Brian's The Month in Brief

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer September 30, 2018
Once a month, Brian cleans off his desk, empties his voicemail and recollects the zillion interactions he has with vendors, trade press and business publications. Here’s the roundup from September.

New vocabulary

Thanks to Inc. magazine and its “Jargonator” column, we learn about new words entering the vocabulary. This month, I learned about ‘cyberloafing’. It’s personal internet usage while on the company’s dime. Inc’s editor pondered whether a better word for this should be ‘underload’.

Personally, I see a lot of this behavior at analyst events where analysts are streaming one event, tweeting about a second and attending a third all in real-time. Worse, they’re also buying something on Amazon between tweets. You could only call that cyberloafing if the vendor gave us Lay-Z-Boys to sit in.

Finance accounting in the news

Kyriba & New Lease Accounting Requirements – Over the years, I’ve written about Kyriba’s treasury software solutions. The solution continues to expand with functionality for hedge accounting, fraud detection and more.

This month, they announced a new lease accounting solution which is timely given new IFRS 16 requirements (effective at the beginning of next year). These regulatory changes should be no surprise to accountants as they are the second shoe to drop after the recent revenue recognition changes required over the last 12-24 months. Companies with material equipment leases (e.g., cars, trucks, capital equipment, rail cars, etc.) and other off-balance sheet leases will be most impacted.

According to Kyriba, the new solution supports:

  • Multi-lingual central repository of all leases, managed in the cloud
  • Data exchange import and/or copy and paste from Excel
  • Document attachment for full visibility and auditability of lease details
  • Automatic calculation and reporting of values for asset, liability and depreciation
  • Management of life-cycle events such as early termination, extensions, returns, renewals and purchases

If you’d like some nice background on the new lease accounting rules, check out this presentation that accounting firm Armanino recently developed. In a recent newsletter, they noted:

ASC 842 Compliance Proving Harder Than Anticipated

The new FASB lease accounting standard (ASC 842) is the most significant change to lease accounting in decades. Yet many public companies appear to have underestimated the effort it takes to gather lease data and the extent of changes required to bring lease management processes and systems into compliance. In numerous surveys, public companies have reported that they are experiencing unexpected challenges when adopting the new standard and that it is taking longer than expected. As a result, many have not yet completed implementation of the new lease accounting rules.

While private companies have an additional 12 months to implement the standard (until December 15, 2019), the experiences of public companies should be a reminder not to wait too long to begin what could be a significant effort!

Sage Intacct gets budgeting/planning – Accounting solution Intacct and HR solution FairSail may have been two great acquisitions by Sage last year. Now, Sage has acquired Budgeta a budgeting and planning tool to work with the Intacct Financials software. Budgeta was a Sage Intacct partner.

The stakes in accounting software deals are such that vendors need a budget/planning/forecasting/consolidation tool (a la a corporate performance management (CPM) to be competitive. Without an integrated CPM/Financials solution, customers incur additional implementation headaches, integration challenges and possible data latency issues.

According to Sage:

Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning features bidirectional data synchronization with Sage Intacct and uses the same structures, including the chart of accounts and all dimensions, to seamlessly manage actuals, budgets, and plans. This delivers the flexibility and control needed to better manage the complete budgeting and planning process using one integrated solution and increases the quality of budget reporting and analysis available in Sage Intacct.

This solution should be GA in Q4.

HR in the news

Time to change some HR practices - In the May Kiplinger Letter (subscription required), there were two big admonitions for U.S. employers:

  1. The Dept. of Justice could launch criminal probes against companies that collude to make workers stay put with pay pacts or refusals to hire
  2. Gender-based pay disparity born of salary history may be unconstitutional

Both of these are big deals. In the former, any action (even oral agreements) to inhibit the mobility and employment of persons is becoming a big no-no. If your firm relies on restrictive agreements to prevent people from going to competitors, you really need to re-visit this ASAP. Non-compete agreements haven’t done that well in many state courts and continue to suffer with juries.

As to the pay disparity matter, the practice of giving raises based on past salary seems to always benefit the worker who got a higher starting salary and no one can ever catch up to them. It’s time for this practice to go away. People should be paid based on their performance and capabilities not tenure. (more below)

An Infor/ADP Connection – While I went to ADP and Infor events this month, I somehow missed this announcement. The two firms inked a partnership where ADP will provide global payroll capabilities to Infor customers. The joint solution will support a single sign-on.

Why No One Wants the Job You’re Offering – The title of this brief article in Customer Relationship Management caught my eye. The author laid out a couple of factors triggering this market reaction to some employers’ job postings. This tidbit caused me to raise my eyebrow:

Stranger yet are the candidates here in the United States who expect 30 days of vacation per year (common in France and Germany) and who insist they should be hired as managers.

The other author observation was around blue-collar job stigma. I looked at this last year when developing an Industry 4.0 white paper. In researching this I was surprised at the salaries possible for these positions. Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, has a ton of stats on this space.

