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?
- WorkForce Software released its fourth annual Workforce Management Trends Study. The study focused on labor compliance, WFM priorities and adoption, fatigue management, and the Affordable Care Act. One of the more interesting findings is that companies are becoming more aware that bad press around non-compliance has a negative impact on the company’s brand reputation and are looking to WFM to keep them out of the news. Copies of the study can be downloaded from WorkForce Software’s website.
- Kronos was touting its full suite of solutions including Workforce Central 7.0 and the new release of its small and mid-sized business (SMB) solution, Workforce Ready. City of Houston spoke at the conference, discussing its experience using Kronos to control cost and maintain compliance. Kronos was also promoting its ACA Estimator, a free tool that allows businesses to determine the potential financial impact of the Affordable Care Act.
- Ceridian was celebrating Dayforce HCM Benefits and Payroll modules being named as an HR Executive Magazine’s Top 10 HR Technology. It also announced go lives for Town Shoes and Borbet Alabama, and was promoting its technology for ACA compliance.
- Infor continues to invest in its Unified HCM strategy (see Three Reasons Workbrain Customers Should Be Excited After Inforum 2013) and announced the release of Infor WFM 6.1. This new release included enhancements to its retail forecasting and scheduling solution, healthcare scheduling solution and introduced a new Time-off Planner.
- Since SumTotal acquired CyberShift, their WFM solution has been flying under the radar. However, based on a recent demo, a lot continues to go into product development and I saw a number of new features and enhancements including support for SumTotal’s ElixHR. ElixHR is an HR-specific integration platform that was named a Top 10 HR Technology by HR Executive Magazine.
- I saw a demo of Nettime Solutions’ StratusTime. This SaaS solution is targeted at SMBs up to 4,000 employees. I was really impressed with its manager’s dashboard which both looked good and was easily configurable by end users. StratusTime has surprisingly deep time and attendance capabilities, particularly around leave management.
- I also checked-in with NovaTime, a WFM vendor with a strong presence in the sub-5000 employee space. NovaTime was promoting their Advanced Scheduling Manager (ASM) which introduces sophisticated scheduling capabilities to their enterprise customers.
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!