Quick vendor highlights from HR Technology Las Vegas

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer October 26, 2015
Brian Sommer casts his eye over the HR Technology show floor, picking out the highlights from a lightning tour.

There was plenty to see at this year's HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. Here's a run down of the highlights from my whistlestop tour around the show floor.

The Big Surprise

I got a peek at a Japanese ERP solution from Works Application. 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.

HR Tech 2015 01

Works Applications was founded in 1996 and claims to be the largest HCM provider in Japan. They report having 7000 customers and almost 4000 employees. Given the product’s global capabilities, architecture and completeness of its ERP functionality, this vendor could be one to seriously watch.

OneSource Virtual

I chatted briefly with the executives from OneSource Virtual. This firm has an enviable customer list that comprises many Workday HR customers. As I’ve previously reported, OSV is now ramping up their offerings for Workday’s Financial software.

See alsoQuick Takes – OneSource Virtual, Sage, Fairsail, NGAHR and The Reckoning for old IT service and outsourcing Firms

OSV is the Workday implementation partner most every old-line integrator or outsourcer would like to buy (I’ll add Appirio to that list, too!). Market interest in the Workday Financial solutions is apparently strong not just within their pre-existing Workday HCM customer base but also in net-new customers. I’ll be attending OSV’s analyst event in a couple of weeks and will likely have more to report.


My conversation with Skillsoft executives was principally oriented around the timing of their merger with HCM vendor SumTotal about 2 years ago. Skillsoft, known as a training solutions vendor, was prescient in this deal as other HCM vendors have found it necessary to shore up their learning offerings. Workday has announced a learning module of late. LinkedIn paid a princely sum to acquire Lynda.com. And Cornerstone OnDemand continues to be a top player here.

In the Skillsoft/SumTotal marriage, SumTotal had spent time, pre-merger, moving all but its Accero products to a single platform and a single user interface. Post-merger, the combined product lines connect quite smoothly and the result is a more logical HR/Human Capital suite. A new UI was previewed at the show.

Training solutions are going through a resurgence in popularity as employers have come to realize that the labor market is tight and especially so in certain roles/skills. Many employers have discovered that they must rebuild leadership pipelines with the team they possess as pulling in net-new people from the outside may not be as easy as it was during the depths of the recession. Timing in software and stocks is everything.


I often mention Anaplan in the context of other financial planning, budgeting & modeling vendors (or as some analysts call the space: CPM – Corporate Performance Management). That space has firms like Adaptive Insights, Host Analytics, Prophix and Tagetik. I didn’t realize that Anaplan would be at HR Tech nor did I know they were going to announce a series of apps for the HR space. Specifically, they possess: Workforce Planning; Headcount and Payroll Planning; Onboarding; and, Workforce Optimization. I only had a chance run in with Anaplan’s AR person about these but will need to do a follow-up discussion to learn more.


Smashfly gets the connection between Big Data and Recruiting. They got it long before many others. The vendors that do make this connection are a small, smart club that includes: QueSocial, Entelo, Connect6 and a few others.

In the short time that Lori Sylvia, Smashfly CMO had to chat, we discussed how the view that the Recruiting process should be shaped like a funnel, much like Marketing funnels are, is outdated.  Yes, it would help if more recruiting technology utilized a Big Data feed to prime to the candidate funnel. And, yes, it would help if more recruiting processes were structured to take a raw, passive candidate and through education and other interactions helped this candidate develop their interest in the employer and vice versa. Candidates also have access to numerous and huge data resources. They tap into these resources throughout the recruiting process. I noticed this when doing some process design work with the consultants at Baker Tilly (see below process map for campus recruiting). Funnel shaped processes are only a transition step in accommodating big data in all manner of business processes. Big Data helps in spotting fraud. It’s the feedstock for machine learning technology that automates much of a process. It helps in planning and forecasting. And, in recruiting it is helping both employers and jobseekers. Unfortunately, many employers only ‘see’ the big data at the top of the funnel and only how it impacts their firm. That’s a mistake.

NGA Human Resources

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NGA HR has made a concerted push into the mid-market in the United States and has created a process-rich solution for SMB customers in the U.K. The U.K. solution was interesting as they’ve discovered that many smaller firms need sporadic help from focused employment lawyers and NGA HR has added that to their solution set.

Among the other topics that we quickly covered, I learned that NGA HR:

  • Has acquired a major European client (details to be announced next month)
  • Is focused on taking out a lot of the complexity that customers face in integrating payroll systems to various third parties like benefits administrators, retirement plans, insurers and other software such as mobile apps and travel/expense software.
  • Is attempting to eliminate all manual transactions for their customers
  • Is seeking ways to correctly aggregate and monetize the data they collect/process


Mercer is one of the most professional software and consulting firms in the HR space. They are also big. There’s simply no way I can do justice to all of things they’ve accomplished this year (nor could they brief me on all of it in just a few minutes).

Here are some of the highlights I noted:

  • Mercer Match – this solution helps align workers with their employer’s value proposition. The goal is to get everyone on the same page and get everyone’s performance, training, etc. going in the same direction. What this also does is ensure workforce planning, recruiting, training, culture, etc. are all aligned and improving corporate performance. It’s got mobile and gamification aspects.
  • The new Mercer/SAP relationship seems to be working well
  • Likewise the acquisitions of Jeitosa (a Workday and HR strategy consultancy) and Comptryx (labor and workforce analytics) are going well.
  • Mercer has an Internal Labor Market (ILM) toolset. This analytic tool relies on a number of internal big and small data sources to uncover the real reasons employers might be struggling with issues like retention and what they can do about them.