Job Search Hell - The infographic on pg. 84 of the September 2018 Fast Company is something any active jobseeker can relate to. If you’re in Recruiting/HR you really should look at and decide if your firm needs to do more to take some of the hellish aspects of this clearly broken process away.

Moneyball for Business – In that same Fast Company issue is this detailed and lengthy piece that illustrates what a reimagined, AI-powered recruiting process could look like. It features many software firms I’ve written about before: Textio, HireVue and Pymetrics.

Why work has failed us: Because it’s making it impossible to start a family – Here’s a great piece in Fast Company that talks about the problems that employer daycare (or lack thereof) is triggering in workforce participants. HR officers need to read this one and make childcare more of a priority for more of their employees. And everyone should read the companion piece: Why work has failed us: Because companies aren’t sharing the profits. That article discusses the adverse impact private equity has had on workforces. It also talks about the rising profits and flat wages of companies. Can’t win the war for talent? Maybe it’s because you put workers way, way, way below owners and investors.

Hiretual – One HR vendor I didn’t get to meet at HRTech was Hiretual. This could become one of those vendors that will reimagine how recruiting should work. Entelo has had some of the same thoughts and it will be interesting to see if mainstream HR and ERP vendors ever adopt such a radical AI and Big Data approach to recruiting.

Hiretual just secured a major capital infusion and will likely become a name we get more familiar with. Who exactly are they? Hiretual stated this recently:

Hiretual addresses this challenge by unleashing the power of the unstructured internet to create a candidate sourcing base that is much larger (700M) than current sourcing platforms such as LinkedIn (562M) or Indeed (200M). Hiretual’s AI-powered search functionality goes beyond Boolean and keyword search to tap into the dark matter of undiscovered talent and professional data on the web – turning the internet into a recruiter’s database.

If only they can fix all of those screwed up ATS’ out there!

Vendor briefings/news

IFSWorld – Scandinavian ERP vendor, IFSWorld, taps another ex-SAP executive to join the firm. Christian Pedersen will assume product management responsibilities. He previously worked with SAP on the S/4 Hana Cloud and was a GM for Microsoft Dynamics ERP. Darren Roos, now CEO at IFS, is also an SAP alum. What’s interesting about both personnel moves isn’t the SAP-focus but rather the clear cloud direction IFS has now. Let’s see how cloudy they make things.

CherwellCherwell competes in the ITSM (IT Service Management) space against the likes of ServiceNow, BMC and others. I got to catch some of their recent (sixth) user conference in Colorado Springs this month.

Cherwell’s been around since 2004 and has hundreds of customers. The company took a $50 million investment from KKR in 2017 and followed that up with an additional $172 million investment also from KKR this year. That’s really interesting as KKR is also trying to close on an acquisition of Cherwell competitor BMC. That deal is valued around $8 billion. This common ownership angle could be interesting as BMC is currently litigating Cherwell over software patents.

In my conversations with Cherwell customers and executives, I sensed some frustration with a Cherwell competitor: ServiceNow. I heard comments about the cost differences between the two solutions and with how many people it takes to implement and adjust each solution. Software buyers of either product would do well to perform solid due diligence and conduct in-depth reference checks.

I did get a bit of a briefing on some future solutions coming from Cherwell. Like others in this space, Cherwell is identifying new applications for service ticket/management solutions. In a keynote talk, Cherwell’s CEO indicated that 2/3rds of its customers will use Cherwell solutions outside of the ITSM space.

Cherwell talked up its Jitterbit integration and debuted a new branding look & feel. Cherwell also announced its Natural Language Processing (NLP) tool. That tool is scheduled for general availability next year.

Finally, Cherwell has a new CEO Sam Gilliland. Sam is the former Chairman & CEO of Sabre Corporation and I got a chance to speak with him for a bit – sharp fellow!

Hyphen – I had a chance to speak briefly with Arnaud Grunwald at Hyphen. Hyphen’s an engagement solution replete with analytics, polling, surveys, etc. It seems to be best suited for companies with distributed workforces (think retail, hospitality and banking). Hyphen just did a modest capital raise. Hyphen competes with firms like Glint. – I also got up to speed with I’ve written a bit about them over the years. They provide a free service to job holders where you input a few data points re: your compensation and it tells you how you stack up to others with a similar position. They provide compensation stats to employers as well as a number of other metrics. CMO Alys Scott told me that the company now has CEO pay ratio information, more executive pay data and incentive pay data. We also discussed how pay equity legislation is ‘sweeping the country’. That new compliance matter should make more HR and operational leaders think twice before implementing new raises or extending job offers.

Salary also merged with CompData this summer. That brings an additional 25,000 job titles into the database.

If you hadn’t heard of before (and they are a big deal in this space), it could be because their solution is often white-labeled by HR/HCM vendors.

