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)

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.

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.)

Peoplefluent Gains Social Platform as Private Equity Firm, Bedford Funding, Invests in Socialtext

In a press release today, Bedford Funding – the private equity firm that owns Talent Management solutions provider Peoplefluent – announced a strategic investment in privately held Socialtext, a provider of enterprise social software based in Palo Alto, California. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bedford Funding FamilyFounded in 2002, Socialtext provides enterprise social networking tools – including microblogging, wikis, profiles, social profile matching and other tools to connect employees and information – to more than 6500 mid-sized and large enterprises across the globe. Their customers include such recognized brands such as Getty Images, Symantec, Walgreens, Weight Watchers, Warner Bros. Entertainment, McGraw Hill and Rutgers University.

Bedford Funding is a private equity firm that has been solely focused on investments in the Human Capital Management technology marketplace. Peoplefluent was formed in July 2011, when Bedford combined its three previous acquisitions (Authoria in 2008, PeopleClick in 2009, and Aquire in 2011) into a consolidated offering for integrated talent management under the new Peoplefluent brand.

Socialtext is joining the Bedford Funding family, but will remain an independent entity and remain under the leadership of current CEO Eugene Lee. The strategic investment will infuse Socialtext with funding to drive expanded development and accelerate strategy execution. Operating as an independent entity, Socialtext will be positioned into Peoplefluent’s more than 5000 customers, while continuing to support and sell into customers utilizing other enterprise systems including ERP and Talent Management suites, as well as Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Connections.

Bedford’s strategic investment in Socialtext places a strong provider of enterprise social networking in the same family as Peoplefluent, and as such, plans are emerging that will integrate the two platforms to enhance employee collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Peoplefluent today provides recruiting, onboarding, performance, compensation, succession planning, workforce communications and business intelligence to more than five million users across 5000 customers in 214 countries and territories across the globe. While Peoplefluent has emerged as an innovative leader in mobile talent management, it has lagged in the emerging market of social talent management processes. Earlier this year, Peoplefluent announced its move into social learning with the acquisition of Strategia Communications, a small provider of Learning Management Solutions based out of Canada. Now, with the incorporation of Socialtext into Bedford Funding, the remaining social gaps can be bridged with integrations between the two platforms.

We look forward to being the growth engine in Silicon Valley for Peoplefluent to extend and enhance its Talent Management offering with Socialtext as its social layer”   – Eugene Lee, Socialtext CEO.

Integrating the Socialtext and Peoplefluent platforms is expected to drive significant growth into Peoplefluent as it benefits from competitive social capabilities delivered through close collaboration between two entities of Bedford Funding. But will integration be enough?

As I have written before, the question remains whether or not next generation experiential systems (as opposed to transactional systems or systems of engagement) can be assembled through integrations, or if they require the incorporation of social technologies into the core technology platform for more advanced business support and analytics. Vendors are taking their stand on either side of this “debate” and for now, the path forward for Peoplefluent appears to be one of integrated social technology. Many of their customers today are already using 3rd party social collaboration tools such as Yammer, Jive and Microsoft SharePoint, and so integrations with Socialtext should be straightforward and rapid. The unique opportunity facing Peoplefluent is the ability to leverage Socialtext to transform people processes with social; the question is whether or not transformation can come through integration.

My POV:

Bedford Funding has been very specific in their positioning of this transaction, citing that the investment is to enable accelerated development and leadership of the Socialtext platform and bring social collaboration into its Peoplefluent platform. The deal is clearly a ‘win’ for all involved:

  • Peoplefluent customers interested in Socialtext capabilities, as there will be greater emphasis on sales, integration and support between Peoplefluent and Socialtext solutions;
  • Socialtext customers, as the investment infuses Socialtext with the funding necessary to grow development and innovation;
  • Bedford Funding, which now has a comprehensive portfolio spanning human capital technologies including the social networking technology necessary for comprehensive collaboration and workplace transformation;
  • Other TM/HCM vendors adding social to their portfolio benefit as well, as this transaction continues to raise the visibility of social technologies in people processes. Most Human Capital Management and Talent Management vendors are currently adding social capabilities into their suites, either through integrations to social technologies (such as Socialtext, Yammer, Jive, Chatter and others) or by incorporating these capabilities into their technology platforms (Saba, Oracle Fusion, and literally tens of startups and niche providers in social performance, social goals and others). As the social enterprise emerges, HR and business leaders will find increased technological support for harnessing the power of collaboration and connectivity to improve how work gets done, everyday, across the enterprise.

This transaction should light a fire under any HCM vendor sitting on the fence regarding whether or not to integrate or incorporate social with their offerings. For the enterprise buyer, it is further evidence that social networking is moving into the enterprise to create the social enterprise. If your organization has not yet established its strategies around use of social technologies, today’s news should serve as a rallying point for prioritizing those conversations.

For another important perspective on this acquisition, please review the post by my Constellation Research colleague, Alan Lepofsky.

