HR Technology Column

What Does Actually Do?

The talent management suite vendor is another unfortunate example of a "best kept secret" in HR technology. That will change soon, following its victory at the HR Technology® Shootout, as it widens its functional footprint faster than any other in the market.

Monday, February 8, 2010
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One thing (NASDAQ: SLRY) hasn't done is change its original 1999 name, which remains an artifact of the dot-com boom, when every company stuck ".com" after its name. Of course, seems to be doing all right with that.

But another thing it hasn't done is make clear that its original business of providing salary survey data to individuals (props for that!) and to corporations (along with analytic software called CompAnalyst) is just a sliver of what it offers today.

After winning the Second Annual Integrated Talent Management Shootout at the HR Technology® Conference last October -- against Plateau, Lawson and SAP -- CEO Kent Plunkett had the decidedly mixed pleasure of prospects coming up to him afterward and saying, "I didn't know Salary did all that."

Yup. Another "best kept secret" in the software industry. Nothing to be proud of when you're a public company with 550 employees, about 250 of them offshore.

But that promises to change soon, as Salary expands its functional footprint faster than just about any vendor in HR technology, making it the best example of the growing convergence of traditional HRMS vendors and the newer talent management suite vendors.

You've probably heard that suite vendors such as Softscape, SuccessFactors, SilkRoad and others have added lightweight "employee recordkeeping" modules (one-third of a traditional core HR system) to their talent applications.

Well, Salary bought a real HRMS -- Genesys -- and is re-coding it to be Salary's full SaaS-based HRMS integrated with talent management and plans to be finished for this September's HR Technology® Conference.

Salary has already taken Genesys' legendary powerful payroll module -- once used to run dozens of payroll service bureaus in the United States and Canada -- and delivered "Enterprise Payroll" for individual companies to use themselves or as a service bureau. Temporarily using other code, it also has an SMB payroll product called "Payroll Manager Express."

By April, Plunkett expects to have a full suite of SMB products for companies with 100 to 250 employees, using the company's own code for talent management, and hoping to compete with Taleo Business Edition, SuccessFactors small company products (many names there) and Halogen.

On the enterprise level -- and Salary's sweet spot is companies with 300 to 5,000 employees -- its TalentManager product includes goal and performance management, compensation planning, development and career planning, succession planning and competency management.

Salary has still not revealed its plans for offering learning and recruiting, its two remaining talent management gaps.

But despite its functional breadth, Salary's competitive advantage may come down to one word: content.

Through an acquisition, Salary obtained a thorough competency library, now fully integrated into two new products -- CompetencyManager and SkillsManager -- as well as used elsewhere. Only Taleo has similar competency integration with a library acquired with Vurv.

Analyst Lisa Rowan declared in her latest report, IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Integrated Talent Management 2010 Vendor Analysis, "Of all the vendors, has the most content available to enable talent processes."

I've long expected that the winner of the talent management race would be the vendor that delivers it all together -- software and content -- but that still remains unclear. Even though Salary's content is integrated in several modules, Plunkett reports that only 10 percent to 15 percent of customers buy it.

"If they're just doing performance, that's not enough," he says. "When they get into development and succession planning, then they need competencies."

Going outside the traditional HR box, Salary is also offering a new sales incentive product based on an acquisition, Makana, to compete with Callidus and Xactly. But HR has usually kept away from sales comp because it is so individual and very occasionally, illegal!

For his part, Plunkett has appointed his first president and COO -- former CTO Yong Zhang -- so he can get out more: Fly the flag, talk to the industry and prospects face-to-face and do business development.

If he keeps his eye on the ball, maybe he'll never again be asked what does.


SuccessFactors + Inform = ??

Remarkable that the world of HR technology is changing so fast that a monthly, regularly scheduled column with an advance due date can't possibly keep up with the latest developments. SuccessFactors, the hard-charging talent management suite vendor that has already broken away from the pack with Taleo, recently announced its intention to buy the workforce analytics and planning vendor Inform Business Impact (formerly InfoHRm).

Instantly, Twitter goes mad with comments, in-depth analyses appear soon after on blogs and Web sites, and even just a few days later, what insight is left to offer?

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Here are two. Inform's business, though increasingly based on software, still depends on large consulting engagements on the front end, before clients get to use the software. True of all the workforce planning vendors such as Vemo, Aruspex and OrcaEyes. This is a new business model for SuccessFactors, and I wonder how easily it can integrate its first acquisition that operates so differently.

Two, interesting that the companies' visions, at least, seem to be perfectly aligned: moving beyond HR to senior management. This acquisition will bring some reality to SuccessFactors' recent direction announcement of BizX applications to help those folks get their work done, and Inform symbolically dropped the "HR" from its name after nearly 20 years.

Otherwise, I suggest you read the best long analyses by Jason Corsello and Josh Bersin in the discussion I've posted at the HR Technology® Conference LinkedIn Group (open membership) or individually here and here. Also in the Group, check out the comments to Lisa Rowan's discussion.


Kent Plunkett resigned as CEO of on February 22.

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chairman of the 13th Annual HR Technology® Conference & Exposition in Chicago, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2010. You can comment on his column at the Conference LinkedIn Group , which has open membership. He is also host of The Bill Kutik Radio Show ®. He can be reached at .  

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