Mercer Delivers New Workforce Analytics Technology

Summary: Mercer continues to expand beyond HR consulting and outsourcing with the launch of their latest cloud-based analytics solution.

Mercer, one of the largest global human resource consulting services providers, today announced the delivery of  its new workforce metrics and analytics solution, Mercer iknow.  Combining  technology, content and services, this new offering is designed to help organizations make better, quicker decisions about its people.

Mercer iknow is a cloud-based analytical platform, designed to analyze data from a wide variety of sources and empower business leaders with actionable, data-driven decision support.  Customers control the data driving the platform, from internal sources (such as ERP, CRM, talent management, payroll, learning management, HRIS, or even internal social networking systems data), as well as external data sources (benchmarking data, regional UI rates, etc.).  Mercer delivers pre-built connectors to some of the leading HCM vendors, but the toolset allows incorporation from a wide variety of data sources.

The iknow technology platform is enriched with Mercer’s proprietary content from surveys and research.  For example, benchmarking data from Mercer’s compensation surveys enables immediate analysis of company data against benchmarking data at the industry or regional level, or at more granular levels such as job family or career level.  Pre-defined metrics are also bundled into the iknow offering, spanning areas such as workforce structure, performance and accountability, capability and sourcing, rewards and recognition, leadership, and others. This level of pre-integrated content and metrics within the technology platform can serve to  significantly accelerate the analytical efforts of an organization.

Despite a strong technology platform and data from many sources, success with workforce insight initiatives can still be elusive for an organization.  Mercer bundles consulting services throughout the workforce analytics lifecycle to address many of the obstacles that can hinder success at any stage: from the early planning stages of knowing what to measure, to understanding the business logic that should be applied to the data for talent insight, to the ongoing guidance needed to effectively interpret, communicate and act upon the results.

The result of Mercer’s iknow technology, data, proprietary content and consulting is a very data-intensive set of measures and services to help drive better decision making in the organization.

Sample images from the Mercer iknow solution:

Available in the cloud on a subscription basis, the iknow platform can be accessed through multiple devices including tablets, with smartphone access planned within the next few months.


  • Workforce metrics, analytics and planning are areas of intense interest for many organizations today, yet technology alone is not the answer.  Mercer’s approach to bundling content, ongoing services (not just implementation services) and technology together in a comprehensive offering demonstrates they understand the complexities of these initiatives and can be a strong partner in their customers’ success.
  • The iknow solution is a natural extension of Mercer’s already deep experience the area of workforce analytics consulting, closing the loop between strategy and execution, between consulting and technology enablement;  Mercer’s current consulting and technology customers should consider the iknow platform if they are seeking a workforce metrics and analytics solution.
  • HCM technology vendors often deliver a level of analytics with their solutions (learning analytics from LMS providers, talent analytics from talent management vendors), but more valuable  business insight can be derived from evaluating and correlating data from a variety of sources, both internal and external.  Mercer iknow is not unique in its ability to pull data in from multiple sources and rationalize it for analysis, but the bundled content and services bring unique value to customers as an accelerator for success.
  • The iknow technology platform is different from the technology platform of Mercer’s Human Capital Connect solution.  I do not see this as a particular challenge, however, as analytics platforms are intended to interoperate with a variety of data sources.
  • A disadvantage of pre-bundled content can be that it grows stale or requires periodic refreshes, which may impact the customer’s HRIT staff.  An assumed advantage of Mercer’s iknow offering is that its content is refreshed without disruption to customers as new data becomes available.  Additional clarity from Mercer on this aspect of the offering would be beneficial.
  • The iknow solution was quietly previewed at last year’s HR Technology Conference and customers have been utilizing the pre-GA version.  I would like to see customer success stories or testimonials from these engagements.

Need help evaluating your options in the area of workforce analytics?  Let us know.  Also let us know of your experiences with Mercer’s iknow platform and/or their consulting experiences in this area.


WorkSimple Brings New Focus on Social Goals and Engagement

In a market where the term “social” is applied to just about any form of collaboration, where the ability to make comments on web transactions and send email is often (and misleadingly) marketed as social feedback, it can be challenging to find those solutions that truly  reimagine people processes in the context of social technologies, enabling and engaging people in getting work done collaboratively. (Refer to my earlier post for more background on this emerging space, HR’s Role in Getting Work Done: Are You a Driver, Passenger or Pedestrian?”).

Today, one such provider of reimagined people processes launched new functionality intended to broaden its reach in this area.

