Observations from the HR Technology show

Quick Trends in HR The HR Technology show is probably the most important HR technology event of the year. It attracts a significant number of vendors (approximately 225 by my count) and buyers.
Written by Brian Sommer, Contributor

Quick Trends in HR

The HR Technology show is probably the most important HR technology event of the year. It attracts a significant number of vendors (approximately 225 by my count) and buyers. I spent a couple of days covering the latest (11th) HR Technology show at Chicago’s McCormick West. There, I had the opportunity to meet with the executive leaders of almost two dozen providers of HR solutions as well as buyers of these solutions.

Here’s a summary list of observations:

Photo courtesy of TechVentive, Inc.

- Workday continues to draw well at HR shows – I overheard one executive whisper that booth attendees at the Workday location “are only nine deep this year – down from ten”. They’ve still got that magic draw that other exhibitors wished they had even in a fragile economy. - SaaS is king in HR, talent management and other related solutions – Executive after executive wanted me to know that their firm is: o A true SaaS (software as a service) offering; or, o Offering both SaaS and on-premise solutions; or, o Marketing their hosted solution as a SaaS product; or, o Encouraging their resellers to offer a hosted version of their solution. - Lots of vendors found fault with competitors that have grown via acquisitions. The concern being voiced is that imperfect 'enterprise' solutions exist whenever several acquired modules are slammed together. Flip Filipowski, a major investor in another hot vendor at the show, Silk Road, said that all vendors eventually end up with code they acquired via mergers, outsourcing or other sources. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. I’d agree with Flip. - The mid-market is the promised land – I didn’t encounter a single vendor that wasn’t selling to this space. Apparently, everyone is expecting great riches here. What I wasn’t convinced of was whether all vendors are optimally structured to sell well here. - Everybody has a solution for the financial market collapse – If a vendor already had big accounts in this space, they insisted that they would continue to have additional successes in this vertical. Other vendors see the consolidation and economic ruin there as opportunities. I heard many vendors pitch solutions to help with rightsizing merged firms. Some vendors are selling elaborate technologies to determine which employees to keep or cull in these tough times for financial services firms. - Who do most vendors want to poach customers from? Major ERP vendors, SuccessFactors and Taleo were the usual names offered up. This is always a great question to ask as it quickly tells you who the hottest or most vulnerable players are in a segment. In this space, the ERP players are probably the most vulnerable. - Venture backed firms are worried – HR technology firms that are venture capital financed are concerned about their future. In this tight economy, additional venture monies are harder to come by. Larger, better funded firms should be able to pick up some great technologies at very nice prices soon. - Resumes are problematic – I saw some pretty fascinating technology from firms like HRMC Acclaim and Interactive Applicant. These firms understand that pouring over thousands of resumes is not the way to find great talent. Both firms have overhauled the interview process to ensure businesses do a better job of interviewing candidates. While both firms have their advantages, HRMC really impressed me with their ability to dramatically improve recruiting results. - Cool stuff comes from overseas – Without a doubt, one of the best user interfaces I saw was from Sonar6. Sonar6, a New Zealand firm, has a super slick performance and talent management solution. This one you have to see to appreciate. -Deep, relevant partners Sage Software brought along Motivano, a Sage partner that provides pay card (payroll that goes directly to a pre-paid debit card) functionality that complements the Sage Abra software. As opposed to a generic reseller, Motivano represents the type of focused software partner more vendors need to cultivate.

As to attendance and buyer interest, I did hear anecdotal comments that exhibitors thought attendance to be a bit down from last year but I wouldn’t agree. This year’s venue was moved from the Navy Pier to a much more spacious facility. The crowds in the exhibition hall and the breakouts were significant. In my estimation, the crowd looked much larger than prior years. As for buyer interest, buyers were definitely in force and kicking tires. But, their level of buying commitment or immediacy of purchase intention did seem a little more tentative.

More on this in subsequent posts.

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