I’m thrilled to see “people” talked about as a major focus of business. Company executives recognize that people are critical to sustainable organizational growth. Talent is now a C-level priority. People development is a responsibility of all managers and leaders, not just the HR department. Great to hear! Vendors see talent management as a hot space and are strategically lining up to meet business needs — enter IBM!
The rumor circulating for the past few weeks has now been confirmed: Oracle is buying Taleo, a global talent management vendor, for $1.9 billion. This is just another — albeit important — acquisition in the strategic talent management space. All companies must have core HR systems in place, but now it’s equally important to look at the strategic part of HR: the performance, succession, career development, and learning components as a layer resting on top of the core. Companies want to retain, develop, and reward their employees and need these applications in place for efficiency and effectiveness.
With this acquisition, Oracle gets a vendor with these talent management components in a pure SaaS deployment model, which provides ultimate flexibility. However, the offerings in the suite are not equally robust. Taleo is known for its recruiting app; to become a suite vendor, it added performance, which has gotten mixed reviews, and learning, which is not best in its class. Learn.com, the vendor Taleo acquired for learning, works OK for the midmarket, but its functionality does not hold up well for large global and enterprise customers.
Oracle can’t buck the SaaS tide any more. SaaS is the preferred deployment model for talent management, and the large ERP vendors like SAP (finalizing its acquisition of SuccessFactors) and Oracle are now joining the movement. Oracle offers Fusion, but a lot of work still needs to be done to develop this into a full SaaS talent suite. Once this deal closes, watch and see how Oracle positions the Taleo offerings with Fusion Talent Management.
ERP vendors are showing strong interest in the HRM SaaS market. They are either attempting to build a solution (as Oracle is doing with Fusion) or looking to acquire HRM functionality (as SAP is about to do with SuccessFactors). Talent applications — including offerings like performance, succession, and learning — are not easy to build. The niche players have been laser-focused for years on building these solutions or integrating acquisitions, and generally they have done a good job. Now we see other vendors that want this functionality buying up these niche players to offer a complete end-to-end HRM solution. The HRM market is hot! My colleague Paul Hamerman and I have authored research that shows performance growing faster — at 16.5% — than any other HRM segment (HRM Solutions: Traditional Models Clash With Next Generation Processes And Technology). Executives know that having highly skilled employees who know the business and can execute well on strategy is critical to business growth.
Yesterday I attended the first day of SuccessFactors’ California customer conference at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Efficiency, speed, and good orchestration were evident throughout the day. The CEO, Lars Dalgaard, is a high-energy person who exudes confidence in the growth of his company. He is a real showman, and rather than giving a high-level company overview, his 90-minute presentation focused on product demos with touchscreen projections that worked fairly well. He clearly knows the products, has market momentum, and is driving the company forward. Lars would say, “We are about ‘Execution!’” The SuccessFactors slogan is “Success = Strategy + Execution.” The touted “new” offerings include recruiting (it’s been out for two years); a core HR data management app called Employee Central; calibration; goal execution; and the brand-new offerings through acquisitions -- Inform for workforce planning and analytics, and CubeTree for social collaboration. Acquisitions are new for SuccessFactors, so it hasn’t had experience in bringing together different company cultures and technologies, but my bet is that they’ll be successful.