Social performance platform provider WorkSimple announced today a series of new capabilities to augment employee engagement and cut through the noise to focus on the priorities that matter. The company’s newly released functionality, named Focus Boards, Focus Profiles and Focus Detail, are intended to provide individuals and leaders the ability to create and manage goals in a lightweight, collaborative and easy to manage interface. One of many benefits claimed by WorkSimple is the elimination of the top-heavy complexities of traditional cascading goal paradigms, which are usually out of date long before the annual performance review comes into play. These applications foster transparency and communication across the enterprise, and accelerate engagement for improved results.

It is well understood that today’s business environment requires maximum agility. Goals and priorities shift as business conditions change, and people need the right tools to help them focus on what matters, communicate their priorities and status against their goals, and to engage with individuals across the company for transparency of vision and direction.

At the individual employee level, WorkSimple’s Focus applications are designed to enable employees to quickly and easily create social goals and see how their efforts impact the rest of the organization.

WorkSimple - Focus Boards Release - Focus Detail

At the company level, Focus Boards are meant to provide a single view of all the areas of Focus across the company as well as teams and individuals contributing to those initiatives.

WorkSimple_simple alignment at the company level

WorkSimple, a Cloud-based offering, has three levels of pricing. A very robust freemium model includes functionality for an unlimited number of users across Social Goals™, Team Focus Board, LinkedIn Integration, WorkStory™, Feedback, Recognition and Professional Reputation management. Their Group Edition and Company Edition versions then range from $5 to $9 per user per month and bring additional depth of functionality as needed.

My POV: 

  • The robust Freemium model is available for an unlimited number of users. This may be overly generous in today’s market. It may also be a highly effective Trojan horse into the rest of the WorkSimple suite…time and user feedback will tell.
  • I applaud the WorkSimple offering because I believe this is where the market must move: from HR-centric processes into end-user focused productivity and engagement tools. These applications reflect a fundamentally better way to attract, engage, manage and empower employees across the enterprise.
  • Is WorkSimple a long term solution or a quick fix? At this point I believe it is a strong solution to address the immediate needs of some organizations, with the best fit being those companies of any size that embrace social technologies and seek alternatives to hierarchical processes.

What do you think?  Are you currently using or evaluating social goal or social performance applications?

SAP and SuccessFactors: Three Things I Want to Know on Day 1

This transaction is going to close any day now. Presumably, both sides have been carefully considering the implications for HCM and Cloud. Nobody expects answers to all the questions at the close, but everybody expects answers to some things. As an industry analyst for HCM processes and technologies, I have many questions for SAP to address in upcoming months, but these are the questions I want answered on Day 1.

1. How aggressive will SAP be in the management changes across the organization?  SAP announced that Lars Dalgaard, SuccessFactors CEO, is moving into a role to unify and drive the Cloud business across all of SAP. Will there be a similar role for HCM? David Ludlow is currently in charge of SAP’s Global HCM Solutions. Dmitri Krakovsky is currently heading up all SuccessFactors’ products.  Will both remain in charge of their respective areas? Will one of them be promoted? Will a third person be brought in? Who is in charge of the overall HCM strategy?

2. Has the whale swallowed Jonah? SuccessFactors has a history of rapid innovation and prior to the announcement, it had communicated a typically robust investment roadmap. Will the realities of realigning resources (for integrations, platform rationalization, capitalizing on opportunities) stall that historical pace, and if so by how much? How soon will we get to see the consolidated HCM roadmap?   

3. Is Career OnDemand (CoD) on life support or is it DOA? Will SAP’s Career OnDemand be released as planned this quarter? Will the release date be pushed out in order to incorporate SuccessFactors’ influence? Or, as rumored, will it be dropped altogether? While this is a roadmap question, it is also fundamental to the cloud strategy moving forward, and as such, it is one that SAP should be prepared to answer now.

If SAP can address these three questions on Day 1, (and if they deliver a new roadmap within 30 days or less), then this merger will be on a good path to success and these answers may go a long way toward alleviating customer trepidation. The converse is also true.

While it cannot be answered on Day 1, and likely not even by Day 365, the big question is  this:  Can SAP tame the Hydra? (More on this soon.) 

What do you think? What questions would you like to have SAP answer on Day 1? What about at Day 30, 60, 90 or later?   

