For the past two days I attended SuccessFactors’ SuccessConnect event in San Francisco. This was the second in a series of user conferences that SuccessFactors will hold around the world. The first was in New York City last week. Jason Corsello did a nice job highlighting the key announcements and product updates from New York and San Francisco in his blog post. I want to take a different tack with this post.
I had the opportunity to listen to a number of customers ranging from Coca Cola Enterprises (Consumer Products) to Lincoln Financial Group (Financial Services) to Williams Corp (Energy) to Stanford University Medical Center (Healthcare) to Ryan Corp (Professional Services) to tell the story of their journey with SuccessFactors or the recently acquired Inform. As you can see, these customer span a variety of industries, but struggle with many similar talent-related challenges. Common threads included aligning pay with performance, developing leaders for critical roles in the organization, and leveraging data to make better talent decisions. I tried to document the key details for these customer stories via Twitter (here is a link to an archive of SuccessConnect tweets) so I will not repeat the observations in this post.
An interesting element of these stories was the impact of culture on the change management required to implement their solutions. It is certainly accepted wisdom that change management is crucial to success, but the nuances of what works and does not work in different cultures was interesting to see. It also started me thinking about the SuccessFactors culture.
Here are a few random observations about the SuccessFactors culture:
- Energy and Enthusiasm is Important – They had a lot of people attending the opening keynotes. The employees went crazy, yelling and cheering, when Lars Dalgaard, the CEO, was introduced. That kind of energy is rarely seen at events like these.
- They Play to Win – During the first day, SuccessFactor held a session for analysts (financial and industry) with the senior leadership. They are a very competitive bunch. One of the things that struck me (not a new thought, but it struck me again) is something Brian Sommer once told me (and I am paraphrasing) – all really successful software companies have four strong players in the following key roles – the Visionary, the Geek, the Financials guy, and the Salesman. Lars plays the visionary as he is definitely the public face of the organization delivering the message of what SuccessFactors is all about. Aaron Au is definitely the Geek. He was a co-founder and designed and built their technology platform (Tom Fisher also was there and as VP of Cloud Computing will likely play a role here going forward as well). Bruce Felt, the CFO, keeps tight reins on the financial model for SuccessFactors. Jay Larson is definitely the salesman.
- They are Not Afraid to Make the Future – SuccessFactors was one of the early vendors offering performance appraisal solutions. With the acquisition of Inform and CubeTree, SuccessFactors is showing that it is prepared to do the heavy lifting to try to grow emerging HCM (and potentially broader) market opportunities. Social HCM and workforce planning and analysis are two emerging HCM market segments I believe will be important categories over the next several years.
The greatest impact of these acquisitions however may be the value they impart in talent management. I made the argument here (Gartner subscription required) a few years ago that workforce analytics were crucial to effective talent management (think of talent management processes as levers business executives can use to achieve specific business outcomes – which levers to use and how requires data to determine). BizX Insights, leveraging Inform, is a first step in that direction.
The talent profile in your typical talent management solution only tells a partial story about an individual. It provides structured data around things the organization needs to know about the person for their current job (and maybe next job) plus some common data about all people. However, most people have a wealth of experience that is not captured in this structured data. One of the promises of social networking (both internal and external) is that it provides a much richer set of data about a person, but in a less structured format because it is provided as part of the interactions within the networks. I see very interesting possibilities when you combine the structured talent data in SuccessFactors with the unstructured data captured in CubeTree leveraged by the analysis prowess brought to the table by Inform.
What are those possibilities? I have been thinking about it a fair amount lately as I am doing a keynote presentation next week at the SilkRoad technologies Connections conference in Bonita Springs, FL. I do not want to give away the plot, but I plan on discussing some of these opportunities live next week at the conference. After that, I plan to do a series of blog posts discussing these potential futures. So, stay tuned.