Mark Smith's Analyst Perspectives

SumTotal Systems Sums Up Human Capital Management

Posted by Mark Smith on Apr 9, 2012 11:53:20 AM

Businesses’ strategic imperative to optimize human capital is creating significant energy in the market for applications used to attract, optimize and retain talent. Amid all the recent acquisitions and changes that I have been writing about in this field, SumTotal Systems seems to get less attention than its size and the reach of its business merit. The company has more than 45 million users, with more than 15 million of them operating in a cloud computing environment spanning more than 3,500 customer companies worldwide. Its investments in 2011 in mobile, social learning and workforce analytics software have become part of its HCM portfolio, as have its acquisitions of CyberShift to expand into workforce management and Accero for payroll, benefits and analytic content. The company has done a good job of extending its portfolio while improving the user experience for its customers.

SumTotal last month unveiled the 2012 release of its HCM application suite. Building on the factors I discussed in my analysis from late in 2011 at its analyst summit, the company has fulfilled its promise to expand and integrate its suite of applications to support the growing demand for a unified suite of HCM applications from a single vendor. One of SumTotal’s unique differences is that it offers HRMS, talent management and workforce management applications that can be used by a range of employees, from top executives to front-line hourly workers. It also offers payroll, benefits and expense management. The software’s point of interface is TalentPortal, which provides a role-based interface and single sign-on to the underlying applications in the TalentHub, which integrates common services and data across applications. SumTotal should communicate more about these two applications, since they are key differentiators in its unification of applications and the manageability of its underlying platform.

Another strong area for SumTotal Systems is its learning management system (LMS). The company has made it simpler to register and review job applicants. It has significant improvements for administrators in the areas of configuration, certification, reporting and overall design. SumTotal also has integrated  its acquired workforce management software into the overall suite and platform, and can present the capabilities of its talent management and learning management offerings within a common user experience. Improvements in the management of absence and leave give users the ability to build schedules by selecting the right worker with specific skills for specific shifts. All these improvements in the user experience and usability are critical; usability is the number-one evaluation criteria for applications in business today, according to our benchmark research across thousands of organizations.

In its talent management suite, SumTotal has made it easier to manage ratings toward company and departmental goals and objectives,  improved the application’s workflow and provided editing of goals. It enables faster comparison in succession planning on specific positions. Integration with Microsoft SharePoint is improved. Companies can customize the branding of the applications to better integrate them into their own look and feel. The workforce analytics application is especially powerful, with a significant amount of content and depth in analytics and metrics. It has embedded IBM Cognos to provide a robust set of interactive capabilities on platforms from browsers to mobile devices such as Apple’s iPhone.

SumTotal Systems has entered a new phase with the breadth and depth of its application suite. I have spoken with many of its global customers, who said they like the ability to expand with the company’s software as they replace legacy or one-off purchases of other applications.

However, the company still faces challenges with brand and product awareness for its breadth and depth of offering, though it provides what appears to be a more robust offering than others, such as Oracle and SAP to name a few, which recently acquired Taleo and SuccessFactors, respectively, and are integrating these offerings with their existing applications. Both of these companies realized the importance of expansion which was part of inspiring them to be acquired and help Oracle and SAP efforts.

SumTotal Systems has wisely been investing in its mobile technology capabilities, especially with its LMS offering, where it can support natively 11 languages. It will need to advance further to support manager applications on leading tablets like Apple and Android based devices and must improve its social collaboration capabilities across its entire suite to help enhance employee engagement. One of the places it should improve is in social recruiting; using social media as a talent pool requires specific capabilities, as we found in our recent social recruiting benchmark research. SumTotal’s choice of cloud computing, hosted and on-premises is attractive to organizations that are not fully on-board with renting software on the Internet.

Despite some areas for improvements, SumTotal Systems is a vendor to reckon with in the market for human capital management. The company has a significant opportunity to be a strategic supplier to not just HR but to CFOs and heads of business that realize that applications and information about their workforce complement the activities within the business processes, since they reveal who the right engaged and skilled people are in the effort to achieve business objectives. To sum it all up, if you have not looked at what SumTotal offers, especially with its 2012 releases, you may be pleasantly surprised to see what is available from a single human capital management application supplier.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Topics: Social Media, Sustainability, Human Capital Management, LMS, Performance, Recruiting, Research, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Mobility, Business Performance Management (BPM), Compensation, Financial Performance Management (FPM), HR, HRMS, Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), SumTotal Systems, Talent Management, Workforce Analytics, 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.