Getting to Workforce Planning 2.0 with Social Network Analysis (Updated 4/12/12)

WSR_Dec11Jan12(4/12/12 Update:  You can now download the full article from the bottom of this post)

Subscribers to IHRIM’s Workforce Solutions Review will find the December 2011/January 2012 issue dedicated to Strategic Workforce Planning.  Be sure to check out this article on leveraging insights derived from social network analysis (SNA) to get more from your workforce planning initiatives.  An excerpt from this article is included here.

“With the increased adoption in social networking technologies comes a concomitant increase in the amount and types of data available on individuals and teams. This includes information such as how they work and collaborate, the type and quality of information that is shared, the effectiveness of their communications or the degree to which they are perceived as leaders or followers, and much more. The emergence of these new data components – essentially the collection of the social components of an individual’s profile – should raise some important questions for HR leadership with regard to your workforce planning and intelligence strategies.

  • Are you prepared to leverage this new information and incorporate it into your planning strategies?
  • Can you have an effective workforce planning strategy without an understanding
    of the connectedness and engagement of your people?
  • Can you identify and plan for the future leaders of your organization if your focus incorporates only the formal, and not the social aspects (such as degree of real influence) of your current and future workforce?

Existing approaches to workforce planning are at a 1.0 level in a world of 2.0 processes.

Workforce planning (WFP) 2.0 would entail the incorporation of a much broader view of individuals and their networks, and as a result would require the incorporation of social network analysis (SNA) to provide the necessary insights to inform workforce planning decisions.

Incorporating the information gleaned from SNA into all  aspects of talent management processes enables HR to bolster the success of its workforce planning initiatives. A few examples include the following:

  • Use SNA to help you identify early flight risks.
    Who’s disconnected in the networking paradigm? Whose level of engagement within the network (posting, sharing feedback, etc.) has dramatically dropped from previous periods? These potential flight risks can affect assumptions in your workforce planning scenarios.
  • Bring new life to your 9-box analysis.
    Comparing performance to potential, or performance to compensation, are common practices amongst most human capital management (HCM) software solutions today. When you can look at engagement quotient, network collaboration scores and other SNA measures against performance, and use this as inputs into future potential, you have a much richer picture of the future potential of individuals and teams.
  • Ensure effective onboarding.
    The outcomes of your workforce planning scenarios will often involve the recruitment of new staff and transfers within the organization. Accelerate the success of your staff in their new roles through social collaboration, mentors,
    communities of practice and other initiatives that link people to expertise and knowledge. Use SNA to monitor and measure their activity and make course corrections as indicated by the analysis.
  • Improve retention strategies.
    Make sure that you consider the connectedness of individuals in your retention/workforce planning strategies. Think twice before downsizing so as not to decimate your best-connected networks!

Beyond Connectivity Analysis
Network connections are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SNA. Evolve your SNA strategy by augmenting it with additional evaluation criteria for a more holistic view of the enterprise and, hence, better decision-making. For example…”


You can download the full article here:  Getting to Workforce Planning 2.0 with Social Network Analysis

HR’s Role in Getting Work Done: Are You a Driver, Passenger or Pedestrian?

Typically we look to the CHRO and team to drive people management strategies and enabling technology investments across the enterprise. Yet it’s also routine for targeted people productivity tools to make their way into the enterprise with limited or even no involvement of the HR organization. Whether driver or passenger to these investments, the benefits of the journey can be leveraged by all. The role to avoid is that of pedestrian – entirely outside of the car and walking in the opposite direction! Close alignment between HR and business leaders can keep the organization on track, even when different drivers are making different turns.

Over the past few months I’ve been briefing with a series of technology providers that bring social and collaboration capabilities into the applications people use every day to get work done. Sitting at the intersection of people management and business management, these applications include Social Goals, Social Performance and Feedback, Social Learning, and Social Team Based Project and Task Management. Referred to by a variety of names (Social Performance Management, Social Work Management, or even peer performance applications), it’s clear that these applications are redefining not just how people are enabled to collaborate and get work done, but also how social business productivity tools are entering the enterprise.

Refocusing on People Operations

This new breed of applications is all about “getting work done collaboratively.” At their core, these applications are aimed at supporting the completion of tasks, projects and goals by teams. However, a transformation among this category of applications is underway, where vendors are innovating in collaboration, social networking and mobility to make their applications ubiquitous, engaging and impactful to today’s workforce. They’re becoming high-impact technologies that support people in their everyday work lives: connecting individuals and teams, supporting goal and initiative management across groups, surfacing the status of tasks and projects to a broad audience, and enabling feedback and recognition around work activities.

