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My Best Experience at HR Tech!

After so many analysts, bloggers and vendor-marketing writers have already weighed in on the HR Tech Conference, here is my best (and different) experience: an extended conversation with a leading HCM provider in the Middle East and my observation that Japan's leading HCM vendor was also at the Expo. Where else does the HCM world come together but at HR Tech?

Monday, November 9, 2015
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I whined for years about how my duties as co-chair of HR Tech cut me off from the great experiences others had just being attendees at the conference. Truth is, I've actually managed to have a few of my own.

Often, they've involved meeting people from far away. Being self-employed for 26 years, I've had no corporation to subsidize international business travel, until recent trips to Singapore and Sydney, Australia, to run panels at SuccessFactors user conferences featuring videos from Firing Line with Bill Kutik®.

Years ago, international HCM expert Karen Beaman labeled me "ethno-centric," the lowest rung on her ladder, meaning I thought the whole world operated like the United States. Not really true; my view was actually worse: I had no idea what most of the rest of the world was like, let alone how it operated HR.

So, it was with great delight three years ago that I met two HR executives from Libya's state telecommunications agency. Fighting there was very heavy at the time, and I stupidly thought, "They still have telephone service in Libya?"

Earlier, I met a true gentleman from India who had a nonprofit foundation that ran schools for "untouchable" women, normally denied any education. He was attending HR Tech to shop for a talent management system and was quite sophisticated about his options. He subsequently visited me at home, chose the absolutely wrong system despite my best counsel and ended up suing his vendor.

This year, I had an extended conversation with two executives from CivilSoft, a leading HCM vendor for the Middle East based in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates. Both of them happened to be Egyptian: Founder and CEO Mohammed Nagdy and his incredibly sharp 24-year-old marketing specialist Nihal Rocco, sporting a head scarf.

After starting more than 20 years ago (using Windows, like everyone else at the time) and with workforce-management functionality, the company now has an almost complete SaaS HCM product reporting 350 clients in 18 countries – including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain – but extending as far west as Morocco and as far north as Russia.

Mohammed told me CivilSoft most often competes with Oracle and SAP in his markets. Like Oracle, Nagdy offers his product every way clients might want it: multi-tenant, single hosted and on-premise. It still lacks learning and succession-planning functionality.

But the company does not lack much else that I could see. Its tagline is "Strategic HCM," and when Mohammed fired up his demo, that's exactly what he showed. CivilSoft is a completely competency-based system with a modern UI, upgrades four times a year, and the capability to link achievements to goals and then to people. It has good analytics and bi-lingual functionality so Russian users can switch from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Roman, and Indians from Hindi to English.

It made me recall how, maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I was sitting with Naomi Lee Bloom for a demo of a new HCMS, when she said, "Show me how you hire somebody!" Those days are long gone. CivilSoft is a modern, global HCM.

Naturally, Mohammed wants to bring CivilSoft to the U.S. and none of my cautionary tales of the challenges Meta4 has faced (still trying and at HR Tech yet again) since 1998 would dissuade him from that mission. He is looking for a co-development partner here to complete his U.S. version.

The name of CivilSoft's largest client made me gulp for a second: the Saudi Bin Laden Group with 170,000 employees, operator of the region's largest construction company (it rebuilt Mecca!), just like America's Bechtel, only run by the brother of the infamous Osama Bin Laden. But other clients include Honeywell, Chanel and Radisson.

The history of foreign HCM-software vendors succeeding here is very spotty, except for various successful Canadians, when they've avoided saying "about" to anyone. Of the world's 10 largest software companies, only one, SAP, is not American, and I remember the fortune it spent starting in 1993 to get established.

Mohammed knows that his presence here needs to be 100-percent American, as I assume Works Applications > from Japan also knows.

That company was caught by analyst and consultant Brian Sommer, who is a quick study backed by his 32-year perspective in HCM.  He tore himself away from vendor meetings in the Analyst Room for what reads like a two-hour mad dash around the Expo, vacuuming up information from whomever he found standing around in a dozen booths. And then he put it through the filter of his experience to produce this marvelous report for Diginomica.  

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Brian tells me he actually spent a full 90 minutes talking with the Japanese, whom I missed. You should read his whole report, but here's what he said about that company:

"I got a peek at a Japanese ERP solution from Works Applications. It's built on in-memory database technology and has a very large product complement. This was no startup although its North American launch won't occur until Q1 2016. The product line's architecture is quite fast and may have parallels to architectures from Workday, and new suites from Infor and SAP's S4/Hana.

"< Works Applications was founded in 1996 and claims to be the largest HCM provider in Japan. It reports having 7,000 customers and almost 4,000 employees. Given the product's global capabilities, architecture and completeness of its ERP functionality, this vendor could be one to seriously watch."

Now that you've finished the column, go back and read Brian's full report. Not many are written by someone who knows the past, the present and maybe a little bit of the future of our world like Brian. And who caught the other major foreign vendor smart enough to come to HR Tech.


HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chair emeritus of the 19th Annual HR Technology® Conference & Expo, back at Chicago's McCormick Place, Oct. 4-7, 2016. Comment on this column at the Conference LinkedIn Group, which doesn't require prior or future conference attendance to join. Listen to the archive of The Bill Kutik Radio Show® with 183 of his provocative interviews with HR thought-leaders. Watch the 10th episode of his new video series, Firing Line with Bill Kutik® with guest Ray Wang explaining digital transformation and disruption.



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