SaaS for a Talent Management platform?

When a software trend features on the BBC Radio 4’s In Business, you know it’s hit mainstream. Listening to the podcast of Peter Day explaining SaaS last weekend, I realised that Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff was finally where he’d wanted to be for the past 4 years.

So, SaaS is getting increasingly difficult to avoid – but does that mean it is the right choice for a Talent Management platform?

Here’s a sample of recent magazine articles riddled with SaaS euphoria:

  • CRN ranks SaaS among the top 25 software breakthroughs of the past 25 years.
  • The Wall Street Journal gives a breezy tour of happy SaaS users, liberally name-checking suppliers along the way.
  • Computer World Management shows how the new kids on the block (a persistent metaphor in these stories) are blazing a trail.

I like a shiny new technology as much as the next commentator, but when consensus smacks of group think, it’s time for a reality check.

Fortunately a few voices are adding balance.

First, the marvellously irreverent eweek’s slide show 10 things they believe in Silicon Valley and nowhere else. Slide one: SaaS dominates all.

More sensibly, CIO pitches in with The truth about software as a service, which cautions against using SaaS in three instances:

  1. If applications touch on the core of the enterprise – typically ERP, financial, business intelligence
  2. If the functions are so key to your operations that you must own them
  3. When integration is important

Knowledge Infusion picked up on this, and added this rather shouty interpretation:

If applications touch upon the core of the enterprise, SaaS should be approached cautiously. These processes usually differentiate one company from another and SaaS does not allow for that. WE WOULD ARGUE THAT SO FEW COMPANIES ARE DOING TALENT MANAGEMENT WELL TODAY THAT THIS IS NOT AS LARGE OF AN ISSUE, BUT WILL BE INTO THE FUTURE.

All right, all right. I’m not deaf. Still, I think KI is right here, as Gartner’s Jim Holincheck put it: SaaS alone is not the answer, at least not for a Talent Management platform, at least not yet.

For me, SaaS fails here because TM hits all three of CIO’s points. It’s definitely core to the business, and should be owned by it because it should feed a number of key business applications. That in turn requires integration – and for me, integration is the key stumbling block.

Here’s my three-step thinking on why SaaS in its current form is not a long term solution for a Talent Management platform:

1) All HR processes can benefit from a common understanding of people’s skills, shared between applications and services.

2) A single, central platform should provide this shared data (it should also be capable of running some or all of the processes, too, if required).

3) Where necessary, existing client software should be integrated into this data sharing, rather than stripped out and replaced with new software.

The problem: right now SaaS TM solutions don’t easily integrate. At some point in the future, organisations which have invested in TM point solutions will start to understand what they can do with their skills and competency data – and get frustrated that they can’t pass it around their existing core systems.

Until SaaS TM solutions solve this conundrum, they’re not a long term answer to a solid Talent Management platform.

PS – if SaaS leaves you dazed and confused, I recommend two seminal posts on its definition from pre-history (last year): Jim Holincheck’s and Thomas Otter’s.

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One response to “SaaS for a Talent Management platform?

  1. Pingback: Is the SaaS business model broken? « Donald H Taylor

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