Mark Smith's Analyst Perspectives

SumTotal Systems Optimizes The Use of Human Capital

Posted by Mark Smith on Nov 11, 2011 11:58:22 AM

I just attended the first-ever analyst summit (Twitter #SumAS11) of SumTotal Systems to learn more about the company’s people and products since my in-depth analysis from earlier in the year. This key player in the business applications market offers a portfolio of applications in HRMS, workforce management and talent management, pieced together over several years with financing from its owner, Vista Equity Partners. This has been a busy year, as SumTotal acquired GeoLearning, Accero and CyberShift to gain entry into the expense and workforce management application markets.

The SumTotal Systems portfolio now covers the range of applications required to manage operations and people from contingent and hourly to salaried workers. At the summit, the company discussed its ability to meet a range of companies’ needs. It featured presentations about deployments of its global and domestic customers including  Praxair and the University of Wollongong, among others. SumTotal’s executive team personally demonstrated its applications in a context of business scenarios covering a dozen applications in a little more than 20 minutes: Strategic Workforce Management, Social Learning, Learning Management, Mobile Learning, Workforce Management, Compensation, Expense Management and Payroll, Talent Profile, Succession Planning, Performance Management, and Recruiting. Most impressive was the continuity of roles across each of its applications – it’s no easy feat to maintain such consistency.

SumTotal is positioned to keep growing its portfolio and gain more customers thanks to its common application platform and architecture, which provide integration of applications, processes and information. This is something the company does not currently market, but analysts and customers see it as a key component of the portfolio’s value. This platform has been a strong foundation since SumTotal acquired it from Softscape, and has helped the organization unify applications in a common process and information model.

In addition, many of SumTotal’s key applications are built to operate natively on mobile platforms, including the leaders Apple, Android and RIM, to take advantage of each one’s unique user experience. SumTotal Mobile, released this year, also allows offline access to content for learning. SumTotal also has tightly integrated its user framework with Microsoft SharePoint, so it can be embedded within an organization’s corporate portal environment.

SumTotal Systems has made a commitment to deliver upgrades to its software multiple times a year and in 2011 has delivered a series of improvements in social learning and strategic workforce analytics. It has smartly built its workforce analytics portfolio on top of the IBM Cognos technology so it can focus on business users’ and process needs, including the mobility capabilities that I recently reviewed and the version 10 release that my colleague has assessed. In addition, the newly released Talent Explorer makes it easy to navigate and review information about people in an organization for a range of ad-hoc and strategic decision-making.

The company has integrated workforce management applications acquired from CyberShift with the SumTotal HRMS and talent management environment. It looks at schedules and competencies and treats the talent pool as one group of workers not divided into hourly and salaried. A new time clock offers integrated learning and other capabilities to provide workers with more direct access to their information, including work schedules but could use a larger and brighter display. SumTotal should expand further into social recruiting, on which we will soon publish our benchmark research, as it is doing in the social learning areas.

The SumTotal Systems analyst summit showcased the depth and dynamics of the company’s team and products. It was clear from the event that there is more going on than I realized, from the software’s level of user and process integration to support of mobility platforms and workforce analytics. The company’s aggressive product roadmap aims to attract a global customer base with languages and currencies not offered by many in the industry. In fact only a few providers have  this breadth and depth. Infor, with its acquisition of Lawson, is one, and we are waiting to see how its application portfolios will work together and to some extent with Oracle and SAP, which has HRMS and new talent management offerings. Another is Workday, which has develop a new HRMS and talent management suite and is partnering to fill its missing components in the short term, as I recently pointed out.

SumTotal Systems has more than double digit revenue growth and has a significant application portfolio that is advancing readily. It also is finding that its customers are using its applications more specifically in lines of business like sales and customer service. If you have not looked at a unified set of applications for leveraging your human capital, you should consider a demonstration of how SumTotal software works together to see for yourself.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Topics: SAP, Human Capital Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), HRMS, Infor, SumTotal Systems, Talent Management, Workday, Workforce Analytics, Workforce Management, Workforce Performance Management (WPM)

Mark Smith

Written by Mark Smith

Mark is responsible for the overall direction of Ventana Research and drives the global research agenda covering both business and technology areas. He defined the blueprint for Information Management and Performance Management as the linking together of people, processes, information and technology across organizations to drive effective results. Mark is an expert in technology for business from Performance Management, Business Intelligence, Analytics to Information Management across finance, operations and IT. Mark has held CMO, product development and research roles at companies such as SAP, META Group, Oracle and IRI Software. He has experience across major industries including banking, consumer products, food and beverage, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and retail and consumer services.