PageUp People

PageUp  is an Australian talent management vendor with some solid thought leadership behind its solutions.

I met with them as their expansion beyond ANZ is growing well. 50% of new bookings are now outside Australia. 25% of new bookings are here in the United States. Fueling that growth is the presence of a Sales and Post-Sales Support group here in the United States.  The company reported a key win in Singapore (where they also opened an office!).


Equifax is the Big Data king at HR Tech. They’ve got incredible amounts of current and historical credit, employment and payroll data that can be used for many HR functions (e.g., employment verification). But they also have a range of other data products, too (e.g., I-9 verification). 2015 has been a busy year for Equifax. Compliance issues (e.g., new state hire forms, new state tax forms, I-9, etc.) have made their compliance solutions a necessity for many clients. Likewise, ACA (Affordable Care Act) management has driven rapid market acceptance of their solutions, too. Equifax won a number of awards for these and other products this year. I, however, know that regulation, like death and taxes, will always be with us. What is really interesting about Equifax may still be themway they can use their vast databases and analytic capabilities. I hope to get updated on that soon.


Entelo is a seriously cool recruiting technology that is sitting on some hot technology: machine learning, Hadoop, elastic search and much more. The company has released three new products and even announced another one this week. One of the coolest aspects of Entelo has always been its ability to detect exactly when a passive job candidate might be most responsive to a career-change entreaty.  During our short discussion time this week, we uncovered another cool way to detect this propensity. If you are contemplating changes in how you recruit, Entelo remains one of those firms that warrants a look. Why? Entelo’s use of Big Data will change your perspective on how recruiting should really work.


Yello is a local (to me here in Chicago) firm that has brought some intelligence or sanity to how recruiting should operate. They engineered solutions from the perspective of the job seeker and it shows in how helps employers create solid recruiting/employment brands. A family member has been exposed to this product twice and likes one major aspect of it. If you are at a job fair, for example, the software will accept a photo of your resume (taken with an iPad) and process your application. This circumvents the not-candidate-friendly typical process of asking people to write down/click- on a quarter-mile long URL and fill out a 14-screen application that contains much of the same information that’s found on the resume or LinkedIn profile.

Yello also has solution components for campus recruiters, too.

FinancialForce HCM

I know, I know – what’s a company with a name like FinancialForce doing at a HR show? FinancialForce acquired a couple of products about 1.5 years ago. Both were built on the Salesforce.com platform (as is FinancialForce’s flagship product). Now, FinancialForce is rolling out this solution big time. At HR Tech, FinancialForce announced something called PeopleCasting. Think of it as a big-time integration of HR, PSA (professional services automation) and Financial data to better plan, schedule, account for and develop talent. Obviously, PeopleCasting would play well with services-oriented firms but the new HCM solution is also targeting the high-tech, high-growth business market, too.

FinancialForce HCM uses the new Lightning UI that was recently released by Salesforce.com. FinancialForce indicated this was not just a re-skinning of the product line to use the Lightning UI. The HCM solution is targeted to companies with 500 or so EEs (employee equivalents). FinancialForce has added additional leadership, product management and other resources to the HCM application suite. With a deepening of functionality in the Financials modules well under way, the HCM solution will need to continue to be enhanced to maintain ever-growing up-market functional parity. Likewise, all FinancialForce sales efforts and channel partner strategies will need expanding to accommodate the demands of ever larger customers and prospects.

Bottom line: FinancialForce is now a cloud ERP suite vendor.


Few people realize how much technology comes out of Chicago. Besides Yello (above), I also ran into CICPlus at the event. CICPlus provides a lot of paycheck, W-4 and other archival functions. They’re also growing quite rapidly of late. I seem to run into them all the time now at every HR event. Chicago also has SyndioSocial, Groupon and many others.

One Customer’s Final Word….

The above comments reflect my conversations with all kinds of people and vendors at the show. But they’re my comments. I admit that I’m constantly looking ahead of the market to see what people might want, need and buy in the months or years ahead. But I thought I’d close this write-up with the observations of a real firm that went to the show to look at solutions they might very well implement in the next few months.

One of my client teams was at the show. They were looking at several performance management solutions. The enormity of the exposition hall and the volume of vendors there was an opportunity that they really appreciated. In the days before the show I discussed with them a number of vendors they should definitely spend time with when they walked the show floor. I gave them pointers on established vendors who might have traditional performance management processes but likely came with a lot of time-saving, pre-populated data/templates/competencies/etc.  I also suggested that they check out a number of newer firms with different approaches to performance management. I even recommended they check out some really, really new (i.e., bleeding edge) firms, too.

They thought four vendors really stood out in their initial discussions: Halogen, Cornerstone, Silkroad and Workday. They also were going back to the expo floor to look at a few more vendors and said the long list might expand a smidge more.

I mention this as I often take clients to software vendor headquarters and to a few key events like HR  Tech. Why? I can talk all day long with clients about the pluses/minuses of certain products or vendors but upfront, in-person contact, is often what helps clients understand:

  • The culture of the vendor
  • The elegance (or lack thereof) of a particular solution
  • The real range of functional possibilities

Moreover, when clients come back from these trips, they have a level of certainty about their decisions that is empowering. They’ve seen the universe of solutions, they’ve talked to the vendors, etc.  It’s not a decision made by staring at a bunch of check marks on a RFP.

Disclosure: SAP, Infor and Workday are premier partners at time of writing

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