Enterprise hits and misses - HR tech tries to get modern, while SAP gets Callidus

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed January 31, 2018
This week: HR tech tries to get modern, but gets trifurcated instead. And: the weak link in customer experience. SAP surprises and buy Callidus. Your whiffs include peacocks, banned by United.

Cheerful Chubby Man
Lead story - Trifurcating today’s HR software market by Brian Sommer

In case you haven't trifurcated anything lately, that's thwacking something into threes. Brian sees three forks in the road for HR vendors:

  • The crusty wannabes - "These vendors look like an old-fogy that’s still trying to look young and hip (think of your grandfather wearing skinny jeans and hipster clothing)." These deluded folks think a new platform and a mobile log-in is enough.
  • The truly moderns - "These vendors/solutions represent radically different ways to approach an HR process."
  • The faddy hyperbolists - "These firms are trying to solve ridiculously complex, multi-faceted problems (e.g., engagement, retention, etc.) with tools that are often opaque and lack falsifiable scientific proof."

I took liberties with the nicknames; bet you can guess which type Sommer favors. Yep, he advises customers to keep a wide berth from the other two. But what makes the "truly moderns" modern?

  • They create solutions that were never tied to old, obsolete HR process and data models
  • They pull in big, EXTERNAL data to make their solutions quite valuable
  • They are imaginative, solving problems for constituents other than the HR employee

You may be wondering how to tell the three type of vendors apart - especially given that all HR tech vendors self-classify as "modern" and, you guessed it, are perfectly and automagically shoehorned aligned with the needs of digital business. Sommer wants us to sharpen BS filters. Check his piece for detail on the defining characterstics of each. No, he didn't name names, but you'll recognize some pretty clear reflections I think.

Happy children eating apple
Diginomica picks - my top three stories on diginomica this week
  • How are major banking institutions getting on with AI? - After a flurry of utopian "AI will liberate us from the mundanity of human labor" missives, it's good to return to an industry view on what's actually happening today. Angelica takes us there, examining pros and cons of fintech automation.
  • Starbucks places a downpayment on a Blockchain vision - It's the opposite case with blockchain, where a troughing of disillusion across blog posts gave the impression blockchain was a pipe dream/money pit (time will tell). But, as Stuart reports, add Starbucks to the list of brands taking a blockchain project further  - though with the classic digital currency focus.
  • Understanding the impact of Amazon Go innovations - Amazon Go was a big talking point at NRF 2018. Den's a tad grouchy on this one, and for good reason: "the zeitgeist around anything Amazon does is such that most analysis appears (to me anyway) as fawning at best." Bonus: my NRF 2018 retail demo awards include Yi Tunnel, an ambitious Amazon Go competitor/upstart from China with some pretty exceptional capabilities I captured on video.

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

Jon's grab bag - It was a big "think week" at digniomica as we delved into futurism, ethics, and the future of work. Denis Pombriant contrasted two models in Investing in sustainability hold greater promise than 4IR. Here's why Chris pushed the AI debate forward in The big question - who should be responsible for ethical AI? Turns out we can't use AI properly till we understand our own humanity. And this: "AI is starting to make decisions that would otherwise be made by humans, which adds new layers of ethical complexity. "

Den sparked a future of work/universal basic income reader comment frenzy in Will SkillSET address Workism? Over on diginomica/gov, Stuart goes contrarian in World Economic Forum 2018 - UK Prime Minister hectors social media investors at expense of stronger post-Brexit pitch. Dear government officials: you need sharper talking points if you want to get over on Stuart.

Finally, for those who believe smart toothbrushes will change the game, Stuart has strong enamel great news in AI toothbrushes and toothpaste that dares to love put a digital smile on Colgate Palmolive.

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
Lead story - Four Questions You Have About Customer Experience (and answers) - by Esteban Kolsky

myPOV: So Esteban Kolsky did a webinar for his client (Microsoft). They ran out of time before he could answer all the questions, because he talked too much there is never enough time in a webinar.

But instead of the typical "we'll get to your questions by email" buzzkill, Kolsky riffed on the questions in his blog post, along with fun rants on why brands get customer experience (CX) wrong.

Turns out brands are - get ready for this shocker - finally realizing that their customer service agents are the weak link. Why the "happy employees, happy customers" obviousness took companies so long to grasp I couldn't tell you. Perhaps they thought they could automate those unhappy encounters into oblivion, but not so fast. Kolksy says the opposite has happened:

We can put out as many self-service, chatbots, AI-based solutions as we want to work.  They can capture 40-80% of customer interactions and solve them.  Great.  What happens to the ones that are not solved automatically?

Yup. The employee morale stakes just got higher not lower:

What happens, as your systems improve, when customer service goes back to handling exceptions (as it was always intended to do – not every interaction)? Then you need good agents, and those good agents are the last line of defense for your company to save a customer relationship.

Employees need better customer/inventory/purchasing info than ever before, and a better idea of what to do with it. Kolksy gets at that in a data-driven decisions section.

Bonus points for Kolksy having the calzones to call his own webinar "fantastic." And: an epic disclosure statement just like the old days. And yes, you can sign up to view the webinar replay also.

Honorable mention


Overworked businessman
Let's blast through these:

Finally, Twitter peeps had strong/divergent opinions on this doozy:

Oh, and hits/misses regular Brian Sommer pointed me towards more airline innovation. The guys/gals in the white lab coats are found a way to make airline bathrooms even smaller. Now that's a customer experience I'm really looking forward to. See you next time...

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does.

Updated Feb 1, 2018, 8am UK time with a number of tweaks, but no changes in opinion.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

Image credit - Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Businessman Choosing Success or Failure Road © Creativa - all from Fotolia.com.

Disclosure - SAP, Oracle, ServiceNow, Workday and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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