HR Technology Column

Ceridian Pivots Widely

"Pivots," a marvelous Silicon Valley term, means making a major change in a company's business direction without judgment on the success of the earlier one. That's exactly what Ceridian is doing now, slowly abandoning its heritage as a payroll service and becoming a SaaS software vendor -- with a new leader!

Monday, April 30, 2012
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How would you like to be known always as the principal competitor and perennial No. 2 to ADP?

I certainly wouldn't like to be in that tough spot, or be known for it -- even with 130,000 customers and 46,000 HRMS customers now in the United States. But that's been Ceridian's lot in life since emerging under that name in 1992.

CEO Stuart Harvey, not in his chair for 20 months, is turning the place upside down.

He has plotted and is now executing his end run around ADP -- betting the company on his new quarterback, David Ossip: serial entrepreneur and founder of workforce management vendors CyberShift (now owned by SumTotal), Workbrain (now owned by Infor) and Dayforce, now owned by Ceridian.

Ossip's been given the ball slowly.

After acquiring a minority interest in Dayforce just a year ago, Ceridian declared that product would become an integral part of its new integrated HR offering called InView. Problem was, there wasn't much in InView at the time but enterprise reporting for Ceridian's old HRMS and Dayforce.

Then Ceridian bought the whole company and last October at the HR Technology® Conference in Las Vegas announced that Ossip would be in charge of InView and the porting of selected Ceridian applications to it.

Finally, at its recent Analyst Day, Ceridian announced that Ossip had been made president of a new entity called Ceridian Dayforce and would be responsible for writing brand-new HR applications from scratch for the company's new integrated offering on his platform, called Dayforce HCM.

"Hmmm," I thought. "Time and attendance. Absence management. Scheduling. Sure. But what does David know about the rest of HR?"

Apparently a lot because Dayforce has -- without fanfare -- been writing a new HRMS from scratch since 2009 at its Toronto home base. It's already part of the new product mix, and people who have seen it and know, say it's not bad.

Plus, should Ossip stumble on a gap in his HR knowledge, Harvey has hired him the best possible back-up: Larry Dunivan, the former head of Lawson HCM and the creator of its SaaS talent management suite, as Ceridian's new SVP Product & Strategy.

Dunivan is actually in charge of all the existing products, whose customers Ceridian will naturally be treating very well. They'll continue to get upgrades and there will be no forced march to switch during what is planned to be a three-to-four-year transition process.

"I mean, it's a new platform with new apps from scratch," says Dunivan. "We don't want them moving all at once, maybe 100 this year."

This Minnesota Nice attitude is no surprise, with Ceridian being in Minneapolis and Dunivan being in St. Paul forever.

But Harvey grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, and at the last HR Technology®, I literally pulled aside his EVP and GM Bart Valdez to whisper, "Is he kidding with this or what? Can any CEO be as nice as Stuart?"

"He's like that all the time," Valdez says.

OK, but how about the private-equity firms that have owned Ceridian for five years: Thomas H. Lee Partners and Fidelity National Financial? Didn't they load the company with debt taking it private and off the NYSE?

Yes, but they seem willing to make the investment to change the company completely.

Well, how about the fact that Harvey used to be an investment banker? Didn't they make him CEO just to sell the company? Apparently not.

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Conspiracy theories exhausted, here is their plan:

Ceridian is a $1.5-billion company with about $1 billion from employer services and the balance from Comdata's pay cards and Stored Value Solutions gift cards on racks in 47 countries.

Dayforce HCM will include a new SaaS payroll engine (not on premise, not service bureau) integrated with the workforce management applications, which already had zero-to-gross functionality. Naturally, it will include real-time payroll preview and analytics for reports.

Core HR will include employee and manager self-service, plus eligibility and open enrollment for benefits. The idea, naturally, is one employee record, one user experience and zero interfaces among applications.

Workforce management is obviously available now. Benefits, payroll (punch-to-pay), self-service and payments will be generally available this year. Early customers are live. The talent management applications are still in the future and need to be written.

Sorry, I've always believed nice guys finish last. But I'm prepared for Ceridian's pivot to upset my world view.

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chairman of the 15th Annual HR Technology® Conference & Exposition, returning to Chicago for one year, Oct. 8-11, 2012. The program is now finished and is scheduled to be on the website May 23. You can comment on this column at the Conference LinkedIn Group, which does not require prior or future conference attendance to join. He is also host of The Bill Kutik Radio Show®. He can be reached at  

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