SuccessFactors Offers Good Human Resources Management, But It’s Not A Complete Solution

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.

Later in the day at an analyst meeting, I asked about learning management. I’d not heard anything about learning all day. It seems to me that a vendor that prides itself on helping companies set user goals, identify performance objectives, use 360-degree reviews, etc., would also help people learn through integrated learning to fill those performance gaps, but there was no mention of resolving these gaps. Ideally, a manager evaluates an employee’s performance and within the same application (because the apps are integrated) assigns learning. This could be a video to watch, a document to read and react to, an online learning module, or an eLearning course to meet compliance requirements. In response to my question, Lars Dalgaard said that none of the LMS companies are making money, that LMS is not the way of the future, and basically . . . it’s not on SuccessFactors’ radar. While I agree that 70% of learning is informal, I think the CEO is making a mistake in sloughing off this application as passé. As an analyst, I receive two to three inquiries a day from our clients about LMS, and they have strong reasons why they need this functionality. While SF has GeoLearning as a learning partner and will integrate with other LMSes, we all know that’s not the same as a truly integrated application with the same look and feel. Why doesn’t SuccessFactors make another purchase of a company like GeoLearning (natively built as SaaS), use the informal capabilities of GeoLearning and CubeTree, and provide customers with a truly integrated suite? Now that’s real execution from recruiting to performance to learning to social networking to analytics.