poaches HCM and financials customers from the giants, could be a catalyst for a run on cloud deployments. 
  • Appirio plans to keep its all-cloud heritage, but if it's acquired that could change. 
  • Pure cloud players may ultimately have to engage in co-opetition with SAP and Oracle cloud offerings. 

The common thread here is that Appirio and its partners are all aligned against the legacy players. Things will get much more complicated if those legacy players---SAP and Oracle primarily---get their cloud acts together.

In fact, the integration work with the cloud is becoming more interesting just based on co-opetition.

Miller said:

Workday is a great partner and a great company. What I will say is that in this space, and particularly amongst all of the cloud computing companies, not just within talent management, but broadly, you are going to see increasing levels of co-opetition. Many of us are working together, but many of us also on the margins or the fringes, compete. And it's just part of the game. We are all getting quite good at it. We have a lot of co-opetition amongst many of our alliance partners. And that is true with cloud companies in general, as well as other consulting and payroll-type companies, as well. And I think you're going to see more of that over time.

For now, Appirio, Cornerstone and the gang have plenty of upside. SAP and Oracle are focused on keeping customers not necessarily HCM innovation.

There is one wrinkle for IT buyers to ponder though. What happens when Cornerstone and/or Appirio are acquired? A company like Accenture could swoop in and make Appirio its cloud consultancy. Cornerstone appears to have lost out on the merger go round as Oracle scooped up Taleo and SAP bought SuccessFactors, but could be a target in the future.

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