I had an opportunity to speak with Rob Bernshteyn from SuccessFactors about the direction they are heading. I’ll admit that SuccessFactors has been one of my favorite talent management vendors for a long time. I have always thought of them as having excellent functionailty and technology. Their data center and application delivery from a technology perspective is very clean, and they have made strong moves in the market. Add to it that they have actually been profitable since the inception of the company and you have one a winning combination. During my opportunity to speak with Rob, I was less interested in technology and functionality and more interested in product direction.
While all their competitors seem to be making moves into talent aquisition systems, SuccessFactors hasn’t aquired TAS technology yet, and doesn’t seem to be planning to. While many organizations are asking for talent aqcuisition funtionality, the actual desire to purchase an integrated TAS/TMS suite hasn’t really resonated with the market. More important that steadily increasing functionality that the market isn’t truly interested in yet, SuccessFactors is focusing on working with their customers to ensure a fully integrated suite.
While customers are interested in applicant tracking, it’s more interesting that SuccessFactors customers are also interested in real “actionable” and drillable analytics. They are asking questions like “are our competencies in alignment with our objectives” and “what are the strengths of our organization.” This tells me that customers are taking the functionality seriously and applying the data to their core strategies. I have sat around on this site lecturing everyone about how the market isn’t ready (or isn’t paying attention) to the metrics that the data can offer. Perhaps I’m totally of base. In my opinion, the real value of talent managment technology and process is secondary to the value that data can contribute to the strategy. If SuccessFactors and their customers have figured this out, they will be unstoppable.
The obvious stuff aboutSuccessFactors (in case you don’t know) is that they have a bullet-proof hosting center at IBM, utilize a multi-tenant approach to their application delivery, and have an application that is architected for web services. I didn’t really want to talk about specific technologies, but I was curious about their approach to SOA. At this time, SuccessFactors is not looking into SOAs such as Oracle Fusion or SAP NetWeaver. These products allow an integration of process (like workflow). So while XML and web services allows an application to transact data in real time across application suites and vendors, SOA allows vendors to share process. In all fairness, SOA adoption isn’t very high yet with any vendor.
SuccessFactors is a great company. They have solid technology, solid growth and solid financials (private, but by all reports they do well). Their relationships with customers is a major strength, but I wonder about the strategy of programming to customer requirements. This is possibly the most impressive thing about SuccessFactors. Their clients are raving fans of the lunatic type. I’ve never seen clients (as an aggregate) as loyal to the vendor as with this case. On the other hand, SuccessFactors, from everything I’ve heard from the client base) really seems to activly gather client requirements and implement them frequently and methodically,
The next major question for me is whether the market (vendors) follow what HR strategies exist, or if HR strategy follows what the vendors offer. So certain TMS vendors are acquiring TAS – perhaps with no makret momentum. Is SuccessFactors lagging, or are their clients right? At this moment, SuccessFactors is on the leading edge, so it’s a moot point.