in Oracle's Report Card

Self-reported, to be sure, Oracle delivered its twice-a-year report card in February at its HCM Cloud Analyst Day. Every year, I get one six months earlier for my annual "horse race" feature, in which I compare progress among the Big Three (the other two being Workday and SAP SuccessFactors, of course). Most startling at Oracle was hearing that, after 20 years, the Taleo name and product could be changing!

By Bill Kutik

Four years ago, there were seven or so major IT analyst firms, with employees researching various complex corners of the computer industry full time. All the firms required their analysts to live within driving distance of their headquarters.

Consequently, vendors could dispatch their senior executives to brief them all with a three-day New England road trip: Fly to New York City; rent a car; drive an hour to Stamford, Conn., for Gartner and Meta Group; drive two hours to Framingham, Mass., for IDC (and maybe a sit down with Computerworld); and then take an hour's drive to finish in Cambridge, Mass., and Boston, for Forester, Giga and Yankee Group.

Drop off the car at Logan and fly home.

My friend, Vinnie Mirchandani, claims he ruined this game by getting Gartner to let him live in Tampa, Fla., far from the office. But whoever started the trend, analysts now live wherever they please and visiting them in person is not a road trip. Even though the major firms are down to three (Gartner, IDC and Forrester), their HCM analysts live in St. Paul, Minn.; San Jose, Calif.; Newburyport, Mass.; and Midlothian, Va.

Plus, with the rise of social media, vendors began to realize their prospective customers were reading and listening to a broader range of people. "Influencers" were added to the chattering class, and they include serious bloggers, newer analyst firms or older second-tier firms, consultants and other kinds of researchers.

Thus was born the "Analyst Day": paying influencers' expenses to fly to a hotel for a day or two. There, senior executives give group presentations on the latest product and company news and strategies, sometimes mingle at cocktail parties and meals, and often hold short scheduled private meetings. And, of course, they answer a blizzard of questions.

At Oracle's recent Analyst Day, the most startling news for me was big changes going on with Taleo, after nearly 20 years at the top of the heap for multinational recruiting software. Three years ago (two years after Oracle's  acquisition of Taleo), Division Vice President Gretchen Alarcon showed me under a NDA a large deck with everything that needed to be done to integrate Taleo into the Fusion (now "Cloud") technology stack. It got well behind schedule.

Meanwhile, Oracle was finding a better way: creating a parallel development track to re-create Taleo's world-class functionality on Fusion with the same platform and infrastructure as all the other HCM cloud applications.

The lead presenter, Chris Leone, senior vice president of HCM development and Gretchen's boss, emphasized many times that Oracle would continue to support Taleo, just as it supports PeopleSoft, and that users would not be forced to migrate. But what happens to the name? Or, like PeopleSoft, will it live forever?

In the last five years, the Taleo user base has grown from 750 to 2,000 with 400 of them using Core HR.

I feel writing this is like driving a knife into the heart of Colin Day, who spent his youth trying to catch Taleo with his company iCIMS. Overtaking "Oracle Talent Acquisition Cloud," or whatever it will be called, can never be as gratifying, even though it's now owned by Oracle.

For Chris, the new recruiting application allowed him to claim having the most HCM modules on a common platform. "More than Workday," he said.

As for the big competitive numbers signed customers for Core HR Oracle reported going from 1,300 on May 31, 2016 to 1,600 now; and SAP SuccessFactors reported going from 1,250 on June 31, 2016 to 1,580 now. Workday last revealed a number last September: 1,350.

Of course, client numbers do not reveal how many employees are covered by the software, a calculation Chris said Oracle was no longer making.

One of the new modules in Release 12, which came out in January, is Volunteering, a new application in Oracle's unique Work Life suite. Chris, and the suite's doting father, Mark Bennett, have shown extraordinary commitment to Work Life, given that its most popular application, Wellness, has only 150 customers signed after three or four years. The plan is to add mentoring to the soon-to-be-renamed My Reputation application (also part of the Work Life suite) soon.

The other biggie was a new Help Desk, which Chris said was the only one ever built on top of an HRMS. He said the benefit of building on the same data model was eliminating the need for integration and the fact that security for these often very personal cases is able to come from the Core HR.

More interesting to me was the update (and review) of Oracle Cloud Learning, which no one dares call an "LMS" anymore. The big three are all busy re-inventing it, but Oracle started first with a 2014 announcement and three releases starting in 2015. It has 120 signed customers with from 5,000 employees to 150,000 employees, but only 20 percent are live, which was said to be impossible until this year.

Senior Director June Farmer explained that the first release had the cool new social stuff: learning cloud capabilities, including employees creating and posting videos and tutorials, discussions about them and ratings of them, plus learner and manager self-service.

The second release had the more traditional functions of e-learning, classroom training (real and virtual), prerequisites, certifications and lots more.

The latest version has functionality that June said was unique among learning products. Capabilities include creating learning campaigns (just like automated marketing campaigns) for specially targeted learners, learning communities for managers and administrators to drive learning to their teams, and offline learning completely synchronized between a user's mobile and web devices.

Traditional e-commerce capabilities the ability for companies to sell and bill for training to their customers or franchisees are planned by the end of the year.

Unlike the old analyst briefings, which were two hours, this Analyst Day was indeed a day. So there's much more to come another time, especially after digging into the booklet Gretchen handed out that she said was the HCM future road map. Now that was a first! What will someone pay for mine?

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chair emeritus of the 20th Annual HR Technology Conference & Expo, returning to Las Vegas, Oct. 10-13, 2017. Get a personal preview of Mercer's giant annual "Talent Trends" report from co-author Katherine Jones on the 26th episode of his broadcast-quality video series, Firing Line with Bill Kutik.


Feb 27, 2017
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