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SAP SuccessFactors vs. Workday vs. Google?!?

Soon after SAP SuccessFactors and Workday explained their latest and greatest at small, private influencer events at the most scenic venues in the Bay Area, Google rolled out its first HCM application to an auditorium full of hundreds of developers on May 17.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017
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After reading about Google for Jobs in, of all places, USA Today, I sought out my old friend Dmitri Krakovsky. He left as head of products at SAP SuccessFactor in late 2015 to join a start-up, which Google bought before he reported to work.

The woman who was going to be his boss, Diane Greene (named fourth of "The 100 Most Creative People in Business" in the June issue of Fast Company), was lifted up to head a new Google enterprise software group, and Dmitri became one of her vice presidents.

On May 17, Google announced its first enterprise product. I had to use some KGB methods on the former Soviet, but he explains what it's about below.

Bigger than Google (at least for employees not looking for work) is the hottest HCM trend of the moment: SAP SF calls it “Conversational HR" and Workday calls it "WorkTalk." Both names are somewhat aspirational because neither involves talking to your HCM like to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant -- yet. The first versions this year -- and their demoes are remarkably similar -- involve having a live text chat with an HCM intelligent assistant: yes, a bot!

To me, this is the climax of the 20-year effort to create easy-to-use employee self-service. You know the problem: Many employees only go to your HCM a few times a year, and no matter how intuitive your interface and navigation are, they get confused by the unfamiliar software and make an expensive call to HR or the shared-services center for help.

With both these new products, employees don't even have to log into the HCM! Instead, they can send a text, or maybe an e-mail or a message from Slack, and start a dialogue or Q&A with the system. No clicking or tapping to find the right page, just texting and eventually talking, according to SAP SF Group Vice President David Ragones, one of the many executives working on it. (He talks more about Conversational HR on Firing Line with Bill Kutik® starting May 31.)

Oracle had its analyst event earlier and you can find its product details here.

In other news, SAP SF continues to build out its advances, in what it calls the "employee experience" of digital transformation. Plans include the next generation versions of recruiting and payroll (now still the on-premise product in a SaaS wrapper). Plus the company is making a firm commitment to creating a new single unified platform for every app it owns, an effort now headed by former PeopleSoft, Taleo and Oracle executive James F. Harvey.

Three other keys to the employee experience:

Intelligent Services is really a step before a bot, connecting all the actions the system needs to take to handle your life event: having a child, moving to a new office, even onboarding. In less than two years, it has 500 customers and 40 pre-defined services.

Continuous Performance Management sits on top of the old industry standard app that made SuccessFactors so successful. It's still there for companies that think doing a performance review once a year is a swell idea. More than 260 customers are using it.

In "Business Beyond Bias," SAP has really put its money where its best intentions are. The full module (part of the HR suite) has a feature, like a grammar-checker, that flags discriminatory language in job descriptions and other HR text. My favorite feature masks a job candidate's picture and name in recruiting profiles, so the deciders don't know gender and race, at least. Earlier news about these products can be found here.

Brand new to BBB is SAP's new initiative called Leonardo, which promises the application of artificial intelligence to review a company's existing candidate pool checking for common types of discrimination already there.

The details of Workday's major announcement about opening its development platform were under non-disclosure. But CEO Aneel Bhusri, in his on-the-record remarks, said Workday would open it more fully to customers, implementation partners and eventually, maybe to other software companies -- all through programmable APIs.

This is important to some (maybe many) of the 20,000 big HCM customers worldwide still using on-premise Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP solutions. They have customized the software to death by writing new code and are loath to rip out systems that work exactly as they do. Will PaaS (Platform as a Service) allow them to recreate that nirvana in the cloud, even if it's wrong-headed? Still TBD.

Workday continues to expand analytics, emphasizing it will always be embedded in the apps. Many new capabilities will be in Workday Prism Analytics announced for Release 29, due this September. It will use the tech acquired with Platfora to take in non-Workday data and visualize it. Also in Release 29, Data-as-a-Service will debut with HR Benchmarking, using opt-in anonymized customer data. See Vinnie Mirchandani's blog for more details.

Updates on existing products were slim. But the last app to be released, Learning, is getting some traditional LMS features, added to the whizzy employees producing videos that everyone else released first (now being enhanced at Workday with user questions and on-screen text). Learning now has enrollment, waitlist tracking and completion management -- and more of the boring admin functionality necessary for compliance. Release 29 will also have machine learning recommendations and Learning linked to competencies and onboarding.

The second-youngest child, Recruiting, continues catching up with and trying to surpass competitors old enough to be its father. One cool feature allows candidates to name company employees they know. The system then asks them for an endorsement -- turning the traditional employee referral process on its head!

In Release 29 and beyond, Workday will focus on most companies' bugaboo, the candidate experience (even allowing it to be personalized!), and, of course, on CRM (candidate relationship marketing) so both candidate and employee referrals can use it. 

Like competitor SAP SF moving production sites to Microsoft's public, multi-vendor cloud service called Azure and the Google Cloud, Workday is moving its production sites to Amazon's servers, now only used for demo sites. During his Q&A, Aneel said, "Starting today, Workday is building no more data centers, instead leveraging Amazon services." If he could start over, he said he'd never have built a single data center. (It’s worth remembering this has been Infor CEO Charles Phillips' strategy from the get-go.)

Both companies reported tremendous product sales momentum with SAP SF considerably stronger in Europe; Workday, in the U.S. Just about even now with 1,600+ cloud customers signed, Workday has more elephant clients, most recently Boeing, Amazon and Walmart. SAP SF has Accenture with 380,000 employees.

Finally, what is Google up to building applications (beyond its successful Office competitors in the Google Suite) for businesses and individuals?

All Dmitri would say: “Google's mission has always been organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful. In Google for Jobs, it applies its skills to help people find employment, and to help companies find great employees, by doing it algorithmically, on a large scale, and exposing this capability to the whole ecosystem as an API and in its own search product as well. Not so dissimilar to Google Maps."

Google for Jobs has been reported to be a feature in search that collects and organizes millions of job postings from all over the web to make them easier for job seekers to find.

TechCrunch reported that Google for Jobs is partnering with some of the major repositories of jobs and applicants, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Careerbuilder, Monster (now owned by Randstad), Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter and other services.

I've been amazed for years that most job-seekers start their hunt with a Google search. "The challenge of connecting job seekers to better information on job availability is like many search challenges we've solved in the past," Google CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly said at the launch.

Search has always returned available jobs, but now reportedly will offer functionality: such as filtering jobs by location, title, category or type, date posted or whether it's full- or part-time. It will also show things like commute time, which is no small thing.

While my headline may have been click-bait and some Google for Job features are already available in existing recruiting products, who knows how Google, SAP SF and Workday may compete -- or cooperate -- in the future?

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik, as chairman emeritus, will help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the HR Technology® Conference & Expo, returning to Las Vegas, Oct. 10-13, 2017. Is the jig already up on the burgeoning Gig Economy? Watch IDC Vice President Lisa Rowan on the 29th episode of his broadcast-quality video series, Firing Line with Bill Kutik®.


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