While mergers and acquisitions are always interesting for industry analysts, the most recent bout of activity—including the acquisitions of Rypple and SuccessFactors by Salesforce and SAP respectively, and now Taleo by Oracle—is particularly exciting. Why? Because this activity is driving change in areas of talent management technology that we primarily paid lip service to in 2011. But what does this mean for customers in the SMB market? What changes will they see in the software available to them?
As vendors great and small continue developing cloud-based solutions, I believe there are three HR applications that offer the greatest opportunity for strategic growth through acquisition in 2012: talent management software, applicant tracking and recruiting software, and analytics and reporting applications. And in these areas, there are a few vendors who are ahead of the pack.
1. Because business leaders increasingly see the value in a system for developing their workforce, Talent Management Software continues to experience rapid growth in the cloud. This sector has also seen some movement, as large vendors acquire best-of-breeds, particularly in learning management and performance management. An especially exciting provider is Toronto-based Rypple. After being acquired by Salesforce, this innovative approach to talent management is poised to establish itself as a leader in this market.
2. Many of the core functions of Recruiting and Applicant Tracking Software thrive in the social media arena, and it makes sense that you’ll see more social capabilities evolving in this area first. Thus, systems like Hire Ground, headquartered in Calgary, and Toronto's mindSCOPE Staffing Software have a lot of room for growth, especially as social recruiting becomes more prevalant. But Bernie Schiemer, CEO of HiringBoss, warns that "lower quality ATS’s, irrespective of their size, will start to feel the pinch as providers offering better value and more flexibility take market share."
3. Your ability to identify and track trends in your retention rates, boosts in productivity, and benchmark performance will set your HR department apart from your competitors. And though HR has never had a problem with gathering data, HR software is recently making great strides in delivering technology that allows them to use that data. Analytics and Reporting Tools will continue to drive innovation in HR software.
That said, customers in the SMB market should be prepared for further moving (and shaking) in 2012. Exciting as acquisitions are for analysts, they can certainly be intimidating for customers. How will this all affect the people who actually use these systems? Worries over disruptions in service, changes in pricing or contractual agreements, and vendor contact staffing changes are a real concern when a vendor changes ownership. When evaluating human resources software or talent management products, ask pointed questions about a vendor's financial and strategic viability, and lock-in rates, and service or maintenance terms. This can save you a headache down the line.
If, however, you are directly affected by an acquisition, remain calm. Before you hit that panic button, rest assured that very little is going to change in the near-term. In the longer-run, though, things can go either way. It’s possible that SAP and Oracle will flex their financial muscles and tap their vast development resources to significantly improve SuccessFactors’ and Taleo’s already solid products. It’s also possible that the level of customer service you were accustomed to will change—for better or worse—because now you’re working with a behemoth instead of a smaller company. The point is, something will change, but it’s too early to tell what.
It’s easy to be intimidated when your vendor is acquired. Change can be painful. But remember that you’re not a helpless bystander. As Finnegan points out, “You need to understand the leverage you have as a paying customer. You’re the master of your domain.” After all, at the end of the day, neither SAP nor Oracle win if they start hemorrhaging customers from companies they paid a hefty price to acquire.
Check out my full analysis and forecast here.