Jason Averbrook has a great post on the Knowledge Infusion Center of Excellence blog called "What to learn from Shootouts and Battles of Software Vendors..". For those not aware, the HR Technology Conference does these shootouts/battles each year where typically three or four vendors square off against each other to demonstrate three or four short scripted scenarios. In most cases, the audience gets to vote for which vendor they thought was best in each scenario. At the end of the session, the audience gets to see who they voted for as the best vendor (for each scenario and in aggregate). Afterwards, the winning vendor often announces in a press release that they won the shootout/battle. Jason does an excellent job discussing the dangers of using this kind of venue to choose a vendor. I will not rehash it here.
As a history lesson, the first shootouts, at least to my knowledge, were done at the Andersen Consulting Software Spectacular shows in the 1990s. My old boss, Brian Sommer (see his blogs Software Safari and Services Safari), came up with the idea (Brian please correct me if I am wrong). We did it a little bit different from how Bill Kutik has set up the ones at the HR Technology Conference. We created scripted scenarios (five or six). Instead of having everyone on a main stage, we had breakout rooms for each vendor (usually five or six vendors). We would give each vendor thirty minutes to demonstrate each scenario. We scheduled the scenarios so that an attendee could go to all of the scenarios for one vendor or go to see the same scenario from each vendor. We also had proctors in each room to make sure that the vendors stayed to the script. Our goal was to create a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity (to see the same scripted scenarios for five or six vendors in a half a day to a day) for our attendees.
Now that you know my experience with this in the past and present, I thought I would put forth my suggestions for shootouts/battles in the future at the HR Technology Conference (or any other conference that has them -- and I have mentioned them to Bill in the past):
Do not have the CEOs drive the demonstration. I think having a short introduction by a vendor CEO where he/she can give the elevator pitch about the company is a good thing. However, I think the experts, rather than the CEO, will typically provide more information to customers
Do the shootout on the show floor. This combines the Software Spectacular approach with the HR Technology Conference approach to some extent. I would allow any vendor who wants to participate to do a scenario in their booth (why limit it to three or four vendors?). I would give each vendor 30 minutes to demonstrate the scenario. I would publish the schedule of scenarios as another track at the conference. There is not as much theater to this approach, but I think it increases the educational opportunity for attendees
Get rid of the scoring. The Lawson/Oracle/Workday battle this year was not scored. I believe it was highly attended (I was not able to attend) and attendees still got to learn a lot about the vendors and the products. Again, the scoring makes for great theater (and press releases), but it adds nothing to the educational value for attendees in my opinion
What do you think? Do you like the shootouts/battles as they are? Do you like my suggestions for improvement ? What would you like to see at a conference?
There were no major announcements around HCM, but there were some important learnings for customers at the conference:
More than 400 customers have either upgraded or are in the process upgrading to version 9.0 of PeopleSoft HCM according to Oracle
Version 9.1 of PeopleSoft HCM is expected in Q4 of 2008. The major theme for the release is improving the talent management capabilities (no big surprise). Beyond talent management, other enhancements include support for multiple encumbrances in public sector, local payroll support in additional countries, and expanded use of the approval/delegation engine
Version 12 of Oracle E-Business Suite HCM has one live customer
Oracle demonstrated the Fusion Compensation Workbench as an example of the changes that they were making for Fusion. Oracle showed the use of PeopleSoft-like Tree functionality within a data grid to allow expanding and contracting of items within the grid for example
Gartner is working on an Event note for the whole conference (to which I am contributing). There will be more details as well as well as more analysis in that research note. I will post a link (subscription required) when it is published. I did not get a chance to see too many user presentations at the conference, but I did get a chance to speak with a number of customers. Regardless of which product line, the message was pretty much the same. Talent management was on the top of the agenda for 2008 investments.
Last week I had the opportunity to do one of the keynotes at the Saba/Centra Summit. I was not able to attend the first day of the conference, but the keynotes for Day 2 were CLOs from IBM and Deloitte talking about what their organizations were doing in terms of learning and talent management and how Saba played a role. I opened Day 3 talking about the evolution of talent management software and how to leverage it in a more strategic fashion. After a Saba keynote about their future vision, HP did a keynote about their journey in learning and talent management. It just implemented Saba for learning globally and will go live with performance management by the end of the year (it should be one of the largest employee performance management implementations to date). All of the customer keynotes were impressive in terms of the vision around better integrated talent management. They were not there yet, but they definitely knew that was where they wanted to go. This was echoed in other presentations as well such as by customers like Union Bank of California. Saba is still best known as a e-Learning suite provider, but I was impressed at the level of interest by customers in broader talent management applications. Some of these companies are the largest and most complex in the world and Saba is one of the few vendors in the space that has relatively large numbers of them using their solutions.
I have spent the last two days at KronosWorks. Here are my top-of-mind impressions:
- Kronos puts on a good conference. They had strong keynotes from Marcus Buckingham ("Play to Your Strengths") and D. Michael Abrashoff ("It's Your Ship"). It did not hurt to have the Blue Man Group open the conference either to energize an audience.
- Kronos provides good access to customers at the conference. They schedule some specific analyst sessions but provide a lot of time to go customer sessions. I sat in on a great customer panel just for analysts where both good and bad were discussed. I also attended a case study on Caribou Coffee that discussed their use of competencies and assessments. Good stuff. Caribou is a great example of leveraging analytics to drive talent management practices that lead to improved business performance.
- I also learned Workforce Acquisition v 7 has been problematic for a number of customers. These customers were trying to assess the impact of the Deploy acquisition and determine whether they fall back to v6 or move to v8 (Deploy). The timing of the conference was good because it provided these customers an opportunity to gather needed information.
- On a more personal note, I borrowed Diane Morello's presentation, "The Quest for Talent in the Digital Age". I gave it twice and probably did not do it the justice she would have done, but the content overall resonated well with the audiences. I was struck by how much both audiences latched onto social networking as a key issue.
I am writing this post on my Cingular 8525 device using Typepad Mobile. I apologize in advance if there are any grammatical errors or typos (no spell check).
I had a conversation today with Jim Kizielewicz, SVP of Corporate Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer, from Kronos about the acquisition. This is what I learned:
Deploy's solution will become Workforce Acquisition for Field Hiring v8. It is immediately available. Workforce Acquisition for Field Hiring v8 will be the platform upgrade path for existing Unicru customers (Workforce Acquisition v6 and v7 customers). Kronos will incorporate content from the Unicru solutions (assessment and analytics) into the Deploy platform.
Kronos will continue to offer the Workforce Acquisition for Corporate Hiring solution through its recently announced partnership with MrTed. There is some overlap with the Deploy as it supports requisition-based hiring. However, according to Kronos, most of the salaried hiring customers for Deploy are on legacy solutions, not the new integrated salaried/hourly platform (called aTAO).
It will be approximately 90 days before Kronos will be ready to start migrating existing Unicru customers to the new platform. Kronos will continue to support both solutions, but Unicru customers should expect ultimately to migrate to the new platform.
Kronos has reorganized the Talent Management division. There will be a Talent Management - West (Unicru) which will continue to focus on content (assessment and analytics) and a Talent Management - East (Deploy) which will focus on the development of the platform.
Kronos also is keen to leverage the platform to expand into performance management (initially through the performance scorecarding functionality that Deploy had built).
I do not think I will be publishing a First Take on this, but if you are a Gartner client and have questions on the acquisition, please feel free to set up an inquiry.