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HR Technology Column

SuccessFactors Does It Again!

While its recent acquisitions of Inform and CubeTree have grabbed most of the headlines for SuccessFactors, please pay a little attention to how the company continues to hurtle down a collision course with every HRMS vendor in our world.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
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"Again," in this case, means SuccessFactors has set a product goal for itself so bold, audacious and potentially market-changing that it makes me twitch with anxiety about its execution.

A year ago, the company announced EmployeeCentral, a light-weight employee record-keeping system built for its smaller performance and talent management clients. Since its release last June, about 50 have been sold.

Without benefits or payroll, EC comprises one-third of a core HR system, HRIS, HRMS, HCM, system of record or whatever you like to call it. The big HR system.

Well, small clients, no more!

At the company's May user conference in New York, Edward Golitko, senior director of HR for EMC -- the $14-billion digital storage company with 46,000 employees in 16 countries -- announced his company had become the development partner for EC.

And in response to my question, Golitko said he would unplug EMC's PeopleSoft Enterprise HRMS in exactly one year and use EC instead!

Please put that date into your Outlook calendar right now: May 10, 2011.

Of course, EMC is already outsourcing the two other parts of an HRMS: payroll to ADP and benefits to a variety of firms, including Fidelity.

It only uses the basics of its Version 7.5 of PeopleSoft HRMS: the company's last client/server product, now more than 10 years old and at least six versions behind the current Version 9.1.

EMC uses Kenexa BrassRing for recruiting, Saba for training and soon SuccessFactors for succession this year.

So EMC is certainly right to switch. Version 7.5 customers are known to be the ripest customers out there to fall off the tree. You can't imagine how hard and expensive it is to get from 7.5 to the current release. Yes, like implementing a new system, so why not get a new one?

But his commitment to unplug PeopleSoft in a year struck me as a fantasy. A year? One year for SuccessFactors to accomplish what has taken Workday four years and probably a hundred employees who have already produced an HRMS once or twice before?

EMC's vendor-selection process exemplified the collision I predicted a year ago that EC could cause between talent management and HRMS vendors. Golitko said it came down to Workday and SuccessFactors as the final two -- polar opposites in their product offerings -- Workday with the entire core and some TM; SuccessFactors with TM and that little EC.

Golitko wanted both and obviously bet that SuccessFactors could meet his deadline.

My doubts about that happening ebbed slightly when VP of Global Product Management Dmitri Krakovsky by chance introduced me to his new EC team.

Adam Kovalevsky was a 10-year HR software development executive for PeopleSoft and then Oracle. Product manager Murali Mashavanchery is a seven-year veteran of Deloitte, where he said he implemented PeopleSoft 10 times and Workday once.

The other two are younger, maybe brilliant, but since neither was wearing an MIT or Stanford computer science sweatshirt, I can't say: Anthony Huang, a six-year Oracle engineer, and Kai Xu.

Krakovsky says he's not chasing Workday; he just wants to meet EMC's challenges. But he does want his team to produce something different from any HRMS ever written: a software package that has a consumer-like experience, similar to QuickBooks, which he managed at Intuit for years.

That, I'd bet he can do. But even with veterans like Kovalevsky and Mashavanchery on board, I fear SuccessFactors will miss some of the fundamentals. Just as it has with its new recruiting application.

Under development (like EC in the smaller company product group) for more than three years, recruiting is being readied to meet the needs of Siemens with more than 400,000 employees and is scheduled to go live at Bechtel with 60,000 employees in 60 countries in August.

And the thing doesn't accept resumes!

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Though a burdensome and always inaccurate process, parsing and extracting resumes is part of the processing end of every recruiting system, except for those with deliberately disruptive technology such as JobFox and ResumePal.

The process recognizes (parses) what on the resume is the applicant's name, address, education, experience, etc., and extracts the data to fill the fields of a searchable database record for the applicant.

Not SuccessFactors.

Instead, it uses a method Taleo abandoned two years after starting in 1998: candidate profiling. Please forget what that phrase may mean to you now; it originally meant a candidate cutting and pasting the appropriate parts of his or her resume into the appropriate boxes (or database fields) online.

Candidates wouldn't do it. Hiring managers screamed for printed resumes to hold in their hands. Taleo gave it up. Yet the SuccessFactors executive in charge of the recruiting product said of parsing and scanning, "We're going to get to that." One hundred recruiting customers already sold, huge ones on the horizon, and "We're going to get to that"?!?

Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled by innovative software. And SuccessFactors seems as nimble at innovation as any vendor in our industry. I can't wait to see the large company EmployeeCentral -- whenever it gets finished. I can't wait to see SuccessFactors change the dynamics of our software market.

Just build me a solid floor first, please.

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chairman of the 13th Annual HR Technology┬« Conference & Exposition in Chicago, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. Read this year's program online. You can comment on his column at the Conference LinkedIn Group , which does not require prior attendance to join. He is also host of The Bill Kutik Radio Show ┬«. He can be reached at bkutik@earthlink.net .  

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