NewsGator Collective 2013: Survival of the Social

In a time when technology vendors are starting to shun the “social” moniker, it was refreshing to hear the messaging at the NewsGator Collective 2013 Annual User Conference that NewsGator is all about “making social real” in the enterprise. 

If you’re not familiar with NewsGator, it is a leading provider of social technologies, delivering its flagship solution, Social Sites, on top of Microsoft SharePoint (an application in use at more than 70% of businesses today). It has more than 4 million users across hundreds of customers, including Kellogg’s, Mars, JP Morgan Chase, American Family Insurance, Comcast, Unisys, Kraft Foods, Overstock.com, Merck and others.

In all, more than 200 customers (including those named above), partners and thought leaders gathered in Denver for this 3-day event, immersing themselves in social business by sharing best practices and research, engaging in live brainstorming sessions, networking, and even engaging in a live hack-a-thon resulting in four coded customer-driven projects slated for delivery with NewsGator’s next release.

President and CEO Daniel Kraft (newly appointed in August 2012), kicked off the event by sharing his view of how human networks have enabled human success and business progress from one era to another. He described the evolution from a “Network of Hands” (the industrial age) to a “Network of Minds” (the knowledge economy) to today’s environment where emotions and passion are unconstrained by physical location and instead are enabled through social technologies (the “Network of Hearts”).

(source: NewsGator)

Kraft believes this evolution demonstrates “survival of the social,” and cautions that, “if you do not buy into it, somebody else will.” The case studies shared during the conference spoke of increased customer retention, improved sales productivity, reduced turnover of high impact employees and more, demonstrating tangible business benefits from social investments. With over $1 trillion potential value to be unlocked annually, including 20-25% increased productivity of high skilled knowledge workers (according to McKinsey Global Institute)1, it’s hard to argue that Kraft is anything but spot-on with his assertion.

Employee Engagement is not just an HR Responsibility

Heads of Marketing, IT, Learning and Collaboration, Communication and other business units led the conversations around motivating and engaging the workforce, identifying high performers and key contributors, ensuring sustainable adoption, and measuring impact and results.

If these sound like the traditional concerns of HR and Human Capital Management (HCM) technologies, you’re right. Yet the number of attendees representing the HR function at this conference was relatively limited.

For me, this was further evidence of two main trends concerning talent management in an era of social connectivity:

1) HR does not own employee engagement.  Driving organizational performance through employee engagement is not simply a concern of the HR organization; leaders from across the enterprise are stepping up to rethink work and how best to drive sustainable results. Increasingly important to achieving better work and talent management results are the “non-HCM” technologies making their way into the enterprise: social tools and collaboration platforms that help people align, connect and get work done every day.

2) HR is not leading social initiatives.  When social technologies are part of the new thinking (as is increasingly the case), HR is more often the supporting player (if not absent altogether) rather than the driving force behind such initiatives. The risk to HR is being sidelined as an administrative or policing function rather than establishing itself as a strategic business partner that both adds to and creates new value for the organization.

With all the evidence that social enablement facilitates engagement and alignment, and that an engaged and aligned workforce has direct, positive effect of business outcomes, why isn’t every company “doing social”?

The answer, according to Catherine Flax, Chief Marketing Officer for JP Morgan Chase’s Wholesale Business, is complex. “It’s an evolutionary process for many companies,” said Flax during a Future of Work panel at the NewsGator Collective. “With the concerns about compliance…it’s easier for companies to say “No” than to say “Yes” to social.” She added that saying “no” is actually a bigger risk than saying “yes,” given the many benefits of a socially-enabled enterprise.

I refer to this risk as the new ROI of Social: the Risk of Ignoring. If social tools are not part of the fabric of the organization, introduced during the hiring and onboarding process and leveraged throughout the work lifecycle as a natural way to get work done, the risk for disengagement, misalignment and reduced productivity are significant. These are concerns for every leader in the organization, not just HR.