Despite these new capabilities sitting at the heart of what should be core considerations for HR organizations, a large percentage of these tools (especially social work management applications) are sold directly to Line of Business (LOB) leaders with little or no involvement of HR. Is this a problem? Not necessarily.

HCM and Non-HCM Technologies Meeting the Needs

Many of the work management tools come from vendors outside of the HCM technology space. Vendors such as Asana, FellowStream, CoHuman, Teamly,, Socialcast and many others (see my colleague’s more complete list here) specialize in collaboration and project/task management, and they position most directly to IT and LOB owners (such as the sales force facing productivity challenges; the services organization managing competing priorities for staff; the marketing team looking to move beyond an unending task list to focus on value-add projects.) Being outside the line-of-sight of HR, it is no wonder these value-add tools are selected and deployed without the foreknowledge of those responsible for HCM technologies.

Interestingly, even in those cases where vendors do position directly to HR buyers (as in the case of WorkSimple, Rypple, Achievers,, and others), HR is often but not always the primary buying center. Again, this is because these solutions transform the day-to-day methods of engagement and communication of people as they work to deliver against departmental/business objectives. Additionally, if support from HR or the rest of the organization for new productivity apps has been slow or problematic, the affordability and quick deployments offered by this new breed of applications makes it a no-brainer for individual teams to invest in these tools for immediate impact.

Driver or Passenger – Ensure You’re In the Car

HR can certainly be the driver behind such tools, and should be when employee recognition, engagement and performance management are at the forefront of the business objectives for such investments. However, HR can also be an effective passenger on this journey, taking a back seat to the Line of Business (LOB) buyers who are looking to these tools to address specific processes or challenges in their divisions. HR’s opportunity here is to help inform the final technology selection and ensure these tools are leveraged in broader people strategies and business initiatives (such as workforce and business analytics, enterprise social networking, workforce scheduling and other people-centric business processes). The only real failure here would be for HR to ignore these applications as being too focused on daily operations.

In the next few weeks I’ll be publishing a market overview of this category of social performance and work management tools and how they fit into a new technology layer I refer to as the Business Management Layer. You can also replay my interview on the Bill Kutik Radio Show, which covers this topic as well.

Let me know what you think. Is your organization adopting these emerging social performance and work management tools? Which ones? How is HR leveraging them in the context of your organization’s overall people management strategies?

Cross-posted at Constellation Research, Inc. 

Join Me This Wednesday on The Bill Kutik Radio Show

This Wednesday, I’m pleased to be joining industry expert and impresario Bill Kutik on The Bill Kutik Radio Show. Join us for 20 minutes as we discuss my upcoming research on a new class of business effectiveness applications and vendors.  We’ll also discuss the opportunity to leverage these social, collaborative applications for “getting work done” which today may be bypassing HR on their way into the enterprise. Can’t join us on Wednesday? No problem.  The radio show will be available for playback from the links below or can be downloaded free from iTunes. Bill’s invitation to join us is below.

This Wednesday: HR’s Newest Analyst, Yvette Cameron, Talks with Bill Kutik

Our next webcast, Wednesday, January 4, at
noon ET, 9 am PT.

Yvette Cameron has wide-ranging industry vendor experience having been an executive at the Big Three, when they were all independent–PeopleSoft, Oracle, and SAP–respectively. In addition, she took over the management of J.D. Edwards HCM, when it was purchased by PeopleSoft, and has twice worked as the senior product strategy executive for Saba. Oh, the stories she could tell, and maybe will as our newest analyst–for the Constellation Research group!

On the next program, she will tell us about the rise of the new business management layer in software, along with the concept of task management. How non-HR technology vendors will increasingly occupy our space, and the changing role of HR within it. Finally, what she thinks HR professionals will need to be good at in the new year and beyond.

Click here Wednesday, Jan. 4 to hear Yvette and to sign up for short email notifications via Feedburner for all future shows.

Produced by Knowledge Infusion and hosted by independent industry analyst Bill Kutik, the bi-weekly interview show provides leading HR business content and insight into up-to-the-minute trends.

This Episode
Wed., Jan. 4
Noon ET/9 am PT

“I’ve known Yvette
Cameron at four
different companies
in four high-level jobs.
Now as our newest
analyst (for Constellation Research), she can
finally tell us what
she really thinks. Tune
in Wednesday at noon
ET, 9 am PT.”

-Bill Kutik, Technology Columnist for Human Resource Executive

Host of Firing Line
with Bill Kutik

Subscribe to The Bill
Kutik Radio Show

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