Brian Sommer's Month in Review - January 2020

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer February 3, 2020
The first month of the new year is over. Here are the tech highlights.


January is normally a slow month for great enterprise news, mostly because we’re all digging through an avalanche of start-of-year-prediction pieces. Nonetheless, I did find a number of head scratching thought provoking pieces to ponder.

HR & Governance

Why Boards Should Worry About Executives’ Off-The-Job Behavior” – This is an exceptionally solid and important read. It’s something that the boards of all firms should take to heart. This Harvard Business Review piece looked at several studies that evaluated whether the non-work behavior of executives might presage bigger problems. They looked at correlations with traffic tickets, DUI’s, etc. and compared these risky behaviors to things like insider trading. I wasn’t surprised at the linkages as I’ve known CEOs that were ex-cons, killers and more. Let’s face it, someone that doesn’t care about following the law or endangering the lives of others, isn’t going to care how much they screw other shareholders. I’m leading with this story as it’s that important and eye-opening.

Ageism in the Workplace” – AARP has this piece out on one of my major sticking points in HR: Ageism. There are some sobering stats and major employers (and HR websites) are called out for using language like “recent college graduate” in job ads that foster continued age discrimination. The conclusion of the piece is bleak. Laws that are supposed to stop this discrimination aren’t being enforced and employers are getting away with it. It’s time to put pressure on HR technology solution providers to do what employers may be loath to do: enforce the law of the land.

And, as if on cue, my Sunday IndyStar newspaper had a pitiful and regrettable story titled: “How to age-proof your resume when looking for a job”. That article essentially supports deception as a means to fight ageism.  Instead of urging firms to not discriminate, it suggests ways to deceive discriminatory employers. Two wrongs make a right? I don’t think so.

Next month, Microsoft will make a material change in its HR applications that are part of the Dynamics 365 suite. People Matters reported:

Microsoft is gearing up to drop its bundle of Dynamics 365 Talent Attract and Talent Onboard apps from Feb. 1, 2022. The technology giant is advising its existing customers to shift to LinkedIn Talent Hub. Microsoft is transforming its core human resources capabilities that are contained in Dynamics 365 Talent in order to repackage it as Dynamics 365 Human Resources on February 3, 2020.

People Matters continued:

The LinkedIn Talent Hub, is an application tracking system for sourcing, managing, and hiring built with the foundation of the core LinkedIn network. It also includes other tools such as LinkedIn Recruiter and Jobs into a single platform.

This is actually a big deal as Microsoft is clearly serious about integrating its LinkedIn acquisition (and the massive data trove it possesses) with its Dynamics 365 applications. While some payroll service providers possess big data, too, Microsoft has an enormous partner network and Dynamics has a huge install base. This kind of market leverage could become a problem for HR software vendors that either lack big data components to their solution or must rely on alliances with firms like Microsoft for access to big data.  The future of HR and other applications cannot be much unless the solutions contain big data components.

New Entrant: When HR meets the Blockchain – The Velocity Network

The Velocity Network Foundation is a non-profit foundation with an open source solution, the Velocity Network, that connects to many major HR technologies, employers, educational institutions, etc.  This network can bring a much-needed measure of validation to the world of recruiting. Velocity’s independent, non-profit structure may be the optimal way for this kind of a solution as it lets HR technology vendors design apps that format certification requests/responses and process the feedback. Velocity Network Foundation sets the standards for credential providers & users, how results are prepared and interpreted, and, most importantly, creates the secure environment for this. Educators and employers would only need to work with one set of design standards to provide requested credentials.

According to a Velocity publication:

Velocity will provide a frictionless experience to exchange trusted employment, professional achievements, assessment reports and educational certification data, using the power of Blockchain; Instantly, reliably and cost-effectively. Velocity is a utility layer that globally connects human capital data processors —the HR Tech vendors, freelancer platforms, student information system vendors and other labor market and education data processors —and allows for interoperability, transparency and portability of that data. The connected data processors form the “Internet of Careers”, running the distributed ledger and acting as the consensus network that verifies records.

Professionals will be able to take ownership of their human capital data, choose whether to share it, decide how that data is used by others, creating an economy around human capital data value transfer. At the same time, employers, education institutions and other interested parties will be able to rely on trusted, immutable and verified human capital data provided by individuals and access this data seamlessly and cost-effectively, minimizing hiring risks and achieving regulatory compliance.

