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Halogen Under the Biodome

The Gaylord Opry Biodome

Arriving at the 2012 Halogen Software User Conference at the Gaylord Opry Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee felt exactly like being welcomed to a Southern-themed space colony, were the good people of Tennessee charged with building such a structure.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Building a World Class Workforce”, and was kicked off with an in-person Halogen User Group meeting (HUG), a forum for users to present examples of how they are currently using the Halogen system in their own organizations, as well as trade questions and suggestions.

The next day began early with breakfast, followed by an opening presentation from Halogen President Paul Loucks, in which he reviewed a much-promoted new system feature (Feedback Central), and took audience questions. I’ll admit that I’m consistently fascinated by the way in which senior executives speak about the organizations they lead, and Mr Loucks did not disappoint me.

He reaffirmed Halogen’s intent to remain an independent entity amidst the continuing consolidation in the HR Technology sector. He also fielded a popular question (I’m basing that assessment on the audience applause that followed) about whether Halogen would consider bringing an HRIS to market, to create a truly holistic TM solution.  Mr Loucks response was a fairly confident no. He indicated that Halogen’s intention was to focus on value-add products and that an HRIS offering likely wouldn’t meet that standard.

I suppose what I found interesting about these comments is that I think they intersect nicely with a couple of well-documented shifts in the very active HR Technology market. Namely:

1. We want integrated HR technology solutions! Pretty solid research (by Bersin & Associates among others) makes it clear that we the (HR) people do not want multiple systems. We want a clean interface, seamless integration, and holistic reporting.

2. But…we also want to feel that we are investing in a vendor that specializes in all areas of HR. No one wants to buy a product that is really great in one area, and has a few additional half-ass modules tacked on roughly with duct tape so that they can market themselves as a total solution (you know who you are).

The problem is that HRIS is just not that sexy. Social, collaboration, feedback, user experience- these are sexy. It seems unrealistic to expect a company like Halogen, that has began it’s journey with Performance Management software and then moved into a variety of other areas (learning, succession planning, compensation and most recently recruiting software) to reverse course to develop a foundational, administrative product like an HRIS. And there are quite a few other great specialized vendors out there- what will this drive to integrate do for them? Are they waiting to be acquired, or do they hope to carve out a niche deep enough to withstand this trend?

So, with the desire for integration, and the now overwhelming move to cloud-based products, are there HR Technology products out there that can credibly do it all? Well, if you believe the hype, Workday is one of them (I have no direct experience with Workday so cannot comment). There is a lot of buzz this week at the HR Technology Conference over ADP’s latest solution also. What is clear is that winds are blowing us all towards integrated cloud-based, SAAS solutions that promise to provide a means to leverage data analytics in a meaningful way for the HR function.  I am excited to see what lies ahead…

By the way, the 2012 Halogen User Conference was terrific- with three excellent programming tracks, exceptional access to developers and other Halogen experts, and some seriously great snacks (is it wrong that I really care about the snacks?). I left with a list of ideas as long of my arm, and a sense that Halogen is truly invested in helping their clients succeed.

Do you think that it’s essential for a successful HR Technology vendor to offer an HRIS as the foundation of an integrated, do-it-all solution?

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