Talk about a stacked panel. This one was moderated by a thought leader, and staffed by thought leaders. They included: MODERATOR: Naomi Lee Bloom (Managing Partner, Bloom & Wallace), Steven Miranda (SVP, Applications Development, Oracle), Mike Capone (VP for Product Development and CIO, ADP), Sanjay Poonen (President Global Solutions, SAP), John Wookey (EVP, Social Applications, Salesforce.com), Stan Swete (CTO, Workday), Adam Rogers (CTO, Ultimate Software)
I’ll admit that towards the middle, it got a bit salesy as the vendors started spewing stats about how great they were and what amazing market reach they have, but I’m ok with that for the 45 minutes of gold nuggets I got first. Even the panelists eventually admitted that they could have argued with each other more, but I’m ok without that as well. Here’s what I heard.
Theme #1: Data aggregation across clients. I should say I told you so (I think I just did), but I was talking about this years ago. What is really cool about this is that so many of the SaaS vendors now have the ability to mine data across their client base. The data in a perfect SaaS world should be totally standardized since everyone is on the same software, so some instant benchmarking should be in order. I don’t think there’s much risk to be able to aggregate and share the data, but some opt-in by clients is a reasonable tradeoff, and I’d expect that most clients would opt in with the understanding that none of the client specific stuff would be shared outside of an aggregated format. Imagine a world where all of the analytics the vendor is providing can also show a benchmark with a push of a button. Your CHRO pulls up a turnover trend for the last 12 months, and with a click of a button sees the trend lines for all other clients and clients in the same industry. All of a sudden, your CHRO is hunting you down trying to understand why your turnover rates are suddenly trending higher than competitors. This isn’t reality yet, but we could be close.
An example that was quite interesting was the ADP payroll examples. We all know that the ADP payroll numbers come out ahead of the government jobs reports. The government surveys a number of people every month, but ADP has an exact number of paychecks they cut. Which one do you think is more accurate and which one do you thing most people trust?
Aggregation also benefits the vendors. The vendors have a view into what every client is using and not using. Thomas Otter came up with a wonderful new term this week: SaaS = Shelfware as a Service. The truth is that vendor can now see what is in demand, what products need enhancement, and what products where the investment opportunities are.
Theme #2: Realign focus. We’ve spent over a decade being worried about enhancements, the next patch or upgrade, and how we manage internal hardware and networks. Let’s get one thing straight – all of that is gone. If you no longer have 5-10-15 headcount worried about the management of the application, you have that many extra heads to worry about optimizing business processes or how to engage more users. Instead of worrying about the request that came in from APAC and how you are going to address a small piece of code for them, you can worry about what the bigger picture is and trying to collaborate with your vendor to have it deployed.
Theme #3: Shelfware. We talked a little bit about shelfware in theme 1, but I think it goes beyond knowing what gets used and unused. Organizations used to have trouble with buying applications that were never deployed. Or buying applications as part of a package that were never deployed. The problem is a bit different now. With 2-3-4 releases a year, clients just can’t keep up. One of the great quotes of the conference, “God could create the world in 7 days because he didn’t have install base.” Since everyone is on one system, you don’t have to worry about coding for multiple upgrade paths, multiple back end databases, etc. It’s also a great thing that everything comes turned off, but after a year, there is so much “stuff” not getting used that the planning process of how and what to deploy can get pretty complex. Vendors have to be really thoughtful about what functionality to deploy, and one of the ways many are dealing with this is by creating social communities where customers can vote on what functionality gets released next. By doing this, vendors minimize the impact of releasing functionality that nobody wants.
Theme #4: Social. Social was the theme no matter where I went at this conference. That’s not a bad thing, it just shows where everyone’s brains were. Partly because of the SaaS strategy and not having multiple environments to grapple with, mobile applications can be created quickly and with little fear of platforms. Similarly, social may be threaded into processes and functionality more seamlessly, although with so many customers going with third party social tools, this might be getting hard to embed in SaaS HCM business processes. At the end of the day though, the idea is simple. Engage your employees where they are comfortable engaging and where they do their work. This might mean extending functionality to mobile, or creating tools to facilitate conversations in social tools. Unfortunately, in today’s worls this might also mean embedding ways to perform actions in email since that is where people are comfortable today.