My POV:

Last year, Microsoft dealt NewsGator a one-two punch when it announced its latest release, SharePoint 2013, would deliver social capabilities, followed by its acquisition of Yammer, an enterprise social technology vendor. However, NewsGator has not just rallied but thrived since those announcements. It reported more than 100 new customers in 2012 and many new product innovations including Social Site’s dual compatibility with both SharePoint 2010 and 2013 from a single code base; a new user interfaced dubbed “Lookout”; support for social learning use cases through its new application, NewsGator Enrich; broader analytics capability through its Webtrends partnership; advanced mobile capabilities and more.

NewsGator has also recently announced that it is rearchitecting its Social Sites suite, eliminating its dependency on Microsoft SharePoint and becoming platform agnostic.  This will put NewsGator more squarely in the crosshairs of enterprise social networking (ESN) competitors of all sizes including Jive, IBM, Huddle, Igloo and tens of others.  Its differentiation will come through a vertical focus on specific businsess-driven use cases.  In fact at this month’s Collective conference, NewsGator announced the development of several of these use-case driven applications to drive tangible business results, centered on Corporate Communications, Field Enablement and Innovation.  Development of these and additional use cases will advance its competitiveness in the ESN market beyond SharePoint-based solutions.

Additional investment in analytics beyond usage and adoption would be a welcome investment from NewsGator as well, as companies are increasingly challenged to communicate the impact of their social investments.  At Constellation Research, we are seeing a trend away from traditional technology RFPs to increased scrutiny on business outcomes. More and more companies are reporting real business results with social technologies, and the question of “social” in business is moving from “if” to “when and how”.

Current and prospective NewsGator clients will benefit from its continued investments in social use case innovations, continued integration to the Microsoft stack as well as integration beyond the Microsoft apps to SAP, Salesforce.com Chatter and others. Clients will also benefit from NewsGator’s new Adoption Framework, a methodology focused on helping organizations achieve better results at the intersection of people engagement, business alignment and technology enablement. For many organizations, making SharePoint “work” is a top priority, and in this endeavor, NewsGator currently has the lead position for both cloud and on-premises SharePoint customers (an important fact since Microsoft has announced it will not integrate Yammer to on-premises SharePoint beyond basic connectivity). For companies not betting their enterprise collaboration futures on Microsoft, NewsGator’s move to a platform-agnostic solution and its continued build-out of social applications for targeted use cases will make it a viable alternative as well.

The path to enterprise social collaboration may come from a single technology platform, like NewsGator, or through an aggregation of social-enabled technologies (for example, integrations of social-enabled tools across HCM, CRM and core communications). Either way, making social real in the enterprise – helping organizations unlock the untapped potential of a humanistic approach to business both within and across an enterprise – is a business imperative.

Your POV

What do you think?  Has your company embraced  the concept of “Survival of the Social” or are you still evaluating the business case for social investments? Are you a NewsGator customer with stories to share? Add your comments to the blog or send us a comment at Y (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com.

Please let us know if you need help with your Social Business efforts. Sign up for a Constellation Academy Workshop or let us assist with:

  • Assessing social business readiness
  • Developing your social business engagement strategy
  • Creating a new vision for the future of work
  • Vendor selection
  • Connecting with other pioneers

Note: NewsGator is a client of Constellation Research.

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1 “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.” McKinsey Global Institute, July 2012.

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News Analysis: Infor Adds SaaS LMS with Acquisition of CERTPOINT

Proving it has not lost its appetite for acquisitions, on March 4th, 2013, Infor announced its planned acquisition of New York based CERTPOINT Systems, Inc., a SaaS provider of global learning management software (LMS) and learning content management software (LCMS).

CERTPOINT backgroundinforcertpoint

Founded in 1996, CERTPOINT (formerly Vuepoint) offers comprehensive learning solutions including LMS, LCMS, content authoring, competency management, integrated web conferencing, mobile access and social learning to more than 1300 clients across more than 80 countries.  Marquis customers include Toyota, Honda, Motorola, Ralph Lauren, LANCOME and Weightwatchers. Like Infor, it boasts a hybrid offering, delivering on-premises, hosted and SaaS-based offerings; the majority of its clients, however, utilize the SaaS applications, consistent with adoption trends in the human capital management (HCM) market.  CERTPOINT also provides consulting services including content development, implementation and strategic consulting.  It currently employs approximately 50 staff, most based in New York.

