Your “Incumbent” HR Systems Vendor – What to do?

I just completed a series of interviews with three organizations going through the important, challenging, and time consuming process of implementing a new performance management system.  In each case (a large healthcare provider, a global mining company, and a global call center operations company), the company is using the implementation of a performance management system to implement a new, re-engineered, strategic performance management process.  But rather than discuss this, I’d like to give you some thoughts on their vendor strategy.

These three companies each chose to use their “incumbent” systems vendor.  Rather than go to the “biggest” or “noisiest” systems vendor (I wont mention any names), they felt that they would see far greater benefits by using a newer system from their provider of recruiting software.  Why did they do this?  Because in each case they felt they had a wealth of data, experience, and strong working relationship with this company.

This points out two critical points, which we are publishing in a major research bulletin in the next few weeks:

1.  The biggest ROI from HR systems comes from integration, not automation.  As Leighanne Levensaler, our Director of Talent Management research has pointed out in many of her findings, the real breakthrough benefits of HR systems now come from newly enabled applications, such as pay-for-performance, integrated career and development planning, enterprise succession management, and strategic internal and external recruiting – not from automating or improving a single process.

As our data will prove, this means that the benefits of integration are now far greater than the potential downside of going with a product which may be missing a few features.  (Assuming your incumbent vendor is developing the features you need.)

This means that if your LMS vendor has a solution, or your recruiting vendor has a solution (or even your ERP vendor), you should really look hard at the time, energy, and existing investment you have made in this system before you rush out and bring in a new solution provider.  Obviously there are tradeoffs when your incumbent vendor is not keeping up, but in today’s HR systems world remember that “integration” is far more important than “automation.”

2.  The big “Incumbents” are getting their acts together.  The second point I want to make is that the traditional incumbents (recruiting systems providers, ERP providers (Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP, Lawson), and LMS providers) are all getting their “talent and performance management” software acts together.  While there are many feature differences between the providers (and our Talent Management Suites research will help you identify these), all now provide some form of an end-to-end solution which includes performance management.

While this continues to be a wild and wolly world of innovation (watch social networking coming around the corner), we think the role of your incumbent is becoming more important than ever.

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