There’s a lot to this radically-new solution. It uses blockchain to maintain the integrity of the information. It supports GDPR, CCPA and other privacy standards. It doesn’t keep copies of people data and it allows people to remain out of the system, if so desired.

Why is this newsworthy? Employers, lenders, educators, etc. that rely on big data stores (or small datasets like a credit application) need access to verifiable, vetted information. It’s like the recent college admissions scandal where presumably less-qualified individuals got admitted to prestigious schools while better students didn’t. There are professional, personal, societal and economic costs when bad data triggers the wrong business decision.

Kudos to the Velocity Network Foundation for trying to make the world a better place.

Enterprise Software

TrustRadius has taken on a big, big objective: trying to capture reviews on tech companies that are truly legit and useful.  And like Velocity (above), they are trying to make the world better. According to a recent announcement of theirs:

“TrustRadius just launched TRUE—a program that recognizes tech companies who are Transparent, Responsive, Unbiased, and Ethical in managing their consumer reviews.”

I believe there are genuine problems with tech companies and many tech firms should look at:

  • Are their contracts transparent (or opaque)?
  • Are their business processes (from sales to support) designed to minimize friction and add value?
  • Is the company focused on the customers-to-come (or in wallet-fracking, auditing and pillaging the ones they already have)?
  • Is the customer experience designed to drive ever greater word-of-mouth sales leads (or is it intended to maximize short-term earnings expectations of Wall Street)?

My request to TrustRadius would be to expand its scope from just customer reviews of tech vendors and review the vendors’ business practices and processes, too!


Are You Undervaluing Your Customers” – Ahh, if only airline executives could read, they might learn a few things about how to measure the worth of a customer. As a ‘passenger-mile’ or ‘revenue-seat’ (not a customer or human being) for zillions of flights, I just don’t think the airline industry understands what an asset that customers can be. This piece by Bain should be required reading for CRM/CX vendors and executives in a number of customer-facing industries. This article begins with:

The true purpose of a business, Peter Drucker said, is to create and keep customers. Most managers understand this, but few behave as if they do. Under relentless earnings pressure, they often feel cornered, obliged to produce quick profits by compromising product quality, trimming services, imposing onerous fees, and otherwise shortchanging their customers. This short-termism erodes loyalty, reducing the value customers create for the firm.


I did a recent piece on the closing/consolidation space. In the middle of that article, I embedded highlights from an interview I did with FloQast’s CEO, Mike Whitmire. Now, FloQast has raised a new round of capital. According to FloQast:

FloQast announced it has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Norwest Venture Partners with participation from existing investors Insight Partners and Polaris Partners. The latest investment round brings the total equity raised to $93 million. The new funding, which reflects the rapidly growing adoption of FloQast’s close management software, will be used to help the company to further accelerate customer expansion and drive continued technology innovation for corporate accounting teams.


This month Host Analytics changed its name. It’s now Planful. Diginomica’s Jon Reed did this story on the change and his conversation with CEO Grant Holloran.

I briefly ran into the Prophix folks at the Acumatica show this week. They promised to contact me when they’ve got some big news. I’m looking forward to that.

OneStream was also in the news. They reported a number of positive growth stats for 2019 including:

  • Added 170 new customers (total customer count approx. 500)
  • Grew revenue to $130 million (USD)
  • Added new modules in governed analytics and predictive analytics tools.

Not a Glass Ceiling but Glass Data

Time had this article, Closing the Gender Data Gap, that caught my attention. The article starts with this:

Did you hear the one about how aid workers rebuilt homes after a flood—and forgot to include kitchens? How about the entrepreneur whose product was dismissed by funders as too “niche”—but whose femtech company, Chiaro, is now on track for more than $100 million in 2020? Or the female sexual-dysfunction drug that was tested for its interaction with alcohol on 23 men ... and only two women? Not finding any of these funny? Maybe that’s because they’re not jokes.

It's a sobering read that had me wondering “how could smart people do these stupid things?”.

Anyone designing algorithms, acquiring big data, launching new products, etc. should read this piece and adjust their plans accordingly.

Onwards into February. 

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