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IBM held its 20th annual IBM Connect conference (previously known as Lotusphere) as part of its IBM Social Business efforts at the end of January. The conference focuses on business and social collaboration technology, which our business technology innovation research found to be the second-ranked priority for business innovation. At the conference IBM made a series of significant announcements, including a new version of its social collaboration suite, IBM Connections, and the ability to use the software on a cloud computing platform.Technology Innovation Priorities

In the mid ’90s Lotus Notes and Domino led the market with the first true business collaboration and communications software. Today, after decades of fierce competition with Microsoft and its Office and SharePoint offerings, IBM is innovating (in a much more serious way than I have seen from Microsoft) to gain growth in the new market for business and social collaboration software. It is a good time for IBM to aggressively expand into the market, as our research finds only 25 percent of organizations are satisfied with their social collaborative capabilities. These have been dominated by shared folders and documents (86%), videoconferencing and instant messaging (66%), yet those applications are only a small piece of what social collaboration is about.

IBM has been adding business collaboration features over recent years with new capabilities that include activity streams, broadcasting, instant messaging, videoconferencing and wikis. All are part of IBM Connections 4.5, along with content and document management. With IBM Docs people can collaborate on a range of documents, including spreadsheets, presentations and word processing. IBM has advanced the user experience and integrated its collaborative and social software into a unified user experience. IBM is also making the software available on Apple, Android and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets. Our research finds Apple to be the first-ranked priority for smartphones (50%) and tablets (66%), followed by Android on smartphones (27%) and tablets (19%). Though BlackBerry (which just announced the change in its corporate name from Research in Motion) is a distance third for smartphones, it still has a loyal following that also uses IBM software. Our research finds Microsoft at the bottom of business and IT buyers’ priority lists. IBM is also expanding its social collaboration support for mobile technology to operate in an offline mode which is essential and has also addressed the need to secure sensitive communications and content.

IBM also maintains a strong installed base with Notes and Domino. IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition 9 is expected to be available in March and brings an innovative approach to blend social collaboration within electronic mail that many will really like IBM innovative approach. Businesses that do not use Notes, which make up the majority of the industry, can examine IBM Connections.

IBM is also moving fast to ensure that its offering is available in cloud computing. IBM SmartCloud for Social Business will make it easier for organizations to get started and use the software without the need for servers, storage and other internal IT resources. This is an important step to bring its offering to a larger audience that may not have the IT resources or budget to support new business collaboration efforts. The software helps streamline the cultural transition to using social collaborative software. IBM has introduced adoption services with a range of models, processes and education. This investment is critical to get organizations to step into the new world of social collaboration and increase the confidence level of organizations in this approach; today only 17 percent are very confident and just 38 percent are confident.

IBM has completed its acquisition of Kenexa, and at IBM Connect seemed to indicate it has settled on some specific areas of focus that blend learning and recruiting with Social Collaboration and Talent Managementsocial collaboration. It has taken steps since my analysis at the time of the acquisition to address many of my concerns. In addition, IBM introduced its new Employee Experience Suite, which is designed to provide an interface to business priorities and work like an employee portal. IBM also touted its new social learning offering, which when delivered will leverage its existing software and what the company purchased with Kenexa. I would like to have seen more on how to leverage Kenexa OutStart mobile learning. The potential in social learning is significant, and IBM’s product offerings put the company on a short list of providers who offer integrated social learning today. More broadly, IBM’s efforts to bring social collaboration to human capital management come at a time when our research into HCM shows that knowledge sharing, collaborating and learning are key priorities in organizations today. IBM will need to invest further to bring into IBM Connections more from Kenexa of what is needed in talent management in recruiting, performance and compensation. IBM has a great opportunity to expand its position with Kenexa recruiting customers that use both its software and its services and get them to use more IBM social collaboration and workforce analytics software.

IBM spoke at the conference about its Smarter Workforce Analytics Suite, designed to address workforce analytics and predictive hiring analytics, but I did not see this software leveraging the company’s business intelligence or workforce analytics solutions. The tandem of this software foundation, the IBM Research and global Improve Workforce Analyticsbusiness services organizations, and the analytic services of the Kenexa organization has the potential to advance the necessary process of moving off of spreadsheets to a dedicated business intelligence tool to meet the needs for workforce analytics and planning. We have found in our research a significant move by businesses to improve workforce analytics in 2013, with 61 percent of organizations indicating they have plans in this area. Also most HR organizations are still working on advancing beyond the use of spreadsheets and reports indicating a lower level of maturity than what IBM might expect. This could be an opportunity for IBM if they fully utilize the core technology of its business analytics software and that I wrote about last year.

Technology ConsiderationsI was impressed with IBM’s advancements in social collaboration at Connect 2013 and its commitment to usability, which our research found to be the highest priority (64%) in choosing technology, followed by reliability, since technology in use across an organization must be able to scale and perform. Organizations that have not considered IBM for social collaboration should examine the new version of Connections, since it offers a powerful set of unified capabilities that encompasses mobile technology. The top benefit to such software according to 72 percent of organizations in our research is better communications and knowledge sharing, and Connections has the power to deliver that. However, IBM should also embed its social collaboration features in other business applications, as that is still a preferred method of accessing collaboration according to 43 percent of organizations. One area that I expected to see more highlighted was its integration with IBM business analytics software which is one of the top use cases for using social collaboration in the enterprise and that IBM has integrated already.

