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HR Tech Rundown: Observations on the Talent Management Shootout from the Capitalist...

OK, if you're not a geek as defined by an interest in a) technology, b) talent management software, or c) a mixture of the two, check back in Monday.  Today we're geeking out about talent management software, mainly since we're at HR Tech - that's what you do when you're at a show that discusses talent management issues solved by technology, people.

Here's an interesting tradition at HR Tech - the shootout.  Each year, Bill Kutik pits software providers inEastwood similar spaces against each other, having them walk through the solution their software can provide to common business problems that HR pros and companies face.  Here's this year's description of the shootout that was held late Thursday afternoon:

"Our 13th Shootout – and signature event – will be an epic software battle now that two ERPs – Lawson and SAP – have agreed to go up against two Talent Management suite vendors – Plateau and For years, the smaller suite vendors have sold new customers by contending the ERPs’ applications for Talent Management are not as functionally rich or as integrated as theirs. While at the same time, ERPs like SAP and Lawson have been furiously building out and integrating their applications to meet that challenge. Now you can finally find out who was right, at least among these four. Each vendor will tackle a scripted scenario of problems – like those your managers and employees face every day – and show in live custom demonstrations how their software can help solve it. Leighanne Levensaler, Director of Talent Management Research for Bersin & Associates, will co-author the script, as she did the previous three. This one session will save you months of research and sales pitches. Come watch, listen, learn and then vote for your favorite."

The short version of this post is that won the shootout, with the audience in attendance voting that outperformed the other software providers in all three scenarios, that included individual performance, merit distribution and succession planning scenarios.

Congrads to  Well played.  The other providers looked good as well. 

With that being said, it was my first shootout, so here's my list of observations for the "game inside the game" related to the shootout.

--Don't read your script.  If you're coming to one of the premier shows in your industry, practice what you want to say and be able to perform without a script. won in spite of it's demo exec reading from pages printed out for him.  The others were better, with Lawson clearly being the most prepared.

--Functionality that makes sense matters.  Lawson pushed Outlook functionality in the first scenario, and as a result they were closest to with a solution that made a lot of sense and a good pitch driving home the value of their approach.

--Bells and Whistles are nice, but make sure it's useful- Lawson showed the ability to drag the rating distribution chart to the desktop (auto updates) while tweaking.  SAP had employee names all on one screen to see rating distribution rather than clunky bar graphs.  Plateau had good flash-like visuals on the step-by-step for the review process.

--Because sometimes all you want is usability and fewer clicks- had the least eye candy of all the providers, but it excelled at one thing - creating views where you could see all the information you needed on ONE PAGE (on one employee, but also multiple members of a team).  It felt more usable in every scenario.

At the end of the day, deserved to win the shootout, although I thought Lawson would be a closer second place then they were (Plateau and SAP came in third and fourth) based on the strength of the Lawson exec presenting.

I had no idea had all the functionality under the hood from a Talent Management/Performance Management perspective.  I'd love to see their relative cost vs. the others, because as a pure SaaS company, I'm guessing they're the most affordable.

Other notes:

--Kutik does a great job at jumping in and landing quips to keep the crowd loose.  In many ways, he's the perfect MC for a conference.

--The execs all had their game faces on.  They need to loosen up when they aren't presenting, even if they're faking it...

--The companies participating had all their employees in attendance sit in a bullpen in the front of the room.  It looked like each had a posse the size of Lebron James or Vinny Chase.

Final notes.  Great value added segment as a part of HR Tech.  To the CEO's who participated I have three words for you:  DEMO TO WIN.  Don't read your script.  Could you sell software as an Account Executive doing that?  Some were good, some were in between and some were bad.  Give it up to the VP of Product Management or your VP of Sales if you don't have time to learn your lines and flow.

Great conference. Glad I came...


I was suprised at the UI in Plateau. Was looking into them 2 years ago and they have really changed. The fun part is that the person next to me thought they looked really bad, so it may come down to what you compare it to.

And please, I agree, let people who actually are good at the products do the presentations. But maybe they were sitting by the computer doing the stuff?

Paul Hebert

I was there for the Motivation Show running concurrently and did pop over for the expo. I didn't have the pleasure of seeing the shoot out in action but I have to say Kudos! to all the companies who took on the challenge. It's nice to see companies who are proud enough of their work and strong enough in their conviction to put it to the test in a public forum. All of the participants have the stones needed to compete in the market. I hope to try something similar in the incentive and reward management space - that will be interesting.

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