Accelerate Social Learning with Next Generation Unified Communications

The rapid pace of change in business today requires learning agility, and formal learning programs cannot keep pace.  Today’s advances in Unified Communications enrich and enable social learning, transforming how people collaborate, communicate, learn and share knowledge.

Image available under creative commons license from the Flickr photostream of DailyPic (www.flickr.com/photos/dailypic/)

In today’s networked economy, connecting people to the information they need, and doing this when, where and how it’s needed, is a critical requirement for business agility. Email may still be the primary form of communication in corporate business today, but more and more individuals are communicating and collaborating through next generation technologies such as instant messaging, posting updates to walls and activity feeds, creating and posting videos, tweeting, conversing and sharing content in social forums, and any number of other means of sharing and accessing knowledge.

These informal methods of collaboration and engagement, coupled with the more formal learning concepts of training courses, certifications and learning content, have been converging into what the market now recognizes as Social Learning.

What is Social Learning?

At its most basic concept, Social Learning is simply the process of engaging with others to learn and share knowledge. It’s been estimated that 70-80 percent of learning is informal: accidental, ad hoc or unplanned learning that happens outside the traditionally structured learning environments. The rapid pace of change in business today requires learning agility, and  formal learning programs cannot keep pace in this area. Technologies have emerged to enable “social learning”, facilitating the creation and sharing of knowledge across a networked community and bringing real-time community feedback, collaboration and context to the learning experience. When these social learning environments are combined with the advanced capabilities of next generation unified communications suites, everyone wins.

How UC Capabilities Extend the Social Learning Value Proposition

  • Effectively engage a multi-generational workforce. Social Learning combines formal and informal approaches to learning, to meet the learning styles and needs of all individuals. At its heart are social networking technologies, which include such capabilities as maintaining a social profile; updating activity streams; rating, tagging, bookmarking and sharing content. More and more UC platforms are incorporating social networking, bringing the richness of voice, video and online collaboration together with social collaboration and engagement to meet the diverse needs of today’s multi-generational workforce. Enabling social learning environments with the latest capabilities of next generation unified communications will drive increased employee engagement, accelerate the flow of information and return higher value to the business.
  • Achieve highly interactive virtual learning, on the go. With the advances in Unified Communications, virtual learning environments can now be augmented by integrated voice, data, video and collaboration to bring the richness of a classroom experience to the desktop or laptop of the learner in ways never before possible. No longer must a learner log into a web conference tool with one device, access the audio with another, and sign into yet another technology tool for real-time collaboration; the latest in Unified Communications capabilities are increasingly integrated with social learning environments to streamline all of these activities to support the most effective virtual learning environments possible. Whether conducting an informal meeting to share knowledge or training hundreds or more users on formal processes, the virtual learning experience can be highly interactive and engaging, and increasingly, can be achieved on the go with mobile devices. The availability of high-fidelity video and telepresence further enriches the experience to provide an immersive, face-to-face environment beyond traditional video conferencing.
  • Quickly identify and engage with experts at the point of need. Imagine an experience where an employee is reviewing a slide deck shared in the enterprise collaboration site, and questions arise about the content. Advances in messaging and presence detection enable the employee to see whether or not the author is online and available, and further allows him to reach out though chat, voice and/or video to engage with the author directly. Not only has this process fostered rapid information exchange and ad hoc learning, but it has connected two individuals who are now more likely to share and engage in future collaboration scenarios. After collaborating with the author, the employee adds his own comments to the content, rates and tags it, thus accelerating the value and effectiveness of this content for other enterprise learners who may be seeking this subject matter in the future.
  • Reduce content creation costs and burden, through crowdsourcing. The ease with which videos, knowledge documents, audio recordings and other learning objects can be created in a UC-enabled social learning environment enables organizations to create a new channel for content development: crowdsourcing.  Any employee in the enterprise with access to a video-enabled phone or web conferencing tool can quickly create content that is readily shared and leveraged in both formal and informal learning initiatives, greatly easing the corporate learning organization’s burden of content creation.
  • Improve corporate learning outcomes with  Video. Video is likely to become the preferred mode of learning within the enterprise by 2013. In May 2011, YouTube reported approximately 48 hours worth of video was uploaded very minute. The ease of content creation and sharing experienced in the YouTube environment has increased expectations for similar capabilities within corporate social learning environments, and the advances in UC will help bridge that gap. Why bother? Because studies show that video learning can improve outcomes by 30% or more, in addition to improving employee performance, increasing engagement, and fostering company brand and culture.  Video is highly important to learning initiatives, and integrating HD Video with collaboration tools will further advance the success of social learning initiatives.

In business today, there are many ways to get the job done, and we no longer work in a one-size-fits-all environment. Next generation unified communications accelerate the capabilities of Social Learning platforms, transforming how people collaborate, communicate, learn and share knowledge.

The benefits I’ve described above are but a few of the many ways in which social learning initiatives are enriched by collaboration and communication advances in a unified communications platform. If you would like to speak with me or another member of Constellation Research about developing your social learning or unified communications strategies, we’re happy to help. Contact me at y@constellationrg.com and I’ll ensure you’re engaged with the right members of the team.

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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