The state of the key HCM vendors for 2022 and beyond

The best startups and stalwarts for enterprise software in a post-pandemic world.

For a very long time, enterprise software selection was determined by long feature request lists, mostly fuelled by requirements to support the status quo of an enterprise. This best practice served enterprises well when markets were healthy. But, naturally, no global pandemics were ever taken into consideration, and as such, there was no option of a strategic restart and repositioning after the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, here are three key criteria for how to make better software selection decisions this decade when it comes to human capital management (HCM):

Where are you going? Easily the hardest of the three questions, CxOs need to determine what the strategy and modus operandi of their enterprise will be in a post-pandemic world. It’s clear it is not going to be what it used to be, but how differently and how boldly will your enterprise operate? This is the crucial and all-determining question to answer here. 

Where is the vendor going? Next up, CxOs need to explore what direction their vendors are headed. Do they plan to automate an enterprise that is compatible with their own enterprise plans and strategy – or are they not interested? There are currently many operating models to choose from, and enterprise software vendors are not going to support them all. 

Is your vendor going fast enough? Once CxOs have determined strategy congruency, it is key to determine the velocity of the vendor in question to get there. Realising there is no such specific endpoint, it all comes back to the capacity and motivation of a vendor to stay on top of the competition and aim at automating the same enterprise operating models. 

What the key players are up to

Let us look at vendors in three categories: the large ERP suites which support HCM; HCM suite services; and a number of startups worth tracking in the field. As usual in my articles, vendors are presented alphabetically. Let us start with the ERP suites: 

Infor emphasises people solutions Infor has pointed its strategy towards empowering people with a focus on the evolution of work; reflecting how the nature of work, the workforce and the workplace itself are all changing in these tumultuous times. 

Infor enables HCM processes (‘global HR’ as Infor calls core HR, payroll, benefits, and case management), talent processes (talent science, learning and development and talent optimisation) plus workforce management (time and attendance, workforce scheduling, labour planning). All these capabilities are powered by arguably the most mature and function-rich cloud platform on the market, Infor OS, which brings along key capabilities like its collaboration solution Ming.le (Infor Mingle). 

Workday is arguably the strongest offering, but the company has worked hard on other areas such as spend and financial management.”

To evaluate Infor for HCM, CxOs need to look at the value of the overall Infor suite, which has a focus on micro-vertical capabilities. If those verticals are a good fit, Infor’s HCM offering makes good sense as part of the overall deal. 

Oracle pushes the employee experience  Oracle has the most mature HCM suite amongst all players, having been working on its Fusion HCM offering since 2014, as operating on a single platform, a single schema, a single toolset, and also a single UX. 

Despite its maturity, Oracle is not reducing its research and development on HCM capabilities, but is doubling down with a brand new employee experience management offering, Oracle ME, short for ‘my experience’, which offers Journeys, a CRM-like customer journey, but for the employee, and Touchpoints, a survey tool.

Oracle ME also offers HCM Communicate (internal communications, using CRM marketing strategies for internal communication), Connections (a peer and mentoring offering), a HR help desk and a digital assistant. The richness of Oracle’s HCM offering, combined with the new Oracle ME offering, makes the overall Oracle product a key one to evaluate, and the only offering across the vendors here where HCM is a differentiator during selection. This compensates for a potential weakness of other areas in Oracle’s overall offering.

SAP wants the ‘whole’ employee

SAP SuccessFactors was the first ERP HCM vendor to focus on experience, going even so far as to rename its HCM suite to HXM (human experience management) and positioning it as the next generation of HCM software. 

The SAP SuccessFactors HXM Suite enables employee experience management, core HR and payroll and talent management, as well as HR analytics and workforce planning. More recently SAP has acknowledged the diversity and differences of each employee as an individual. Aligning the right roles of the employee with their entire or (to use SAP parlance) ‘whole’ identity, is the holy grail in this regard. 

To achieve this, SAP had to rebuild HXM from the platform up, enabling new holistic processes and more powerful UX. This meant a focus on BTP and UX, which has become clear to see in SAP’s products. To evaluate SAP SuccessFactors, CxOs need to look at the overall value of the suite, gauging if other areas are a fit. In this regard, SAP HXM is a powerful augmentation for any enterprise.  

Workday focusses on enterprise 

management At its recent analyst innovation summit, Workday shared a new positioning with the Workday Enterprise Management Cloud. This is a clear departure from the brand’s previous ‘Power of One’ positioning, made necessary by the increasingly acquisitive nature Workday has shown these last few years. 

The HCM suite contains core HR, talent management, employee experience, workforce management and payroll. Workday started out in HCM and as such for the longest time it was – and arguably still is – the strongest offering available, but the company has worked hard on other areas such as spend and financial management. The ironic result is that CxOs evaluating Workday will look at the maturity and fit of these newer automation areas, and then assume that the HCM solution will be a great fit. 

HCM suites to suit you

Let’s move onto the HCM suites. CxOs evaluating the following need to understand that they will have to integrate these offerings with the wider automation portfolio, with all its risks and challenges. But if the ERP suites do not provide an adequate fit for your enterprise, then these are the key players to take note of:

ADP is more than software; the D matters increasingly ADP, the vendor that has been in the HCM business longer than many of the other vendors combined, has gone through a complete portfolio investment, building all products on new modern platforms. The one that stands out is the ADP Data Cloud, the base for all benchmarking and ADP’s popular salary recommendations. 

