I was recently joined on the InfluenceHR stage by my partners in the HR Federation, Madeline Laurano, Trish McFarlane, and Ben Eubanks. The four of us come together as the HR Federation to collaborate as independent HR tech market analysts. While we still offer our insights and services independently, this allows us to bring more depth of perspective, research, market presence and scale for employers and HR tech vendors that require it.
We brought an ongoing conversation that the four of us have to the IHR stage: How traditional HR tech analysts in our market are being disrupted. As usual, it was a lively discussion and my three partners brought some incredible insights to the discussion.
The following represents my personal take on the issue:
Simply put, the HR tech analyst’s role is to provide primary and secondary based research, content, and services that help employers make sense of the myriad technology options available to them, and help HR tech vendors better understand their customers.
Here’s the thing: The traditional analysts, with their subscription models and expensive reports hidden behind pay-walls, look more and more like newspapers to me, with respect to their business model. By the time their work gets in the hands of the employers, the technology has moved forward and the perspectives are all in hindsight. Very few are forward looking. And, with the pace of change in this market, that’s an issue for any employer looking to innovate and any HR tech vendor looking to get ahead of the market.
Just as the internet and social media have compressed the news-cycle on newspapers and traditional media, it has done the same to the traditional HR tech analyst. The issues driving this change aren’t unique to HR technology, but are systemic to the B2B technology space. According to the CEB, 57% of the B2B buyer’s journey is conducted before a vendor is ever contacted. Based on work in our segment by Aptitude Research Partners (that’s Madeline Laurano and Mollie Lombardi’s firm), much of this employer effort is on Google searches, peer to peer customer references, and leveraging both live and on-line networks.
Traditional analysts have what HR tech vendors would call a utilization problem.
Traditional analysts would stake their claim on having the ear of the Chief HR Officer (CHRO) in large enterprises, those with 5,001 or more employees. But, as I survey HR teams in that segment what I find is that the relationship, and the content, starts and ends with the CHRO. Most employers where I ask which analyst reports they use, claim that they don’t use any. This happens even when I’m aware of an existing relationship. The teams that are doing the research just aren’t consuming the traditional analyst data. They are, however, looking at tons of credible third party data and content not hidden behind a subscription agreement or pay-wall.
The middle market doesn’t use traditional HR tech analysts.
Employers with 5,000 or fewer employees don’t seem to consume, and probably choose not to spend money on, traditional HR tech analyst reports or content. Yet, this is where the bulk of employment and “HR happens”. It’s also the current nexus of innovation in HR and HR technology. And, it’s happening fast. There are multiple reports on the #HRWINS about this segment emerging and taking the innovation lead over the large-enterprise segment.
It seems so clear to me. Whether part of a team researching HR innovation or HR tech at a large employer, or doing the same in the “middle market”, employers require a more agile source of research based content and perspective on the market. HR tech vendors, with their compressed cycle times between product releases and increasingly crowded competitive landscape require the same.
I’m proud to be in this wave of new, modern HR tech analysts that are leveraging the same technology and business trends as the employers and HR tech vendors we serve. Our focus isn’t to disrupt, but to serve the market with credible work and insight, adding value wherever we can. It’s this focus that brought us together in the HR Federation, and I believe it’s this focus that is bringing us success.
(InfluenceHR is an event that I created in 2012. I managed and curated the event through acquisition by The Starr Conspiracy, and until January of 2016)