SumTotal Announces Acquisition of Accero and CyberShift

Today SumTotal Systems, one of the largest (privately held) providers of learning and talent management software, announced the acquisition of both Accero (global complex payroll provider) and CyberShift (mid-sized provider of time and attendance, expense management, and contingent workforce management software).

(Research members can read our detailed bulletin on SumTotal and this acquisition tomorrow.)

Background:

SumTotal is now the largest provider of learning management software and one of the largest providers of talent management software.  (Over the years the company has acquired Click2Learn, Pathlore, GeoLearning, Mindsolve, Softscape, and now Accero and CyberShift.)  While its revenues are not public, we know that the company generates over $200 million in total revenue, now has 1000+ employees, and after these acquisitions will have 3400+ customers.

These two acquisitions round out the company’s offering so it now offers an end-to-end human capital management platform. With the Accero (200+ customers) and CyberShift (700+ customers) acquisitions, the company can now offer a wide range of technology solutions for nearly every major part of human capital management.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 1: SumTotal HCM Solution

Integrating the Parts

SumTotal is owned by Vista Equity Partners, a successful private equity firm that specializes in acquiring and improving enterprise software companies.  Over the last two years, Vista has guided SumTotal through its acquisitions of Softscape and GeoLearning using its well-honed playbook.  This playbook enables the company to rapidly integrate acquisitions and put in place a centralized, aggressive program for technology and user interface integration.  We have seen the integration of Softscape into the SumTotal products, and already there is a single user experience.

Both Accero and CyberShift will now become part of this integration playbook.

As with all software acquisitions in HR and Talent Management, this deal has the potential to alienate customers of the acquired company.  SumTotal’s business strategy focuses heavily on maintaining investment in the current products while the company integrates these products into others to create an end-to-end solution.  We have talked with some companies who have not found these transitions easy – but this is a fairly common problem in the HR software industry and SumTotal’s leadership team is laser focused on making sure that existing customers receive sound ongoing support.

SumTotal now clearly plays in a much larger space:  the company now offers global payroll and a solution for hourly and contingent workers (big markets in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and government).  These new products give the company the potential to grow its revenue rapidly as it reaches out to its 3400 customers and sells additional products.  The challenge SumTotal now faces is that it must train its sales, service, and support organizations to manage a much more diverse set of offerings – and the company now faces a broader range of competitors.

That said, there are almost no HR software companies left which do not consist of acquired companies.  So nearly every vendor we speak with is trying to “expand its footprint” into new application areas and has the same challenges of understanding new applications, buyers, and technologies.

We know that HR and Talent buyers today desperately want an integrated solution (more than 1/3 of all buyers in our latest customer satisfaction survey told us that they would be willing to “sacrifice features in order to get a single vendor solution“).  While these systems are initially purchased for automation and cost-savings, ultimately the biggest benefits of HCM software occur when the company can look at a single view of its workforce and start to optimize spending, move people into the right roles, replicate high-impact talent processes, and give managers an easy-t0-use toolset for management decision.  SumTotal now has the pieces in place to develop a highly integrated HCM suite.

What this Means to Buyers and the Market

SumTotal just raised the ante in the talent management software space.  More and more companies now want to treat their hourly and contingent workers with the same talent management practices as their full-time people.  (Clorox, for example, one of the most widely known brands in the market, operates with almost 40% of their workforce on a contingent basis.) As SumTotal starts to promote this functionality (PeopleFluent, Kronos, and Workday offer such a solution), the bar will be raised for other software providers.

The payroll marketplace is very large, very concentrated, and very difficult.  Most large companies today have multiple payroll providers and would like to find a single, integrated service provider.  With 3400 customers to work with, SumTotal now has many opportunities to help companies tackle their global payroll challenges.

As with all software acquisitions, there will be some pain for existing customers.  There will likely be changes in the sales and service organization and some R&D efforts will be curtailed to refocus energies on integration.  But since the company has a track record of rapidly integrating new products, we expect SumTotal to be able to continue to attract new customers as it lights a fire under the businesses of Accero and CyberShift.

Research members, please read our detailed bulletin on the company which will be published tomorrow.

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  • Payroll tax laws are constantly changing and have in fact accelerated over the last three years. What do you recommend small business owners do in order to keep up and keep compliant?

    • joshbersin

      Most organizations keep up on payroll laws through their payroll provider (ADP, etc)… its usually in the payroll provider’s best interest to stay current on all local regulations.