Integration and Analytics Are Good, But What About Mobile?

There was a little flurry of vendor activity this week in the HCM market, but one that likely flew under the radar of many HR folks is the most intriguing.

First up, Peoplefluent, the child of the now two-year-old merger of PeopleClick and Authoria, bolstered its integrated talent management offerings by picking up its learning and development partner, Canada-based Strategia Communications. The dollar value of the deal wasn’t immediately available.

In the press release on the acquisition, Peoplefluent CEO Charles Jones said the deal is “designed to dramatically propel the company’s talent suite from performance assessment to performance improvement through learning.”

A smart, prudent move, and after going through a rebranding last summer,  it will certainly bolster Peoplefluent’s brand recognition in a crowded integrated talent suite market.

It also makes a lot of dollars and sense. As the integrated talent management market gets more crowded, poaching customers from other vendors can be a costly, time-consuming process that often ends in disappointment. Getting your existing customers to sign up for additional products and services is an easier sell. Acquiring a partner through an acquisition like this one is a smart way to juice the bottom line.

But a game-changer it’s not. As I wrote last fall, the integrated suite is just the ante in a high-stakes talent management market. Sophisticated customers are looking for a bit more. That’s where talent analytics comes into play. Peoplefluent and many of the other talent management providers are working on turning all the employee data their products produce and share into a business planning and analytical tool.

But that’s not just their playing field anymore. Take Mercer, for example. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the HR consulting firm. Evidently not jet-lagged from a trip to Davos, Switzerland, for last week’s World Economic Forum, the annual hob-nob of who’s who in economics and policy-making, where the firm released new data and research on the relationship between talent mobility and economic growth, Mercer announced on Monday the release of a new human capital analytics tool, iknow.

According to the press release, the new product aims to help HR and business leaders move from making decisions based on hunches (“I think,” in Mercer’s argot) to data-driven “I know” decision making. According to the company’s press release, it will be available by subscription on a cloud platform and promises to aggregate data from disparate sources, including common employee data systems like Oracle’s Peoplesoft and SAP,  into a unified dashboard useful for talent planning.

In the release, HR tech guru Naomi Lee Bloom said, “Bringing together the right blend of insight, advice, guidance and technology has proven difficult for even the most sophisticated HR functions, especially when confronted with myriad, less-than-ideal data sources.” She’d know. I can’t think of anyone with a deeper understanding of the history of the HCM market. If you haven’t read it yet, her blog is a treasure trove of insight and advice for HR executives.

HR thinkers have been beating the analytics drum for quite a while now and we’re starting to see some interesting technology products come out as a result.  The era of big data, subject of a special report in the magazine a few months ago, makes the ability to gather, manipulate and quickly act upon data a core competency of the talent manager.

Last month, I spent some time with Oracle’s Anand Subbaraman, senior director of product strategy for the company’s Fusion HCM product. The Fusion line of products, and there are a bunch including finance, procurement, project planning and customer management, are Oracle’s next generation applications for business in the cloud environment.

Anand showed me Fusion’s interface that includes a Facebook-like activity stream, along with talent review and planning tools, including social performance feedback and a cool widget that alerts managers if an individual employee may be a retention risk. Fusion HCM doesn’t yet include recruiting, learning or time management but Anand said they’re in the development pipeline.

So far, so good. It’s nice to see the vendors in the human capital market offering up  tools to aid beleaguered talent managers in what Bloom charitably called an environment filled with “less than ideal” data sources. We’re looking at you, Excel spreadsheets.

But among all the news this week, the one that interested me most was the announcement that IBM picked up Worklight, an Israeli company that specializes in developing mobile applications. Part of my interest is because I’m just not sure about the implications yet.

It may even end up having little impact on human capital. But the possibility is powerful. As a company official noted in the release, both the workforce and a company’s customers think of mobility as “mission critical” to what they do. With its big bet on mobile application development, IBM may just end up making the biggest splash.