The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

systematicHR Avatar

Out comes a new release of SuccessFactors popular talent management system.  My general opinion is that the leading talent management systems are all playing on a fairly level playing field.  They are all pretty well integrated, they all have good functionality, and most are operating on a SaaS model.  When you’re looking at feature-functionality, everybody is pretty much within 5% of everyone else.  It is basically where we were with HRMS systems years ago.  After all, how much more job data can one get in the HR system?  It is the same with core performance systems and such.  The old (current) way of doing performance is pretty well standardized across the board.  You give a performance review every so often, and you rate people on their relative attainment of goals before you move onto creating your next set of goals for the future.

There are some areas where one talent vendor can get an advantage over the others though.  These are in the codebase that they are using, the design of the user experience, and the new areas of functionality they are developing into.

SuccessFactors interestingly named a release.  This is quite interesting for a company among companies that don’t actually have formal releases.  However, ULTRA is supposed to be a major departure from prior versions and the user experience now makes SuccessFactors a major contender in any system selection.  They have elected not to use a standardized codebase such as Adobe FLEX or AJAX.  Instead, they have adopted the philosophy that the appropriate code will be used for the appropriate end user experience and functionality.  I’ve not fully developed my opinion on this, and while SF seems to think that this makes them more agile, I tend to feel that as they develop the product, have more code bases to maintain, and delve into yet more functional areas, operating on several platforms will become cumbersome.  The verdict is still out.  Whatever I think, SF has deployed a user interface that is admirable and looks as sleek as anything else out there.  I’d give them a really high rating here as their look and feel might come out at the top of the stack.  I’d really have to give all the major vendors high marks in focusing on the user experience and SF is now the latest vendor to deliver effectively.  I won’t tiptoe around on this one:  The UI is beautiful.

SF is also touting that they have delivered a uniquely innovating set of new functionality.  While I again give them high marks for innovating at all, I’m not sure they are innovating in the right places.  Let’s take a couple examples.  First of all, Facebook integration just feels like it has not quite arrived yet.  While SF is among the top organizations to delivering client requested product modifications, this is one of those areas I have a hard time with as one of those cases of, “they requested it, but will they really use it?”

Client: We’d really like to see what our employees are doing with Facebook.  We’d also like to play with using it more as part of our internet strategy
SF:  (integrates Facebook)
Client:  Great.  Now that we have this, what do we do with it?  How do we roll this out to our employees?  And we have not thought about any sort of governance structure around it.  This could be problematic.

The second example I have is the floor-plan and seating chart functionality.  I’ll also say that this one is really quite cool.  You can go in, employees can self identify to the application where they sit, and then everyone has an easy time finding you when they visit your office.  Is this a cool enhancement?  Yes.  Will it help in a variety of scenarios?  Sure.  Does this move forward the talent management function?  I really don’t think so.  Nice stuff is nice stuff, but that does not mean that I would have wanted SF or any other vendor spending time thinking about this as opposed to something that really impacts the talent functionality.  At the end of the day, innovating in the product is great.  But innovating their point of view on talent is more important.  Eventually, brining their point of view on what the future of talent is going to look like has got to be their focus.

Is my readers know, I’ll editorialize pretty much everything.  That does not discount the fact that SuccessFactors is one of the most popular talent management systems on the market for good reason.  They have solid functionality, good integration, and now an excellent user interface to go along with it.  This is a great release for an already solid product.

Tagged in :

systematicHR Avatar

7 responses to “SuccessFactors ULTRA”

  1. systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Technology » SuccessFactors ULTRA

  2. Lexy Martin Avatar

    UI seems to be one of the main battlegrounds these days. We recognized this in our annual survey two years ago and I’ve watched improvements from may of the TM vendors…Taleo, SF, even Oracle and SAP.
    But I think there is another battleground which is the services provided by the vendors and this may be a more important differentiator. Granted, some SaaS products are truly easy to implement, but few are easy to INTEGRATE. Getting a good implementor from the vendor who can work with a company to handle not only the technical aspects of integration, but even the change management issues, will be the key to success for the buyer.
    Having been around for a long time, I’m reminded of the maturation of “office automation” products back in the mid-eighties. IBM, Digital Equipment (remember DEC), Data General, Wang, Hewlett-Packard and others all had office automation products that eventually became comparable on functionality. What differentiated the winners was the service and support provided to implement the products. HP was a winner as was IBM. And look at who’s still around today and who is not….

  3. systematicHR Avatar

    Lexy, I agree. And I’m not just talking about internal integration within the talent suite. There really needs to be better external integration with ERP’s and components of BoB applications you have from other vendors. Seamless protal experiences, reporting and workflow is all still very poor, and I don’t see it getting better for a few years.

  4. Mike Avatar

    To be clear, ULTRA specifically refers to the revamped UI. Version 11 envelops the shifts in functionality that you mention above, as well as others. I think the distinction is important. To your point on whether the enhancements are meaningful, they may see a lot of takers on the UI side and lesser adoption around the enhanced functionality… or vice versa (if that’s allowed, not sure). In both cases, the changes are significant enough that they will likely require change management around the upgrade, so it will be interesting to see what the customer response is – where do they see a great enough value-add to spend the time moving to the latest and greatest version? And will we start to see a rupture of the pure multi-tenant architecture with major releases like this?

  5. Dave Polacheck Avatar
    Dave Polacheck

    I sat through an ULTRA demo the other day and was once again dazzled by SF’s slick UI and the diverse functionality. However, I personally am not wow-ed by oodles and oodles of functionality or 3D icons. As an HR guy who’s worked with companies from 2k to 300k employees, I’m interested in a system that delivers a thoughtful process end-to-end, the same way every time. The actual value in my experience comes from outside the system anyway, using the data and a handful of analytical views to facilitate thoughtful dialog with and about each team and individual in the organization. It’s the process and discussion I’m interested in, so I’m looking to my vendor to bring me a best-in-class approach for my business.

    Across the HR technology markets I’ve been disappointed in this regard. “Our system does it all” is IMO a shallow but ubiquitous sales line. Yes any functionality can be built — office mapping is a great example — but does that give me a thoughtful process to rally a workforce around a common vision and find the talent within? “We’ve got the process figured out” is what I’m still waiting to hear.

  6. […] systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Technology » SuccessFactors ULTRA One view on the SuccessFactors Ultra release. (tags: talentmanagementperformancemanagementsocialnetworking) […]