Cornerstone for Salesforce: Optimizing CRM Investment

Since 2009, a small, independently operated but wholly owned subsidiary of Cornerstone OnDemand has been developing and delivering cloud-based LMS capabilities built natively on the Force.com platform (Salesforce.com’s platform for building enterprise applications).  Operating under the name “CyberU”, the solution went live on the AppExchange in October 2010, and now claims more than 70 clients including Marketo, LinkedIn, Virgin America, Box, and Salesforce.com which itself uses CyberU to deliver and track training for all internal and external users (the “extended enterprise”) globally.

Today, Cornerstone OnDemand announced the availability of “Cornerstone for Salesforce”, effectively rebranding CyberU and reinforcing its commitment to bringing learning and training directly into the business applications used by employees, partners and customers every day.

Cornerstone for Salesforce – a different focus

Where Cornerstone OnDemand has been focusing on enriching the capabilities and value proposition its talent suite (spanning the Recruiting Cloud, Learning Cloud, Performance Cloud and Extended Enterprise Cloud), the Cornerstone for Salesforce solution focuses on enriching the daily interactions taking place within the Salesforce applications with embedded training and development.

Bringing business intelligence, social and transactional support into enterprise business applications (like CRM, Financials, Manufacturing and others) reflects the trend toward more “purposeful applications”; a focus on “getting work done” more intuitively and effectively. The capabilities of Cornerstone for Salesforce reflect common learning management requirements, but the design intent is to have the LMS enable training and learning at the point where it is needed – i.e., while supporting a customer or while managing a sales opportunity – instead of having the LMS be “place you need to go for learning’’.

The Cornerstone for Salesforce capabilities include:

  • eLearning, including instructor-led and virtual learning support;
  • Certification and compliance for sales teams, employees, partners and customers;
  • Individual and team development planning;
  • Just-in-time training (training recommendations triggered from actions within the Salesforce application, such as changes in opportunity status, or when a new product is assigned to a sales or services team member);
  • Individual and manager dashboard reporting and analytics;
  • Social learning via integration with Salesforce Chatter;
  • Embedded performance development and training through integration with Salesforce Work.com;
  • A unified user experience and common reporting and analytics engine across the Salesforce platform; and
  • Immediate integration with thousands of Salesforce AppExchange partners including hundreds offering support for eCommerce, surveys, assessments, and quizzes.

cornerstone for salesforce
In addition to the capabilities mentioned above, consider also the extensibility of the Cornerstone platform. Unlike the packaged service offerings of yesterday’s legacy software (where custom development is repurposed to other clients through a pre-packaged consulting engagements), SaaS providers like Cornerstone can develop custom code for clients – or provide the development platform for clients’ own use – and enable other clients to access these innovations through a downloadable library of solution extensions. SaaS by its nature accelerates the pace of innovation; an extensible platform amplifies that acceleration even more.  Not every SaaS vendor takes this approach today, but Cornerstone has been supporting this for years. Cornerstone for Salesforce  empowers its partners and customers with an extensible LMS platform.

My POV

The launch of Cornerstone for Salesforce  is an important move for Cornerstone as more and more organizations look to the AppExchange and natively developed Force.com applications to extend their Salesforce.com investment.

Today Cornerstone supports three distinct platform offerings:  Cornerstone OnDemand, Cornerstone for Salesforce, and CSB (formerly Sonar6).  Rather than being distractions, I expect each offering will inform the other with best practices and lessons learned.  (We’ve seen this already, as the innovative “helicopter review” from the CSB solution is making its way into the Cornerstone Performance Cloud; and the domain expertise from the Cornerstone Learning cloud heavily influenced initial Cornerstone for Salesforce capabilities).

The Cornerstone OnDemand suite and CSB solution will continue to be important options for buyers in the HCM marketplace.  For Salesforce.com customers, a new option has emerged.

Cornerstone for Salesforce is a market-tested solution, with large clients (such as Salesforce.com) relying upon it today for learning and training across their extended enterprise.  Cornerstone for Salesforce should be on the shortlist of any Salesforce customer seeking intuitive, contextual learning and development support for its employees, partners and customers.

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M&A in Talent Management Continues: My POV on Strategia and Peoplefluent

StrategiaLogoPeoplefluent logo

On January 30, 2011, Peoplefluent, a leading provider of integrated talent management technology, announced that it was acquiring Canadian-based Strategia Communications. Financial details were not disclosed.

This is certainly important news for the marketplace, with yet another leading Strategic HCM vendor filling a gap in an otherwise well-developed talent management suite by making an acquisition. As Learning is, for the most part, considered a key element of any integrated talent management initiative, it is not surprising that Peoplefluent would make the jump to purchase their current partner, as ownership trumps partnership when you’re talking integrated suites.

Peoplefluent can now check all the boxes across the integrated suite, leaving vendors such as Cornerstone and Saba among the final few that have yet to complete their suites. (Both have announced planned releases in the near term to close on these very gaps.)

The Tweetosphere, which would normally be abuzz with conversation about this type of deal, has been relatively quiet.

Is this because of the anonymity of Strategia, or is it because of the paucity of press release information from the two companies themselves? Regardless of the reason, if the solution is indeed solid (as you would expect given customers like Yoplait, Ontario Ministry of Finance, Transport Canada and others), Peoplefluent should be congratulated on this strategic move.

While the market awaits additional information on Strategia, its solutions and planned integrations, I’ve provided my thoughts on the acquisition (with an overall positive or negative indicator) based on the available facts.

