Posted by: Ron Hanscome | October 26, 2010

HR Tech 2010 Recap: Data Points Part II

This is my final HR Technology Conference recap post on the breakout sessions that I attended at the show, and discusses the Bersin & Associates preview of their 2010 Talent Management Systems Customer Satisfaction survey results. Looking at the calendar, this is later than I anticipated due to the need for some follow-up with Barb Arth at Bersin to ensure that I understood the methodology and data. Hopefully you will find it worth the wait.

If you attended the show with a full pass, you are able to get a download of the full presentation here. If you weren’t there, here is a brief recap of the most salient points:

  • The presentation discussed early results from this 7 month study that included survey results from more than 600 customers evaluating approximately 45 providers. Of that total number, Bersin was able to gather enough reliable and consistent data to analyze 16 vendors in detail. All 16 vendors had at least 10 evaluations, and many had a higher number of responses; although 10 seems like a small number, it was sufficient for vendors where the response data was very consistent from survey to survey. Having coordinated major research studies for META Group in a past life, I was initially skeptical of the small sample size per vendor, but the follow-up explanation from Barb enabled me to understand the rigor behind the analysis.


  • Major trends revealed by the study are listed below, with my comments in italics:
    • Talent management strategy continues to evolve, with more integration between functional components, redefinition/expansion of succession, leadership development, learning and workforce planning, and increased segmentation/differentiation of investment on “wealth producing roles” within an organization. These results are not surprising, as they dovetail with other research and my own consultant experiences over the past 18 months. In particular, the segmentation of investment on what many others call “key job families” is a critical emerging trend, as HR is being forced to move from a ‘peanut butter’ approach to workforce investment to one that is more targeted.
    • More than half of survey respondents (54%) indicate they have either an immature talent management strategy, or none at all — this represents a major focus opportunity for many organizations over the next three years. If anything, my experience indicates this response may be understating what is really happening in the market – I think the situation is actually worse when 0ne examines what might pass for an ‘intermediate’ or ‘developing’ TM strategy.
    • Integration of talent management technology is becoming a higher priority, with 33% of respondent users indicating a willingness to sacrifice functionality to standardize on one vendor. Although I agree that organizations are realizing the impact of integration and SAY they are willing to sacrifice feature/function at the beginning of a project, there is almost always an issue once the ‘rubber meets the road’ in the technology evaluation process and the users understand specifically what they have to give up. Also, “standardizing on one vendor” does NOT necessarily mean that the integration issue will go away, given the continuing rate of acquisition in the HCM market, resulting in one vendor, but multiple platforms that must be integrated over time


  • Bersin’s methodology measures four discrete areas of customer satisfaction (Product Quality, Implementation, Service, and Business Partnership) as well as three overall Satisfaction criteria (Engage Again, Extend Contract, Willingness to Recommend) for a total of 18 measures. The results were very interesting:
    • Halogen Software led the pack by winning every category, and was identified as the leader in the MidMarket, followed by, Ultimate Software, and Sonar6
    • For the Enterprise segment, the leader was ADP (I suspect driven by evaluation of its Workscape & Virtual Edge acquisitions), followed by iCIMS, StepStone, and Cornerstone OnDemand
    • Taleo led the Global Enterprise segment, followed by Saba and Plateau.
    • In terms of Service categories, respondents were happiest with vendor Expertise & Best Practices (3.75 out of 5), and least happy with Ease of Data Integration (3.23)
    • Overall satisfaction with all vendors is hovering near “Average” (about 3.3 out of 5)

My Commentary

First off, it is great to have this data available in the marketplace, as it empirically reinforces what so many of us have known anecdotally for a long time. Kudos to Josh Bersin for funding this study, and to Barb Arth for driving the execution and analysis. I’m looking forward to the final results, which are scheduled to be released in December.

There are many places I could go in analyzing these results — but for now, let’s focus on the overall need for improvement in customer satisfaction with Talent management technology providers. The top rated provider (Halogen Software) garnered 81% of total points. I don’t know about you, but when my son comes home with an 81 on his Science test, I’m not very happy — that’s a “B minus” or lower in most grading systems. The next seven vendors scored in 60s, the next six in the 50s, and the bottom two (SAP and Oracle PeopleSoft) got 47% and 49% respectively. The average score across the 16 profiled vendors is right at 60%. How many of you put up with being 60% satisfied with the vendors who provide for you at home?

Having worked on all sides of the HCM marketplace, let me be clear that the responsibility for these results is not all on the vendors — in fact, customers must share the blame for this, as well as the analyst and consultant segments. Likewise, improving these results over time will require effort from all four market segments. Stay tuned for future posts where I’ll further discuss the issues around HCM technology customer satisfaction and outline my thoughts on how to fix them.

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