I wrote the original post on this at the beginning of this year. When we lost Johnny Carson, we lost a great entertainer. For thirty years, 1962 to 1992, he dominated late night television, and he did that without insulting our intelligence or our sensibilities. My beloved grandmother, Bubbi Bloom, with whom I lived through much of high school, would get ready for Johnny’s Tonight Show by putting on a lovely nightgown and robe and freshening her hair and makeup. And no matter how often we told her that he couldn’t see her, she was unconvinced. Prove it, she would say, to which there simply wasn’t an adequate answer.
One of Johnny’s best-loved characters was Carnac the Magnificent. I’ve often used Carnac in my work, pretending to be him, when confronted with the unknowable, the unanswerable, the irrational questions for which no reasonable responses are going to solve the problem. Unfortunately, as I age but my clients don’t, more and more of them haven’t a clue about Carnac and just think my little skits are just wierd. Such is life.
So why is Carnac showing up for a 2nd time, here, and now? Well, there will be many blog post predictions about what’s going to happen in 2012 in human resource management (HRM), in HRM technology, in HRM BPO and in the HRM delivery system. Some of them may even prove correct when we look back at the end of next year. But what all of us would really like to know aren’t the answers to the known questions (whose answers are already in process) but rather how we should prepare for the unknown questions, i.e. those questions which just haven’t presented themselves yet. And that was Carnac’s great gift. He was able to discern the answers to questions hidden in the proverbial “the envelope please” just by holding that envelope to his forehead, thus engaging his powerful brain.
So before the wave of 2012 predictions begins, perhaps even including one of my own, and with many thanks to Johnny Carson for his contributions to my education, here’s my attempt at answering the unknowable questions that confront our industry in 2011:
- Answer: None.
- And the question is: How many “fake” SaaS HRM software vendors will be on a trajectory to achieve $250 million in annual recurring revenue from their HRM software (because some may offer more than HRM) with 25% real margins by the end of 2011?
- Reality: How stupid could I be? I should have been much more specific in my question, limiting the vendors of interest to those which are public and, therefore, whose profit margins can at least be hypothetically parsed from their published financial statements. But no, I had to be vague in a market where the wizardry of financial engineering, and the lack of understanding by a large segment of buyers of the difference in downstream benefits between true Saas and not so true SaaS HRM products, has produced a very considerable roll-up of not entirely true SaaS HRM software vendors during 2011. And there are several such roll-ups that may well outpace the $250 million mark but at who knows what margins.
- Answer: No.
- And the question is: Will Lawson retain its current leadership, ownership, product mix, and/or non-SaaS HCM product strategy by the end of 2011?
- Reality: I was clearly prescient on this one.
- Answer: Very few.
- And the question is: How many full-scale, global implementations in organizations with more than 5,000 workers will there be by the end of 2011 of Oracle Fusion HCM where the losing vendor is anyone other than Oracle PeopleSoft or EBS HCM?
- Reality: I think my answer is correct, but I’ll defer to my colleague Gretchen Alarcon on this one in hopes that she’ll name names in a comment if I’m wrong.
- Answer: Yes.
- And the question is: Will SAP have taken all customer size restrictions off the subscribing of Business ByDesign by the end of 2011, letting prospects choose that platform wherever it fits, albeit without much fanfare?
- Reality: Nope, wrong again. They’re still targeting relatively small companies and, by extending support for their BS products through 2020, they’ve acknowledged that there won’t be a next gen for their larger customers any time soon.
- Answer: Two, possibly three.
- And the question is: How many brand new, mega-deals (so greater than $50 million USD in total contract value) will be signed for comprehensive HRM BPO at the highest end of the market in 2011?
- Reality: I don’t think there were even this many, but I’ll defer here to Lisa Rowan or Keith Strodtman who will surely name names in a comment if I’ve missed the boat on this one.
- Answer: Dozens.
- And the question is: How many roll-up acquisitions will be done in the US among “mom and pop” PEOs and/or payroll service bureaus and/or background checking and/or applicant tracking and/or performance management software vendors during 2011?
- Reality: Yup, I’m confident on this one even though I haven’t been tracking all of them. Just too small, most of them, and all private, to be tracked easily, so here I need everyone’s help. If you’ve been acquired and are reading this, just so note in the comments.
- Answer: All of the larger talent management suite vendors.
- And the question is: How many of the larger talent management suite vendors will already offer or be building/buying towards offering at least the core HRM functionality of the system of record (SOR) for at least the small to middle market?
- Reality: Well, Kenexa, Peoplefluent, Taleo, Saba and Cornerstone don’t appear to be going down this path while SumTotal, SuccessFactors, SilkRoad are clearly on this path. But to parse the validity of my answer, we must decide (1) what constitutes a talent management suite (Peoplefluent and Kenexa don’t include learning (yet?), and (2) what constitutes a larger suite vendor? I think I was pretty far off the mark here, but your thoughts on this would be appreciated.
- Answer: Very few to none.
- And the question is: How many of the larger talent management suite vendors will actually support the level of global HRM compliance in their version of an SOR that larger organizations take for granted when their SOR is a traditional ERP/HRMS.
- Reality: Nailed this one. And they’re some distance from being able to do this.
- Answer: <5%
- And the question is: What percentage of HR leaders in large and global organizations will have achieved globally standardized semantics for their talent management foundation data, including job, position, KSAOCs, work unit, work location, total compensation plan, employee and contingent worker along with the related demographic/indicative attributes?
- Reality: I haven’t a clue, but I think I’m on the money. Evidence one way or the other?
- Answer: <5%
- And the question is: What percentage of HR leaders will be able to demonstrate via provable analytics what impact their top three (in terms of financial investment) people-related expenditures produce in terms of improved business outcomes?
- Reality: Another “I don’t have a clue,” but here too I think I’m on the money. Your call?
- Answer: Neither!
- And the question is: Who will retire first, Naomi Bloom or Dave Duffield.
- Reality: Right again! And I don’t need any help on this one. If you had seen Dave dancing at Workday Rising, you’d know he’s still got the moves. As for me, I can do 20 knots on my electric scooter, not to mention wheelies.
In the interests of full disclosure, many of the vendors mentioned or referenced by their telltale characteristics in this post have been/are/are likely to be clients.