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Business

SuccessFactors: Backing into business intelligence?

SuccessFactors, a human resources software as a service company, on Thursday will detail a series of moves to tackle "business execution" applications. Will the SaaS vendor ultimately play the business intelligence software game?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

SuccessFactors, a human resources software as a service company, on Thursday will detail a series of moves to tackle "business execution" applications. Will the SaaS vendor ultimately play the business intelligence software game?

Here's the theory behind the company's repositioning to be announced Thursday: SuccessFactors launched as a public company based on its employee performance management (EPM) software. That people performance market is estimated to be about $15.9 billion by the company. With a move into business execution---sort of a lightweight business intelligence category---SuccessFactors can more than double its target market. The business alignment category is a $20 billion market.

Also see: SuccessFactors plots another course: Business execution software

It's an interesting move. SuccessFactors is essentially saying that you can view the performance of your company through the human resources prism. In a nutshell, EPM boils down to employee reviews and evaluation. SuccessFactors has dabbled with business alignment through modules focused on employee goals and whether they are lined up with enterprise objectives.

Now SuccessFactors wants to mix its goals and performance services with corporate data from other enterprise systems, say Oracle's Hyperion, Salesforce.com and NetSuite. In the end, you'll get a dashboard that shows you the top performers, their direct reports and how they're doing by the metrics in real time.

Think something like this:

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"The bridge between performance and alignment is goals, explains Paul Albright, chief marketing officer and general manager at SuccessFactors. "Our key IP (intellectual property) is goals management and it's a huge differentiator at the C-level. Goals and analytics are the two biggies."

Sounds a lot like business intelligence right? Not quite, says Albright.

SuccessFactors is more about dashboards than business intelligence. The company will create "connectors" to various enterprise systems. And the company will launch with at least eight partners ranging from IBM to NetSuite to Salesforce.

The real analytics will come from other systems, but customers want to view all of that information through one dashboard. "This could be blending into BI for some, like BI for common folks," says Albright. "But we are complementary since the more sophisticated analysis will come from elsewhere."

In other words, SuccessFactors is a way to deliver business intelligence to employees' desktops, but not a rival to systems like Cognos, BusinessObjects and Hyperion. That's true today, but Albright notes that SuccessFactors is "just scratching the surface" and there's "a lot more to come."

If I were a betting man I'd wager that SuccessFactors will increasingly look like a business intelligence as a service vendor.

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