As a vendor with thousands of customers of all sizes, ADP offers suite-level offerings to any size of enterprise. Its payroll expertise makes it the perfect partner for all ERP suite offerings. When evaluating ADP, the key aspects to examine are how important payroll and compliance are for your enterprise. 

Ceridian offers tight integration on what matters Ceridian’s DNA in payroll got an upgrade when it acquired Dayforce over 10 years ago. Since then the vendor has built out one of the most compatible and dynamic combinations of workforce management and payroll around, allowing early innovations on pay such as ‘always on’ payroll, salary advances and more. 

That should not detract from the fact that Ceridian has built out talent management and benefits, along with recently showing a focus on international expansion, both in go-to-market and product. Evaluating Ceridian, it is clear the strength of the vendor lies in a tightly integrated suite that excels in the more difficult elements of HCM, payroll and workforce management. 

It’s more about a software vendor’s speed to deliver than the suite level-integration as a whole.”

UKG has the most modern offering in HCM when scheduling matters The merger of Kronos and Ultimate Software has created UKG, a large HCM player that offers three suites which focus on different customer sizes. 

Across all HCM suite vendors discussed here, UKG has the most modern offering with its Workforce Dimension products. It is the first offering that was natively built for the public, Google cloud and excels with its data and AI capabilities. If workforce management with all its complexities matters to an enterprise, then UKG Workforce Dimension excels on the evaluation front.

New kids on the block 

Sometimes suites do not cover elements as enterprises need them, and other times enterprises want a fresh start with a new vendor in the HCM space, one which excels at a certain capability. There are hundreds of HCM startups; the ones in the list below stand out and are well worth noting for any enterprise on the vendor hunt.

beqom offers sophisticated compensation management Money makes the world go round, and for those in people leadership, that matters, especially when it comes to how to compensate people to motivate and retain them. 

beqom has specialised in this for over a decade, and a recent $300m funding round has given the vendor the capacity to expand product and presence. If compensation is a key factor for their enterprise, then CxOs should definitely investigate beqom. 

Hibob reinvents the HR core market

Who would have thought that a group of founders from a non-HR background could reinvent core HR processes in a modern, easy, and fun-to-use way? Well, Hibob did exactly that.

As any modern platform should, Hibob offers great connectivity to other necessary systems, such as payroll, with best practices perfectly suiting small and medium enterprises. If tired of the traditional vendors in the space and ready for a new offering, then Hibob is a must-evaluate offering. 

Oyster makes international HR easy Managing employees on a global basis is difficult, and Oyster reduces complexity for that endeavour by offering global management for employees and contractors, payroll, compliance and benefits in over 180 countries. 

Oyster makes for a remarkably interesting option when looking beyond the traditional vendors for global HR automation with its modern and fast-growing offering. 

Personio delivers a HCM suite Just when you thought nobody would build a new HCM suite, Personio surprised everyone, starting as it did in the backyard of SAP. 

Personio offers a complete suite of HCM automation. Focussing on small and medium enterprises, customers and investors have already seen the benefits, valuing the startup at over $6bn. Any SME CxO in one of its supported countries would do well in looking at Personio. 

PeopleStrong powers HCM across APAC

The world ticks differently in different regions, and PeopleStrong echoes that with a complete HCM suite across APAC. 

Less than seven years old, the vendor pays over two million people across the region and is a competent option for partners covering the dynamic and fast-growing APAC region. 

SmartRecruiters makes hiring easy For over a decade SmartRecruiters has been innovating in talent acquisition. More recently, the vendor has accelerated its capabilities, expanding its global coverage and deepening its functionality. If hiring matters to your enterprise, SmartRecruiters is one startup which cannot be overlooked.

The Takeaways

The future of work is changing faster than ever, and people are the biggest asset of any enterprise. With a global talent shortage, the Great Resignation and a pandemic affecting enterprises, HCM software matters more than ever. Best practices are changing rapidly, and CxOs are just getting their heads around what national, if not global, talent pools mean for enterprises, given the new remote work possibilities now available. 

What remains unchanged in all of this is the need for enterprises to practice ‘enterprise acceleration’, i.e. move faster and become more agile while you’re at it. 

Enterprise suites have been the answer for ensuring less integration headaches as integration failures are notorious for slowing enterprises down. The strategy for the next decade is not so clear-cut. With best practices being redefined and reinvented, it is more about a software vendor’s speed to deliver these than the suite level-integration as a whole. 

Operating on modern best practices will be more critical than working on a suite from those of a pre-pandemic past. This makes the CxO’s decision less simple than it was in the past, and warrants a look into the startup landscape, a realm which has often shown that it can deliver partners for enterprises both large and small. 

Exciting times are ahead for enterprises, and even more CxOs are making system selections. The ramification of these decisions meanwhile has become more strategic for the success of their enterprise than ever before. 

I hope this article has helped you in your decision process. Good luck out there!