I Love HR Tech. No, I Hate HR Tech. No, I…

by | Oct 11, 2013

The 16th Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition was held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas this week.  I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with HR Tech.  I love it because information flows fast and free.  But, information flows fast and free for the very reason that I hate HR Tech: it is a vendor show. 

What do I mean when I say that HR Tech is a “vendor show”?  Well, it means that users do not attend the show.  Okay, okay, that is a slight exaggeration. I did see a few actual human resource professionals at the show, but for the most part, the exhibit hall and sessions are filled with software vendors, hardware manufacturers, consultants, analysts, and members of the media.

There are many benefits to a vendor show.  As I have mentioned, information flows fast and free.  Few people are concerned what customers might overhear.  So, news, rumors and stories abound.  At most trade shows, demos barely scratch the surface of a product’s capability and you need to schedule time with vendors to get any depth.  But at HR Tech, vendors have time to provide robust demonstrations of their software because pesky potential customers are not walking the exhibit hall.  If you’ve spent any time in this industry, you know how insular it is.  It’s like the mafia: once you’re in the HCM and/or WFM space, you’re probably not going to get out.  Therefore, a vendor show gives old friends and colleagues an opportunity to reconnect and socialize…and there is a lot of socializing!  I’ve heard some compare HR Tech to a three-day frat party with some demos and presentations inserted to fill the time and allow its attendees to say that they attended for business purposes.

Of course, the biggest problem with a vendor show is that without users the conference feels artificial.  Do users want the great new technology that is being promoted at the show?  Who knows because it’s just the vendors and the press hyping the next big thing to each other.  I can’t tell you how many technologies that I’ve seen introduced at HR Tech over the years that are never adopted or deliver the impact that was touted. 

Because HR Tech is a vendor show, I’m guessing that you did not attend.  So, let me give you a brief rundown of the show through a workforce management lens:

  • The biggest surprise from the WFM space at HR Tech was Ultimate Software’s quiet announcement that it acquired EmployTouch.  EmployTouch was a relatively new entrant into the time clock/employee self-service space.  Based in Toronto, the company had taken an Android tablet, hardened its exterior and provided innovative, intuitive software to capture time, support task management and other WFM-related tasks.  The product is being rebranded as the UltiPro TouchBase. 

This is a smart move by Ultimate and I can imagine Ultimate expanding TouchBase’s self-service capabilities to include broader HCM functionality.  It will be interesting to see what TouchBase resellers decide to do as a result of the acquisition.  Will Infor and WorkForce Software continue to sell the device, or do they view Ultimate as too much of a competitor and begin looking for a replacement solution?

This year, Bill Kutik stepped down as the Master of Ceremony, co-chairman and grand poobah of HR Tech.  He is passing the reigns to Steve Boese.  Steve is the Director of Talent Management at Oracle, known to many as the HR Technology Blogger, contributor on Fistful of Talent and host of HR Happy Hour. Good luck, Steve.  I’ll see you at the Mandalay Bay next October!


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