IBM is taking a significant step forward to bring Smarter Workforce into a highly competitive market for human capital management. This is confirmed in my colleagues (Stephan Millard) research agenda for human capital management, that the pace of innovation in 2013 will be significant. IBM new offerings and approach are ones to watch but make sure you are able to get something for use today in your business and not have to wait for the future. IBM is a vendor to watch for its ability to help organizations of all sizes with social collaboration and human capital management.

Regards,

Mark Smith
CEO & Chief Research Officer

Acquisitions and new product releases continue to make the market for human capital management a hotbed of activity, as organizations attempt to fully utilize and increase the value of their workforces as I have outlined in my research agenda. ADP, with more than $10 billion in revenues and more than 570,000 customers, is aiming for the top spot in this market.

ADP plans to grow its current human resources-centric outsourcing business and expand its software and services for human capital management (HCM) directly to organizations globally. It has three major products that target niches from small to midsize businesses to the largest global organizations. At the low end, ADP Workforce Now, launched in 2009, provides a collection of HR, benefits, payroll and time management capabilities to more than 24,000 clients. For midsize businesses, an application suite called ADP Vantage HCM is in pilot deployment and estimated for release in mid-2012. On the high end, through a partnership with SAP, ADP GlobalView handles transactions in 81 countries for more than 100 customers with 1 million employees. ADP’s latest announcement, touts having an integrated end-to-end application platform for talent management for all sizes of business. ADP also continues to offer other applications directly through its partnerships, such as one with Cornerstone for its talent management suite and another with Kronos for workforce management. (To confuse things, ADP just announced an extension to its reselling of Cornerstone OnDemand, which directly competes with the soon-to-be-released ADP Vantage HCM.)

On another front ADP purchased a new learning management system (LMS) to expand into this market. From my review it appears to be a good stand-alone foundation to build on and will need further integration with performance management and analytics and a better interface for users to collaborate and interact with others in the organization.

ADP also has expanded its ADP Mobile, adding to existing employee self-service capabilities such as paycheck, benefits, time and attendance, absence and retirement, new capabilities including inbox, work calendaring and pay-card management. I reviewed its mobile capabilities on the Apple iPhone and found it simple to use and covering key employee-level needs for any size of organization.

ADP Vantage HCM provides talent acquisition, compensation, performance and succession, and is built on a platform that is strong on configurability, utilizing workflow and a rules-based approach. At its foundation is a jobs library that stores information and profiles about individuals who have specific jobs and competencies. ADP has overcome the most impactful barrier to compensation, which is integration with the rest of the talent management suite, according to 66 percent of organizations in our total compensation management benchmark research. However, it needs to make usability a higher priority for employees and managers across its applications; in this area the software needs improvement, and usability is the number-one evaluation criteria for products in HCM according to our research. But ADP has made many tasks easier to use; for instance, it presents the alignment of goals for an individual in one screen for review. This helps align the workforce to business goals, which is the top benefit of a performance management investment according to 81 percent of organizations in our performance management for talent management benchmark research. It has also expanded in its support for competencies and salary data for benchmarking, and is starting to provide content for its newly released LMS.

Looking elsewhere, we see that ADP still could improve its recruiting and applicant tracking systems as part of its application suite. Today, with its talent acquisition capabilities, it can manage requisitions and interviews, handle onboarding by posting positions to specific job boards, get resumes, post applicants into the system and do background checks. ADP also acquired a recruiting processing outsourcing (RPO) company called The RightThing that has helped many large organizations with outsourced recruiting. It uses a candidate relationship management technology called SourcePoint that has the ability to identify and source candidates from job boards and social sites such as Spoke and ZoomInfo. But ADP has not integrated its recruiting technologies with the Vantage HCM suite, and that should be a priority. According to our benchmark in social media and recruiting, half of organizations plan to address candidate integration from sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to identify new talent pools. HR and recruiting organizations expect these capabilities from applicant tracking systems.

Another area where ADP will need to enhance Vantage HCM is workforce analytics; the current offering needs significant improvement in usability and functionality. ADP demonstrated a new technology offering that was demonstrated on a table that presents information in a logical and easy-to-read manner, with access to micro-analytic visualization for details on metrics. HR professionals expect analytics to be simple to use, according to 89 percent of organizations in our workforce analytics benchmark research. ADP also has been investing in search technology as an enabling feature to its applications, letting users search nouns, verbs and actions within the applications and information. One area that it has not addressed is the social collaboration that helps address the needs of employee engagement for retaining talent that our benchmark research finds is a new priority in business.

ADP wants to become the largest provider of cloud-based enterprise software, adding to its current 250,000 software-as-a-service (SaaS) customers with an estimated 18 million employees using its products. The company is building on its strengths in payroll and benefits and expanding its HCM portfolio. It faces some tough choices about continuing or ending partnerships with companies it is now competing against. Future releases of workforce analytics, support for tablets and improved usability of the Vantage HCM suite will help ADP be even more competitive in the market.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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