Human Capital Management Buying Guide

Drew Robb

Updated · Mar 17, 2015

Earlier this month, we covered 5 key trends in human capital management. (HCM). In this buying guide, we offer users some tips on implementation and a brief overview of the vendor landscape.

A few years ago, HCM was dominated by on-premise systems. Now, however, it has gravitated largely to the cloud. In addition, new features and avenues of HR interest have tended to disperse human capital management systems. Here’s how the experts advise keeping up with the changes.

Unify HR Functions

With HR getting pulled in so many directions – social, mobile, analytics, and more – it’s hard not to end up with many different systems that are loosely cobbled together with HR. That’s a mistake, said Amy Wilson, vice president of Human Capital Management Product Strategy, Workday. Instead, she recommended establishing a strong HR foundation, which acts as a seamless system-of-record.

“A unified experience enables employees to take on more strategic roles and embark on new initiatives, rather than being burdened with administrative tasks that limit what they can contribute to their organizations,” she said.

Understand HCM Costs

Human capital management isn’t an area where a standard pricing model has emerged. So it is prudent to ask lots of questions to find out what is and isn’t covered.

“Be sure to clarify costs so there are no surprises,” said Patrick Pickren, senior director Product Strategy. Ultimate Software. “Some vendors charge a per-user licensing fee as soon as the contract is signed, although most begin at point-of-use. Some charge for user training, others include it at no additional cost.”

Bring Power Users on Board

One of the hottest areas in HCM these days is the incorporation of workforce analytics. Unfortunately, HR departments rarely possess such skills. In fact, they are lacking in most organizations.

One solution is to identify power users within the organization who may well already have been dabbling in analytics. Even if they haven’t, look for those will be the quickest to grasp its potential and will champion its cause within the organization if they are the first to get their hands on it.

“For many HR organizations, this means developing or acquiring some new skills to make use of these systems,” said Frank Scavo, president, Computer Economics. “Power users have good quantitative skills as well as the softer skills that HR professionals have typically been focusing on.”

Incremental Analytics

Wilson’s advice was to take an incremental approach to deploying workforce analytics. HR organizations should first identify a few metrics and analytics to support business stakeholders. For example, they should establish a couple specific business questions that would benefit most from data-driven insights.

“Once their initial analytic reports and dashboards are in good shape, teams begin developing credibility with business leaders,” she said. “Then they can incrementally roll out new and more advanced analytics — increasing the value and impact of workforce analytics over time.”

Short List of HCM Vendors

We will now briefly cover the vendor landscape, with a focus on cloud-based human capital management.  

Oracle HCM Social: Oracle has continued to build out its HCM cloud platform, with a focus on social collaboration, mobile tablet applications and analytics. In the recruiting area, work has been done to enhance the candidate experience.

“We are also extending interaction with the rest of our HCM feature set to better surface critical employee data around performance, compensation and development to improve internal mobility, which is the number one source of hire for most organizations and a primary driver for employee engagement and retention,” said Nagaraj Nadendla, group vice president, HCM Product Management, Oracle.

Oracle Taleo: The Oracle Taleo Social Sourcing Cloud Service doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention these days as Oracle’s HCM Social. This app automates social recruiting processes.

Workday HCM: Workday Recruiting has been added to Workday HCM. It allows hiring managers and recruiters to collaborate and communicate from anywhere using the application’s mobile interface. Analysis of recruiting demand is also part of it, and workforce analytics has been embedded into each stage of the talent lifecycle.

The company also recently announced Workday Insight Applications, which will uncover patterns about an organization’s workforce based on data already in Workday such as employee tenure, time between promotions and performance review data, then apply external data to them to uncover which top performers are most likely to leave. From there, organizations can pull recommended job changes for each person ranked by impact on retention risk.

“Workday Insight Applications apply data science and machine learning to people data in order to deliver recommendations such as an internal career route for a top-performing employee at risk of leaving the company,” said Wilson. “Just as a GPS would follow your successful turn off the highway, Insight Apps will make it possible to take immediate action and track the success that results from your decision.”

Ultimate Software UltiPro: The company has increased its investment in user experience features to simplify work for employees regardless of the device they’re using. That led to a redesign of modules such as UltiPro Recruiting and UltiPro Onboarding, as well as a new module known as UltiPro Compensation.

“With more generations occupying the workforce than ever before, businesses are challenged with satisfying a variety of wants, needs and expectations,” said Pickren.

SuccessFactors: Now part of SAP, SuccessFactors has been a little quiet on the development front. One recent development is a cloud-based learning hub. SAP, of course, plays well in the large enterprise market. It has partners like Aasonn, a consulting firm and systems integrator, that work on large SucessFactors implementation projects.

IBM Smarter Workforce: Big vendors rebranding the technologies of HCM specialists they purchased must be a trend. Oracle hasn’t yet ditched Taleo, the HCM brand it purchased in 2012, but that brand is likely to vanish soon. I suspect the same fate for SuccessFactors within the SAP camp. Already, IBM has jettisoned the Kenexa brand in favor of the Smarter Workforce moniker.

Additional HCM Candidates

We don’t have room to cover each vendor adequately in this evolving space, but here are a few more of the key players in HCM. Some offer complete suites, while others specialize in areas like payroll, benefits and specific areas of the talent management landscape:







Cornerstone OnDemand


While far from comprehensive, this vendor list provides users with a starting point to finding the right HCM tools for their needs.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in Florida, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

Drew Robb
Drew Robb

Drew Robb is a writer who has been writing about IT, engineering, and other topics. Originating from Scotland, he currently resides in Florida. Highly skilled in rapid prototyping innovative and reliable systems. He has been an editor and professional writer full-time for more than 20 years. He works as a freelancer at Enterprise Apps Today, CIO Insight and other IT publications. He is also an editor-in chief of an international engineering journal. He enjoys solving data problems and learning abstractions that will allow for better infrastructure.

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