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).

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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)

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Breakaway Strategies: Looking Beyond HCM Vendors for HCM Technology

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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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