The acquisition expands two key areas for Infor:

  • With the CERTPOINT acquisition, the Infor Human Capital Management (HCM) suite delivers a comprehensive end-to-end offering. Tarik Taman, the GM of Infor HCM, noted that, “The acquisition of CERTPOINT will enable Infor to offer customers an end-to-end HCM solution, delivered to help maximize access and business insight and achieve breakthrough performance. In addition to complementary functionality, the acquisition of CERTPOINT sends the signal that Infor intends to be atop the leaderboard of SaaS Enterprise Human Capital Management solution providers.”
  • Point of View (POV): As Infor continues to move its HCM suite of products fully to the cloud (watch for their announcements in this area in the Summer of 2013), the acquisition of SaaS-based CERTPOINT completes the suite with solid LMS capabilities. And in today’s global, virtual and mobile work environments, CERTPOINT’s delivery of personalized electronic content to mobile devices is precisely the type of capability required for business performance.  Integration via Infor’s technology framework, Infor ION, will focus on the HCM products (Lawson HRM, Talent Management and Service Delivery), but will also extend to other Infor solutions to meet strategic opportunities. WebEx Communications is the current partner to CERTPOINT for delivering integrated web training and conferencing; Infor does not currently have a competing offering but I expect this to be an area of development for the Infor ION team in the future. From an end-to-end perspective, Infor is one of the few providers of HR Service Delivery (having acquired this from Lawson/Enwisen in 2011).  The Infor Enwisen platform has served as a unifying solution across all Infor Lawson HCM products, delivering portal, knowledgebase and multi-tiered support across the suite. Integration with Enwisen will bring rapid value-add to CERTPOINT customers.

  • CERTPOINT fortifies Infor Healthcare solutions with critical learning capabilities. Certification and compliance training are mission critical activities in the healthcare industry.  Combined with the verticalized solution for Healthcare from Infor HCM, clients will be able to move beyond certification and compliance to the creation of high performing healthcare organizations.
  • Point of View (POV):  Infor gained a major presence in Healthcare with the acquisition of Lawson software in 2011, and so CERTPOINT’s Healthcare industry solution is a natural launch point for showcasing the combined offering. Infor has, in fact has already begun this push, as it positions richer capabilities for the Healthcare industry as well as increased thought leadership with the hiring of a Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) to oversee the Infor Healthcare suite. Other industries such as Automotive, Food & Hospitality and Manufacturing  will be early solution targets as well. One of Infor’s points of differentiation is its micro-vertical strategy: beyond the standard 21 or so industry vertical classifications, Infor recognizes the unique needs coming from more than 2000 micro-verticals within these broader industries. CERTPOINT clients will benefit over time from Infor’s micro-vertical focus as this specialized knowledge infuses and expands the capabilities of its nine current vertical offerings.

Bottom Line:  Infor Advances its Move to the Cloud

Today,  Infor is the third largest provider of enterprise applications and services, with a valuation of $16B and five consecutive quarters of double-digit license revenue growth. It doesn’t just compete with Oracle and SAP, however; it increasingly competes with the likes of Workday and Ultimate as clients look to the cloud for Enterprise HCM.  The acquisition of CERTPOINT not only completes the Infor HCM suite, it does so through a SaaS offering that enables rapid, low cost deployment and frequent innovations in a business-critical area.  Additionally, CERTPOINT provides support for the extended enterprise – training for partners, suppliers and customers – including eCommerce capabilities for companies that deliver training for profit. With Infor Ming.le, Infor’s social platform still in development, CERTPOINT’s social learning will also be a welcome and timely addition to the Infor HCM suite.

As always, the devil is in the details, but given that CERTPOINT today integrates with many HCM solutions (including its strategic partner, Ultimate Software), the initial phase of the Infor/CERTPOINT integration should come to market quickly, with more strategic points of leverage following in subsequent iterations.  Infor clients will benefit from this acquisition through the additional depth of learning capabilities; CERTPOINT clients will have a new, integrated path to consider as they evaluate the upgrade or replacement of their current HCM infrastructures.

Related posts:

Event Report: #InforSummit Reveals More Than a Redesigned Infor

Seven Ways Infor is Advancing HCM (Hint: Lawson is but One)

IBM Connect 2013 First Take: Will Watson be the future of HCM?