What we know about Strategia:

  • On the first day following the announcement, the only conversation I could find on LinkedIn started, “I haven’t come across Strategia…Anyone familiar?” The responses were not overwhelming. (-)
  • Strategia has been in operation since 1999. Their marquis customers are predominantly Canadian, and showcase Strategia’s industry strength in manufacturing, aerospace, public sector and others. The press release touts close customer relationships, one of which may be evidenced by the work between Strategia and their Compliance Management client Timco Aviation Services, back in 2008. Working closely with Timco to understand needs of the aviation and MRO (Maintenance Repair and Overhaul) industries, Strategia was able to design and launch a compliance dashboard aimed at the very complex requirements of validating worker certifications for job scheduling purposes. In an interview with Aircraft Magazine at the time of the launch, President and CEO Romain Gagnon said, “A single aircraft maintenance worker must be certified on multiple levels to perform even simple tasks. This complexity is becoming a challenge for MRO operators who are trying to maintain or increase their turn-times at the same time as accurately managing workers’ certification.” It is reassuring to know that Strategia has been meeting the highly complex needs of aerospace and other MRO customers since at least 2008. (+)
  • Their website, www.Strategia.ca/en, reports fewer than 50 employees (which is great from an agile M&A perspective), but contains no other personnel information (nothing on leadership, partners or others.) Likewise, there is limited product information: beyond text on screens, there are no product screen shots, demo videos, brochures or whitepapers. After 12 years in the industry, this lack of marketing collateral raises red flags for me. (-)
  • Peoplefluent positions Strategia as an existing learning partner, and so basic integration between the two platforms should already be understood and facilitate a rapid first drop on the unified roadmap. (+). Interestingly, I don’t see Strategia listed as a partner on their website. Perhaps they have been removed already?  (-)
  • Based on the available product descriptions, Strategia’s Learning Suite, Ed, would appear to have sufficient functionality to meet common learning use cases. The modules in Ed include the LMS (with instructor-led training, eLearning, virtual classrooms and blended learning), Content Management, Skills and Compliance Management (including an assessment engine), social learning, reporting and eCommerce. This latter component – eCommerce for commercial or for-profit learning – is a strategic differentiator against some LMS competitors, as it is not universally offered. (+)
  • Peoplefluent now has an offering in one of the hottest growth areas: Social Learning.(+)  As a vendor in social learning, why isn’t Strategia on Twitter? (-)
  • In September 2011, roughly three months before this acquisition announcement, a new SaaS application called “HR in the Cloud” was launched. HR in the Cloud was the result of the association of four HR vendors, their solutions unified through the creation of a common point of entry, to deliver end-to-end HCM functionality. Strategia was the LMS component of that offering. HR in the Cloud is as much or more of an unknown as Strategia. I am not sure if the affiliation is seeing any traction or will be seeking a new LMS to plug into their offering, but their engagement in this association is at least worthy of comment. (neutral)

What we can surmise about product impacts:

  • Learning is a fundamental requirement for integrated talent management, both augmenting and benefitting from each of the modules within a comprehensive suite. With Ed, Peoplefluent ostensibly will have the breadth of technologies to:
    • Achieve excellence in the new hire experience both before and after Day 1 with development programs and collaboration integrated with Peoplefluent onboarding processes (including the onboarding of contractors through Peoplefluent’s Vendor Management System);
    • Foster the creation and sharing of knowledge across the enterprise for better outcomes with Strategia Social Learning;
    • Close on skill and competency gaps (take action within an integrated system) identified during performance or succession planning;
    • Plan and execute leadership development programs for high potential and high performing employees as identified during the talent calibration process;
    • Enhance and link assessments to the recruiting process and close gaps after hire;
    • The list of opportunities continues at length from here.
    • (+)
  • Will current Peoplefluent customers that are using another LMS consider switching to a relative unknown in exchange for the benefits of an integrated offering? Research shows that almost one out of every three companies are willing to forgo functionality in exchange for an integrated suite, but will Strategia’s functionality be enough for Peoplefluent’s diverse customer base? (-)
  • Will this acquisition play out in the global market? Are Strategia’s solutions applicable globally? Are they translated, and if so into which languages? Do they support EMEA data privacy requirements and the unique regulations of different regions? I expect gaps in this area of global capability. (-)
  • The press release talks about “new synergies across the uniquely differentiating components of…Workforce Analytics, Workforce Compliance and Diversity, and Vendor Management System“. It’s the last point that really intrigues me. Peoplefluent’s Vendor Management System (VMS), which is already a differentiator for them, helps organizations streamline and manage processes around sourcing and managing contract labor. The VMS has capabilities spanning services procurement, contingent management, compliance & risk management, and reporting and analytics. Ed could advance Peoplefluent’s assessment capabilities, accelerate contractor onboarding, facilitate content creation and new levels of collaboration between contractors and staff, and more. Ultimately, only the roadmap will tell; I look forward to seeing it soon. (+)

Should the market be buzzing? Yes. We just need more data.

While there are many plusses and minuses based on what we know and can anticipate, on balance, this acquisition can only be perceived as a very positive move for Peoplefluent and its customers.

Many technology vendors come to market with v1 solutions that perhaps meet only certain use cases, or bring “good enough” capabilities for the time being. I do not know at this point how Strategia’s solutions will fare in the analysis: good enough for some, market competitive, or even market leading in certain areas. What I do know is that upon completion, Peoplefluent will lay claim to an end-to-end talent management suite; it will have a learning platform from which to grow; and that learning platform will force the consideration of new process flows and new thinking across the rest of the solution portfolio.

Sounds like a win in my book.

Congratulations, Peoplefluent. Now, when can you share the details?

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