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HR Technology Column

'Where's the Rest of Me?'

One talent management suite vendor no longer has to echo Ronald Reagan's famous movie line, and it's Taleo. With the recent acquisition of Learn.com, Taleo is the first large suite vendor finally to have all the applications -- and more -- but the race is hardly over.

Monday, September 20, 2010
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When the talent management marathon started six years ago (yes, it's been that long), I might not have bet on Taleo.

The market-leading application Taleo brought to the fight -- recruiting -- wasn't as central to the talent management suite as, say, performance. It had fewer necessary (and strategic) integration points into the other applications. That's the reason Oracle, SAP and PeopleSoft let software partners handle recruiting for them until about 10 years ago, when they wrote it themselves.

Certainly important, but just not so central.

Plus there were already two smaller vendors -- HRsmart and Softscape -- which had all the apps themselves at the time.

(In the continuing blazing consolidation in our industry, family-owned Softscape was bought on Sept.17 by private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, to join the learning vendor it owns, SumTotal. Vista also owns Accero, the former Cyborg.)

In addition,Taleo started the race later than others, adding its second application just three years ago, the still ground-breaking performance-management module by James Harvey, now head of its Innovation Labs. Recruiting has since been moved to the same platform and user interface, now called Taleo 10.

CEO Mike Gregoire sometimes seemed to be dragged kicking to the bar. When he announced Taleo's intention to add performance four years ago in a telephone briefing, he said compensation was unlikely because Taleo's then mostly large customers had told him they'd spent too many years building their own to switch.

But times and customer bases change, and just last year after initially partnering with World Wide Compensation, Taleo bought it to create an integrated comp module.

At the Taleo World user conference in Chicago this year, Gregoire admitted he was a reluctant convert to learning, but that one-third of the RFPs the company was receiving were asking for it and that changed his mind.

The Learn.com acquisition has plenty of challenges. Though its technology platform can scale to the largest customers, its set of features and functions are designed for the mid-market clients it has always served. Large companies will want more and learning is a honking big application, just ask the people at Saba, Plateau and SumTotal -- the market leaders in learning-management systems.

There's lots of work ahead for Taleo and the Learn.com people.

But competitively the one thing that matters is SuccessFactors doesn't have it!

Though mistakenly thought to be an LMS, SuccessFactors' Learning & Development module is not. Just as Taleo customers used to go to Learn.com to get one, SuccessFactors' go to its partner GeoLearning for it.

So there's a competitive differentiator. But how about SuccessFactors acquisition of Inform, a leading workforce-analytics and planning company?

Taleo matched that at World with the announcement of a partnership with workforce-planning vendor Aruspex, founded by PeopleSoft veteran Stacy Chapman. Insiders say that if the partnership works out, Taleo will soon acquire the company.

While SuccessFactors always gets the kudos for being nimble at development, Taleo showed some of its own -- with a stunning new analytics package, again from James Harvey, that has already incorporated aspects of Aruspex technology for head-count predictions.

The new package puts some real chops behind Taleo's "Talent Intelligence" slogan and completely replaces analytic technology from Business Objects (now owned by SAP), which evidently presents security problems when used as a Software-as-a-Service application.

Still, there's Employee Central, SuccessFactors' "system of record" module that it says can replace an HRMS with outsourced payroll and benefits administration added. That is truly the talent-management game-changer, and Gregoire says Taleo has no interest in matching it. But we'll see.

For my part, I'd like Taleo to correct a dropped stitch in its original recruiting knitting: the lack of its own great sourcing tool for finding candidates.

Recruiting has fundamentally changed in the last five years. I will never forget the conversation I had in 1993, when I'm sure I didn't even know there was a Internet, with Lars Perkins, the visionary founder of the company called Restrac and then Webhire, PeopleSoft's original recruiting partner in 1990 and now owned by Kenexa.

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Lars, now an executive at Google, stretched his arms above his head, and said, "Bill, imagine a day when everybody's resume is just out there. Somehow just out there for the finding. Think of how that will change the nature of recruiting: from sitting in a boat with a baited hook to scuba-diving with a spear gun. From attraction to search."

Well, 17 years later, Lars now seems prescient and magnificently right. Just about everybody's resume is indeed out there, sometimes in sealed pens at LinkedIn and Monster, but often accessible for nothing. That's the reason sourcing candidates has become so key. It is head-hunting on a smaller scale and not waiting for them to nibble on the hook.

Taleo seems to think that building out its new Talent Exchange into a full-fledged job board is going to cut it for supplying candidates, but I doubt it. Ask the former BrassRing, which had a job board for years.

Originally a website for Taleo customers to trade in unwanted candidates for the right to search through other customers' unwanted candidates, Talent Exchange attracted only 3,400 to 4,000 candidates in the first year.

Now it is using technology from SimplyHired, a deal with Jigsaw and the offer of candidate services such as resume writing to get more of them. But that misses the point. Everyone is a candidate, not just the people looking for work! And the recruiting world is looking for a tool that scours the earth and all the resumes that are "just out there."

Can't manage any talent until you've got some.

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 this 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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