The messages at this morning’s IBM Connect keynote event were clear: The future is “Social” and the new language of business is “Analytics”. Welcome to the future.

All morning these messages were evangelized and demonstrated, from IBM executives and their demo teams, to clients like Bosch, Caterpillar and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and even from a Hollywood star-slash-collaborative film development entrepreneur.  Each spoke on the transformational role that collaborative, social engagement is having in our business and personal lives, changing how we work, play, create, engage and in some cases even how we’re paid or rewarded for our efforts.

For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of the keynote came at the end, when Mike Rhodin, SVP IBM Software Solutions Group, spoke to the future and the intersection of social, analytics and people processes.  He spoke of cognitive systems like IBM’s Watson and its ability to filter through the terabytes of data created every day to see patterns, unlock the real truth about business, employees and customers, and to weave intelligence into every aspect of the fabric of a business.

Watson meets HCMFor example, Rhodin asked that we imagine a central “employee center” for global organizations – one which becomes a trusted career advisor from pre-hire through advanced roles in the organization through the continuous analysis of formal, informal, social and other inputs (structured and unstructured) to present a highly personalized, dynamic and guided  path for each individual. Not the static, pre-defined career paths of the past, but truly intelligent, contextual and adaptive guidance to the individual all throughout their career with a company.

Long term future vision?  Not as far off as might be imagined.  Today, Watson is being used in select healthcare use cases such as analyzing patient records and myriad information sources to surface recommended treatment protocols.  Applying similarly deep and broad analysis across the ‘big data’ of the enterprise, with a lens on employee success and value creation for the organization, makes complete sense.  Only big data analytics will be able to effectively interpret all the signals an enterprise may receive around its employees and drive meaningful insights and decision support – for managers and the employees alike.  Embedded cognitive systems are the necessary next step as we evolve our talent technologies and processes from transactional systems to systems of engagement and, ultimately, transform them to the experiential systems necessary to thrive in the future of work.

Of course – the answer isn’t just pure analytical power.  Human engagement and analysis will still be needed.  Even in the Watson-recommended healthcare protocols referenced above, the physician and other caregivers use the results to inform and guide their actions; ultimately the healthcare provider makes the final decision.  Likewise, in the career management and other employeee-oriented engagement scenarios, the cognitive system-delivered paths will serve as guides to inform individuals; Watson won’t replace the person-to-person conversations and analysis that will ultimately drive the employee’s action.  What’s transformational, however, is the richness of information that will inform those individual actions, that can make recommendations based on previously hidden patterns and connections, all because of the capabilities of real-time analysis of vast quantities of seemingly disparate information.

Many announcements are underway here at IBM Connect and the opportunities for the  HCM market are numerous; more to follow in upcoming days.  Meanwhile, let me know what you think about the idea of Watson and related systems and the opportunities for HCM.

Will a Move to the Cloud Make IT Irrelevant?

An impressive number of IT and Business leaders from across EMEA have converged  upon Dubai this week to participate in Oracle’s CloudWorld, an executive event focused on the disruptive technologies of social, mobile and, of course, Cloud.  The Dubai event is the first in a series of conferences that will take place in select cities across the globe through April 2013.

One of the common conversations taking place amongst conference delegates is the impact of these technologies on the IT organization – fundamentally, is cloud making IT irrelevant?

The reality is actually just the opposite: embracing cloud and other disruptive technologies enables the IT organization to rebalance its investments in core infrastructure to embrace more strategic investments in integration, intelligence and innovation.

Constellation Research has published extensively on this topic, and I presented on it as well throughout 2012. Embedded below is one such presentation, taking a look at the evolving role of IT organizations as the Future of Work unfolds, including top priorities, key challenges and required shifts in thinking. Whether focused on Infrastructure, Integration, Intelligence or Innovation, the “I” in the “IT” Organization is morphing to match the needs of the organization, taking a more business-focused point of view.

Click here to view the presentation:  The Evolution of IT Organizations in the Future of work

For additional thoughts on the hybrid IT environment that is likely emerging in your organization as a result of partial cloud adoption, check out this article and published research, also by Constellation.

Contact us at Constellation Research if you would like to discuss our research on this topic in more detail.

