SHRM Helps Socialize Human Resources

I had the pleasure to drop into the 63rd annual conference of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in Las Vegas where over 18,000 human resources professionals came to learn, engage with peers and also enjoy a variety of entertainment. It was the definitely the place to be if you wanted to mix Hollywood with HR. From Sir Richard Branson in Sunday’s opener to music from Keith Urban to controversial political commentator Arianna Huffington and finally actor Michael J. Fox for the closing keynote, the HR professionals got to enjoy a range of interesting perspectives; it seemed like a good outlet for a segment of professionals who often do not get enough credit in business.

In-between the splashes of entertainment were educational sessions that covered the gamut of employment, management, talent management, international HR, rewards and leadership. One of the tracks called talent management is aligned to our research on workforce performance and human capital management. The sessions there showed that SHRM is working to educate its members on processes and applications in this key area. They covered recruiting, onboarding, performance management and succession planning and devoted a lot of attention to compensation, rewards and incentives. We believe that has to be one of the foundation components for every HR strategy and have assessed its current state in our total compensation benchmark and in our methodical examination of vendors and products called the Value Index. Another of our benchmarks found that linking compensation with performance management is essential for any pay-for-performance type of strategy. It was good to see that the education now includes the use and impact of social media in recruiting, which can open new doors to larger talent pools and positively brand the organization. We believe this is such an important trend for the industry that we are conducting benchmark research to determine the demand for it and identify best practices of the early adopters.

I also enjoyed the congeniality of the social media lounge. SHRM knows how to get the mojo going with bloggers and tweeters in a friendly couch-and-snack environment. It gave people not just an opportunity to network but to meet and talk in person about the dynamics of the HR industry. The team at SHRM does a great job of providing a compelling environment and show, so my hat’s off to them!

Among the other dynamics was the massive exhibit floor, which displayed anything HR folks might want to use in their work. I eventually found my way to the center of the floor, as big as a football field, filled with software providers. Around the 50 yard line was ADP, displaying its coverage of everything from payroll services to a suite of applications for managing a workforce for every size of organization.

Looking into software for recruiting and applicant tracking, I met with Talx, a division of Equifax that provides services to ensure that an organization is compliant and efficient in hiring. I also met with Talent Technology, which is helping market and acquire talent from social media sources with its Talemetry suite, as I wrote recently. Kenexa and other providers were showing their recruiting and compensation applications for HR. And some smaller software providers including myStaffingPro were showing their products for applicant tracking and recruiting.

One of the key issues for Human Resources to begin to deal with is making information and applications available for employees and managers on smartphones and tablets. The launch of PeopleFluent and its suite of mobile applications that I provided some early analysis on was relevant to this discussion. I also visited with Kronos, which was demonstrating what mobile technologies can do to help the next generation of workforce management that I have already assessed. I also spoke in depth with Saba, which has advanced the use of collaboration and social media with its learning applications called Saba Social. I had the chance to personally fire up Saba’s free demonstration on my Apple iPad to see if it was simple as the representatives said, and they were right. I congratulate Saba for making it simple to use software on a tablet. As I have written, the company is committed to people and collaboration software.

If your company is small (with less than 100 employees) or midsize (with 100 to 1,000), plenty of choices in applications to meet your needs were evident at SHRM. I met with the SuccessFactors team to explore their efforts to simplify the configuration and administration of applications that operate in the cloud and customers rent. I also saw the new Epicor HCM product. Epicor has acquired Spectrum, an HRMS provider, to expand its applications and market them for both purchase and rental. Halogen Software, Ultimate Software and Taleo also had dialogue and demonstration that was well aligned to this audience.

Forward-thinking HR organizations are trying to determine the role of analytics in their processes and performance. In this context it was interesting to see Visier come out from the shadows and display its next generation of workforce analytics. A highly intuitive and visual approach addresses issues found in our workforce analytics benchmark research, and I look forward to assessing Visier as part of our next Value Index on workforce analytics. As a dedicated provider in workforce analytics it had some good buzz going; that is a fairly crowded market, but most are just providing reports, dashboards and historical measurements that are not very actionable or collaborative. 

Completely absent from the event were the large HRMS providers Infor, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. I suppose they must see SHRM as an extra expense outside their core market, but I will have to ask them why they were not present since many of the attendees likely use an HRMS.