Jane.AI Jane is an AI tool that collects all kinds of information in and about your firm and can serve it up to employees, new hires, etc. It’s a broad-based AI tool that answers people’s questions about your firm, its policies, its products, etc. The software can access info, make it actionable, aggregate other info (e.g., sales pipeline data) and proactively alert others to new forthcoming events.

Like Hyphen, Jane.AI works very well with companies that have distributed workforces and operations. Dynamic environments (where things change frequently) and companies with lots of employees are prime candidates for Jane, too. Jane.AI can be a great tool in acting as a Level 0 help desk tool.

And, if you’re like me, you’re wondering who the Jane in Jane.AI is. It actually stands for Joy of Accessing Nearly Everything.

Papaya GlobalPapaya’s another firm I’ve covered before. Papaya’s well-suited to helping firms grow globally as they take the risk of non-compliance and launching new offices away. Now, Papaya’s added global payroll capabilities to their growing solution set. They currently support the paying of employees and contractors in 100 countries. In fact, a number of customers use Papaya to ensure that their usage of contractors in other countries meets the letter of the law.

Papaya also closed its second funding round and is projecting a material increase in gross revenues.

Great stories this month

Google, You Auto-Complete MeFast Company had a thought provoking piece about what happens to us when we let technologies do all kind of recommending for us. Software is auto-completing our messages, it suggests what apps to open next, etc. I thought this soundbite to be particularly telling:

“Most of the conversation around AI is focused on what happens when robots think like humans. Perhaps we should be just as concerned about humans thinking like robots.”

While I see the productivity power in AI helping with rote, mundane tasks, I don’t want some AI-thing suggesting the next sentence in a creative or strategy work. While it’s impressive that some technologies can do amazing things, I’m not sure we’re better off letting these technologies do everything. These ‘smart’ tools are, by definition, recommending actions/words/etc. that have been seen or done before. It can’t be unique, if an AI/ML tool suggested it.

Like school homework, you need to do your own work.

MIT Technology Review – This issue, called The Politics Issue (Sept-Oct 2018), is a powerful read. It examines how technologies like social media have gone from powerful tools for people to share information to tools that others exploit to influence elections and other public policy matters. It shines a bright light on the ways people are using big data, segmentation technologies, data visualization, etc. to specifically influence subsets of our population for their own gain. It’s disturbing.

That issue also has a story on the ways video can be successfully faked to put people in fictitious and embarrassing vignettes. This, too, could ruin someone’s political efforts.

I’ve never recommended a whole issue before but this one’s a clear exception.

Discrimination - There were lots of pieces in the press this month re: discrimination. Peter Cappelli, in Human Resources Executive, tells us that people are living longer, living healthier and able to contribute longer than most people believe. This paragraph is particularly galvanizing:

The problem, of course, is age discrimination, which seems to me to have gotten worse, especially with the focus on tech and social media. The IT world likes to present itself as a young person’s game, and we hear all kinds of misinformed assertions about older individuals: They don’t understand technology, or kids who’ve grown up with computers just think differently. We forget we’ve had personal computers now for 35 years. The gap in IT use is much more closely related to income (poor people have less internet access) than age.

A Bloomberg BusinessWeek article titled “IBM’s Retirement Plan” discussed a lawsuit between fired, older employees of IBM and the company. Here’s a notable soundbite:

The ProPublica story surveyed more than 1,000 workers and cited internal IBM documents that, among other things, mentioned a strategy of “correcting seniority mix.” The company also fired people for not having the necessary skills for their work, but then re-hired them as contractors in similar positions, ProPublica reported.

That same issue had another story re: gender discrimination. In this piece, titled “Half as many options”, we read stories like:

The young woman was excited to get an offer at Lyft Inc., one of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture-backed private companies, until she compared notes with one of her friends. He’d received about the same salary for the same software engineering job she’d been offered at the same experience level, but he got twice as many company stock options. When the young woman asked for additional equity, her recruiter said the offer was standard and non-negotiable, so she took the job. A few months in, she asked some colleagues hired at the same level about their options grants, and all of the dozen or so men she surveyed had double her equity, too. When she asked her manager for an increase, she quickly got it.

And the discrimination appears to go all the way to the top. This BusinessWeek article “Diversity Stops Here” tells a sad tale:

The occupants of corner offices are a stunningly homogeneous bunch. There are now just three black CEOs running Fortune 500 companies, down from a height of eight three years ago. The number of women serving as CEOs was down to 24 as of May, a 25 percent drop since June 2017.

HR technologists and practitioners can claim there isn’t discrimination or that they don’t enable it, but it’s still happening. If firms continue to discard the older worker, the unemployed, the underemployed, the self-employed, people of color, women and more, then they’ll never win the war for talent and our society and economy will suffer as a result.

For the month to come:

In October, the volume of technology events remains hectic. For me, I’ll attend functions for Workday, SAP, Acumatica, Sage/Intacct and Oracle. I’ve also got a lot of plane time scheduled so I should get caught up on the reading, too.

Until next month…

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