“Ok, Now You’ve Scared Me.”

CarnacA few weeks ago, I participated in a virtual panel focused on “The Future of Work”, providing my views into the changing landscape of work, not just as we enter 2013, but looking further out to 3, 5 or even 10 years from now. The discussion, sponsored by Cornerstone OnDemand, is available here for playback.

I began the session by sharing my view that the future of work, first and foremost, is already here. Organizations have long been affected by and responding to the dramatic changes coming from disruptive technologies, rapidly shifting worker demographics and dynamics, and new competitive pressures from an especially dynamic business climate. The challenges are real and taking place today. Looking to the future of work, one could sum up the anticipated impacts in a single word: More. More intensity. More pressure. More change. More risk. But also, more opportunity. More engagement. More transparency. More impact.

This “more” concept translates to a change in all aspects of work: namely, the Who, Where, When, What, How and even Why of work needs to be rethought:

  • The “who” of work: Who are your workers?  What generation do they represent? Are they employees or free agents? What is the composition of your workforce from a diversity perspective and how are practices in attracting, engaging, motivating, developing, measuring and rewarding the workforce evolving?
  • The “where” and “when” of work: Work takes place at the office, at home, on the go; in connected or disconnected modes from laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops; face-to-face with our local colleagues or virtually across the globe; in shared coworking spaces where our cubicle neighbor may not even work for the same company. What systems are we using to ensure access to the people and information necessary to get work done? To drive engagement and crank up innovation?  In today’s business climate, are we fostering results from any place, at any time, from any device, or constraining people and results with a traditional mindset to work?
  • The “what” and “how” of work: The very nature of work is changing as the lines between employees, customers and suppliers blur and technology transforms work to more interaction-based engagements.  Big data insights and predictive analytics provide new views of influence and impact while social network analysis helps us understand the flow of knowledge in the enterprise and how work is getting done.  We’re just scratching the surface on better insights into the what and how of work in today’s social enterprise; what role will HR play in this new world of big data?
  • The “why” of work: Motivations differ by generation and by individual; they span pay and benefits, career advancement, skill development, recognition and increasingly,  social responsibility and altruism.  Are the rewards and recognition systems used in corporations today resonating with these very diverse workforce motivations? Do our company cultures sustain the drivers of the emerging workforce?

I riffed a bit on the sweeping changes required in business due to the above and received my favorite response of the hour from Cornerstone’s VP of Corporate Development and Strategy, Jason Corsello.  His comment?

Ok, now you’ve scared me.”

Jason is wicked smart. And he is anything but ‘scared’ about the future of work, as he and his colleagues work to guide Cornerstone’s strategy and disrupt the legacy market with cloud, social and mobile technologies. But his off-the-cuff comment was a good one, highlighting that despite all the advances we’ve made in processes and technology, there is still much more to do; more to plan for, to learn from, to capitalize on,  to embrace.

More.

Are you ready for the future of work?

Read a summary of the full panel discussion or listen to the event directly.  Be sure to catch the latest research on the Future of Work, Consumerization of IT and the New C-Suite, and other critical business themes at Constellation Research, Inc..

Disclosure: Cornerstone OnDemand is a client of Constellation Research, Inc.

Moving Payroll to the Cloud? Join the Crowd.

wordcloudIf you’re considering a move to the Cloud for your payroll technologies, you’re not alone.  In a recent survey by Constellation Research, Inc. partner Computer Economics, 40% of companies considering payroll technology investments reported such investments involved a move to the Cloud.

Why the mass migration?  In a recent webinar on the topic, I outlined six key benefits of Cloud-based Payroll.  In short, organizations moving their payroll to the cloud are doing so to reap the many benefits of SaaS while ensuring the core objectives of Payroll are met:

  1. Quality.  Innovations arrive faster and are adopted more rapidly in the Cloud than with traditional on-premises and hosted software.  With true, multi-tenant SaaS, clients are always on the latest release of the software, enabling organizations to move from periodic jumps to continuous innovation in user experience, workflows and capabilities. If you think this doesn’t matter to user experience, think again.  Organizations routinely report higher levels of  satisfaction with the usability of SaaS solutions over traditional offerings across all user roles (end users, managers and administrators).
  2. Cost optimization.  An immediate value to organizations – and a large factor behind the movement of technology buying from IT into the line of business – is how easily and quickly SaaS solutions can be deployed to solve immediate business needs.  SaaS solutions are implemented on average 82% faster than on-premises solutions and require only 22% of the resources in ongoing staff compared to on-premises shops, freeing up members of the payroll team to focus on more strategic initiatives. (Source: CedarCrestone 2012-13 HR Systems Survey, 15th ed.)
  3. Risk Mitigation. While many still cite security concerns as a top reason for keeping payroll technology in-house, the reality is that SaaS providers typically excel in security measures (including access controls, backup and recovery, and myriad other potential vulnerability points) due to the large volume of disparate clients continuously pushing their own systems audits and inquiries. SaaS Payroll providers also take on responsibility for ensuring all legal/regulatory changes are applied, tested and available.  With tens, hundreds or thousands of customers utilizing these services, it ensures many more eyeballs watching for and reporting any occasional “misses” from the provider and an accompanying rapid response to such issues.
  4. Control.  Managing payroll on premises does not guarantee that the payroll organization has the controls it desires over its technologies and processes. (If you’ve ever waited for your IT organization to apply an update or manage an enterprise upgrade, you know this all too well.)  Outsourcing payroll further reduces an organization’s span of control, especially with regard to timing of process flows and reporting/analytics. With SaaS, the payroll organization gets full control over process timing (data entry, audits, check runs, quality checks, adjustments, etc.); anytime access to data, analytics and reporting; and the assurance that the software is always at the latest release with the most recent changes in legs/regs applied and tested.
  5. Flexibility.  SaaS solutions, by design, support the dynamic nature of a business – the ability to rapidly scale hardware needs to support dramatic increases or decreases in resources are inherent to these solutions.  But flexibility in the payroll world also means the ability to quickly integrate to local payroll solutions across the globe, to respond to ever-changing time and pay regulations, and to meet the dynamic needs and priorities of the company.  SaaS-based payroll solutions leverage the emerging best-practices in cloud-based integrations, ensure the fastest time to readiness in response to changing regulations, and provide the foundation for business agility in global operations.
  6. Insight.  Multi-country payroll almost demands a SaaS solution, as it invariably requires integrations to local payroll providers in countries where a smaller number of employees reside or where major payroll providers have not yet standardized an offering.  Those myriad integrations frequently lead to delayed  visibility into the actual payroll costs across the globe, causing surprise ‘hits’ to financials. Just over 50% of global organizations today report having a global system of record, and hence are hampered by not having all the global data transparency necessary for timely, strategic decision making.  SaaS Payroll providers can rapidly integrate and manage a global view of the payroll activities of an organization, both minimizing financial risks while making available a broader base of data from which to glean additional insights.

Furthermore, when part of a broader global SaaS HRMS platform, SaaS Payroll moves from an administrative to a strategic play as it provides the ability for organizations of any size to dynamically scale operations and to securely plug into global capabilities, and thus engage and compete on a global scale.

Many other facets of SaaS Payroll are explored in this webinar, including a view into social enablement of payroll processes as well as how SaaS can future proof the career of today’s payroll leadership.

The question of SaaS for Payroll, or for any other HCM related initiative, has clearly moved from “Why” to “Why Not?”

Catch the webinar replay here:  The Changing Landscape of Payroll: Moving to the Cloud

Disclosure: this webinar was sponsored by Workday, a client of Constellation Research, Inc.

Breakaway Strategies: Looking Beyond HCM Vendors for HCM Technology

breakaway

In the run up to this year’s annual HR Technology Conference, I’ve been meeting with HCM technology vendors large and small. As expected, almost every vendor articulates an interest in, if not full vision for, social enablement of its offering. Some offer social capabilities today, some are expanding beyond initial forays in recruiting or learning, and others point to future directions with social based on customer demand. The path to social is also varied, coming through native development, partnership or even acquisition.

The Social HCM market is nascent, with vendors evolving their strategies and customers wrestling with questions ranging from business applicability to internal ownership of “social” in the enterprise (should these initiatives be driven and owned by IT, Legal, HR, Marketing, or…?)