All in all, the SHRM conference was engaging and busy, and being a first-timer there, I will put it on my list of shows to attend in 2012. If you or your HR person looks a little stressed out, tell them about SHRM in 2012 to relieve the tension while learning something useful. It will be worth the investment.


Mark Smith – Chief Research Officer

Two Elephants Face Off: Hadoop and Oracle

I stopped into the Yahoo Hadoop Summit (Twitter: #HadoopSummit) to see how far the open source Hadoop technology has progressed. This open source community has been advancing for years with support from Internet titans like Yahoo, eBay and Facebook. Hadoop, as my colleague David Menninger has written, is now ready to play a large role as organizations try to cope with data on a large scale and solidify their information management agenda.

With over 1,600 attendees the Yahoo Hadoop Summit was quite vibrant. A highlight was Yahoo’s announcement that with help from Benchmark Capital it has spun out its Hadoop efforts into a separate organization called Hortonworks that David assessed. I have to say that the launch of Hortonworks left a lot to be desired. If I had to point out the weakest link of the new organization is its marketing and ability to act like an elephant in the room and blow’s its trunk. For example the launch of HortonWorks at the conference was not very impactful and its presence at the event in regards to demonstrating what they provide with their software was only available in specific sessions. I got some indicators that marketing might be improving but clearly the elephant has left the circus and heading down the freeways that now must be better presented to the market.

This is only the latest in a series of corporate moves around Hadoop as software providers position themselves to support the information technology ecosystem around big data. For example, check out these ones we have analyzed: EMC, Pentaho, Informatica and even IBM. Smaller providers like Cloudera are making Hadoop safer for enterprise use via commercially supported versions. At the Yahoo Hadoop Summit a range of providers demonstrated capabilities, including MapR for administration and Datameer, Karmasphere and Zettaset for analytics. For Hadoop to be part of the new information technology fabric, integration is needed, and Pervasive and Syncsort are addressing this opportunity. These and more than a dozen other providers showed Hadoop-related integration; Asterdata (now owned by Teradata) demonstrated MapReduce and SQL integration[JB1]  under a newly awarded patent for SQL-to-MapReduce techniques.

Hadoop is represented graphically by an elephant, and that reminds me that its evolving information technology framework is capable of challenging a true industry behemoth, Oracle. If Hadoop was not available today, organizations that use it might be considering Oracle technology to manage content and data in large, distributed clusters. Our nearly complete research on Hadoop and Information Management that we announced recently will be released in full soon, and it has some valuable insights on Hadoop use and organizations’ intentions that could impact Oracle’s position in this part of the IT industry. Hadoop may obviate the need to purchase Oracle for many types of deployments and thus could get in the way of Oracle advancing its RDBMS and middleware dominance. It is clear now that Oracle has made sure to minimize the open source aspects of mySQL after buying it along with Sun Microsystems and has quietly removed it from any significant role in the industry. It won’t be able to do that with Hadoop, at least in the short term, since it has broad support in the open source movement.

Oracle hasn’t said much publicly about Hadoop, which threatens future licensing of its own technologies. A quick search for Hadoop on the Oracle website brings up only 13 related links, but digging into its Oracle Technology Network reveals a large amount of supporting resources demonstrating the challenges it poses for the database titan. If Oracle has a strategy for combating Hadoop, it has not communicated it yet; now that I think about it, Oracle has become pretty closed off when it comes to engaging the industry lately.

Our new research finds a surging level of confidence on the part of Hadoop users to meet big-data needs instead of using an RDBMS. Few open source software developments have had this strong a potential impact on the largest software companies and conventional databases, and none of them could impact Oracle’s future as severely as Hadoop. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the offices of CIOs and information management professionals; the relevance and importance of these technologies and providers promises a new battle in the software war that will be worth more than peanuts.

David Menninger, our VP and Research Director for IT (Twitter: @dmenningervr), will soon unveil the first in-depth Hadoop and Information Management research, and I’m sure that it will make everyone rethink their strategy not just for storing big data but for how they analyze and use it. Please register for our webinar and come learn how Hadoop could be the right tool to help you manage masses of information, content and data in your enterprise and potentially lower the costs of doing so. For me it is definitely worth buying a bag of peanuts to watch the elephants face off in the market.


Mark Smith – Chief Research Officer