There's an arms race brewing in HR software. This week, Ultimate Software announced greater global payroll support and user definable fields. The company's offerings are expanding functionally and geographically and their relevance to more HR solution buyers will likely increase.
Today, at Ultimate Software’s annual user conference, Ultimate CTO Adam Rogers announced major product capabilities and alliances.
Ultimate has been content to be a provider of payroll and related solutions to U.S. based firms for years with expanded coverage to Canada in recent times. Global expansion, if it happened, would occur in a measured way consistent with the fiscal and growth plans of the company. But at this conference, the company announced a new strategic relationship with Celergo, a payroll solutions provider.
Founded in 2004, Celergo appears to offers payroll capabilities to approximately 110 countries (or 156 countries/territories via a fact sheet they provided me). Celergo has support centers in Chicago, London, Budapest and Singapore. Celergo boasts some 150 companies as clients and this deal should, in time, open up additional customers for the company.
But, to deliver true global payroll, Ultimate has to do more than create a global payroll interface connector (which it has already done). Ultimate is adding localization capabilities to its core product and should be able to support some 30 countries in short order. Ultimate added custom field capabilities to the product that will help with the capture, editing and forwarding of critical local, regulatory and customer-specific data needed to successfully process payroll or other local business requirements.
Globalization means more than payroll, though. Ultimate will need global HR functionality beyond payroll processing. It will need language support in these countries, too. And, in good news, the company already supports several languages natively as well as double-byte character languages.
Connectivity & Faster Installs
To help customers implement Ultimate solutions faster, the company announced a partnership with Informatica. I’ve always liked the approach Informatica has had with cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-on-premises and other integrations. As one of Informatica’s executives stated at the event, companies will need more integration technology as “data will continue to fragment apart from the enterprise”. What he’s referring to is the growing volume of non-ERP data that businesses want to peruse, connect to, analyze and incorporate into their decision making and/or internal systems. These new data sources are growing dramatically in number and the size of same can be astounding. He’s right on that. And, software vendors, be they HR or ERP, are fools to assume their systems will remain (if they ever really were this) the center of the computing universe. It’s a different world now and customers need to connect to it.
Ultimate did this deal not just because of the new data issue but they also saw an opportunity to speed up systems implementations. By permitting faster integrations, clients get systems up faster, reduce implementation costs and improve the ROI (or reduce the TCO) of a new Ultimate installation. This is a partnership that is a win-win-win for customers, Ultimate and Informatica.
When asked about use cases for integration, analysts heard that customers want:
Integration with insurance carriers, benefits providers, etc.
The means to bring in other data into critical HR processes re: new hires and terminations
Informatica and Ultimate to incorporate more of Informatica’s business process modeling (and master data management) into the solution mix
to use a service like Informatica’s for things other than basic ETL solutions
Ultimate is working on a fourth generation cloud data center technology stack. We will likely learn more of this tomorrow. Ultimate has already expanded beyond its current data centers in Atlanta and Phoenix with new sites in Toronto and Vancouver. This amplifies their stated intent to pursue a greater focus on Canadian deals.
Other announcements included more mobile capabilities, a new HTML 5 mobile interface, a neat timeline feature re: an employee’s work history, and more.
We also got hints that recruiting and identity functionality may also be in the offing.
Today's announcements suggest a stiffening in the competitive battle for mindshare and marketshare for Payroll, HR and related technologies. The parallels between Ultimate's announcements and recent ones from Workday suggest a bit of an arms race may be shaping up in the HR tech space. Competition is good thing for tech buyers as it drives up innovation (and sometimes drives down costs). This should be a fun one to watch.....
Disclosure: Ultimate Software covered my travel costs to this event. I will be a speaker on a panel tomorrow with several HR analyst peers. Ultimate is compensating me for my time on that effort.