Applying a different lens to the definition of Social HCM – one focused on employee enablement, engagement, and knowledge acceleration – brings another class of vendors into view: social business software providers. These vendors deliver on the foundations of social learning and social talent management, and have been doing so for years. They’re just not top of mind for HR when shopping for those solutions because they don’t typically market to an HCM audience with an HCM messages.

Consider players like Atlassian, Jive, NewsGator, Socialtext, Telligent, IBM and the many others that serve the social business software market. By their very nature of being social collaboration tools, they support many foundational processes such as social learning and social talent, with companies routinely reporting measurable benefits across employee and business performance. Yet for various reasons – including the fact that HR is not usually a driver for social technologies – you don’t see these players at the HR Technology Conference. But you should, as they routinely deliver on these and many other social use cases that are of direct interest to HR leadership:

  • Social Onboarding: establishing and assigning new hires to communities and groups; ability to follow people/content; system-driven recommendations on who to follow, groups to join, content to review.
  • Social Performance: informal and social feedback via activity streams; badges or other recognition feedback and social rewards; granting “skills” or “expertise” levels to others in the social network; improved engagement through gamification.
  • Social Goals: broadcasting activities and goals (including status and completion); soliciting feedback on goals and projects; granting badges or other recognition; task management for shared goals and objectives and identifying related work of others.
  • Social Learning: creating, posting, sharing, rating, tagging and following content; informal learning through micro blogging and activity streams, often with embedded and actionable content; expertise identification; ideation and crowd sourcing innovation across the enterprise.

Looking at the list of Exhibitors at the HR Tech Conference, I found only two pure-play social networking providers exhibiting this year: NewsGator1 and Yammer1. (I say only two, as Socialtext is now part of Talent Management provider Peoplefluent, and other solutions like Saba and SuccessFactors are already broader talent management providers with embedded platforms. In fact, even Yammer is now part of the broader Microsoft stack and can no longer be considered “pure play.”)

NewsGator in particular is an interesting addition to the list of exhibitors this year. If you’re not familiar with them, NewsGator has been delivering social business applications for many years through their Social Sites offering. They also integrate directly into Microsoft SharePoint – a solution in use by an estimated 75% of organizations.

Recently, NewsGator launched a new offering called NewsGator Enrich, which goes beyond the core use cases above and focuses on specific learning use cases to power informal, social learning across the enterprise. This latest offering includes a socially driven knowledge base for collaborative knowledge development and exchange, and interactive video learning capability for complex learning scenarios. A few of the core tenets of the Enrich Knowledge Base (KB) are described below.

  • Create knowledge base (KB) items in context of business workflows. Conversations in the activity stream, or specific question and answer      activities are readily tagged and saved to the knowledge base. A bookmarklet enables any web page to be referenced to the KB with a single click, and documents of any type are quickly added as well. Content can also be created directly within the knowledge base, turning any employee into a contributor to organizational know-how.
  • Quickly access the right knowledge. In addition to filtering KB content based on the most recent, most viewed or other categories, user-added metadata such as titles, tags and descriptions facilitate searching, discovery, and categorization of the knowledge base content.
  • Turn unstructured Q&A into a powerful resource. Answers can be accumulated, with the “accepted” answer identified for clarity and consistency.
  • Drive engagement with embedded gamification. Award badges and provide recognition to users based on their contributions and activities.

The HCM technology market is undergoing a significant shift. As we move from systems of transactions to systems of engagement, traditional “HCM” processes will be redefined, and it is only natural that new solution providers emerge from outside the HCM space. The move by NewsGator to deliver on highly targeted social learning use cases is the latest case-in-point, as well as a broader signal to the market that HCM technologies can come from non-HCM vendors.

While you’re checking out the many vendors at this year’s HR Technology Conference, I encourage you to stop by the booths of “non-traditional HCM” vendors as well. The door is open for social technology vendors to expand beyond their social collaborative networking foundations and deliver next-generation approaches to traditional learning, talent management and other “people” processes. I expect we’ll see more from NewsGator and others like them in the future, as “HR Technology” gives way to more business outcomes focused “Work Management Technology.”

1(Disclosure: NewsGator and Yammer are both clients of Constellation Research.)

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