We’re well on our way to completing more than 120 briefings as a part of #hrwins.  In our first Trend Report we looked at How Work Gets Done Is Changing, and how HR Will Change With It.  The resulting barrage of solutions hitting the Human Capital Market paves the way for our second trend:

Across Every Product and Solution Category in HCM, Platform Vendors and Point Solutions are heading for a Battle Royale, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.

As the Platforms acquire and/or extend their products across Employee Lifecycle and the Point Solutions extend their capabilities the battleground is heating up around everything Cloud, Social, Mobile, Gamified, Consumerized, or Big Data Capable, (insert your own buzzwords here) etc.

For the HR Technology Buyer, it’s no longer just comparing the platforms and point-solutions in one category.  Recent and planned vendor innovations have features and solution sets bleeding outside of the lines that were once well defined as categories by folks like Bersin or Gartner.

Once you do get beyond that noise, it’s getting harder than ever for an HR Buyer to make a sound business decision on Platform vs. Point Solution. The simple arguments the HR Enteprise Buyer once considered about Platform vs. Best of Breed Point Solutions just aren’t so simple any more.

Platform vendors would once push an increased ROI, based on efficiency achieved over the point solutions, but with the pace of innovation found in the market today it’s almost impossible for even the most nimble of Platform Vendors to keep up.  System users, again and again, are leaning more for simplicity and ease-of-use, and away from breadth of the solution.  Solutions breadth is another Platform positioning strength that is starting to turn into a weakness when users are looking for ease of use.  Simplicity drives use and adoption, use and adoption drives better process and data.  Better process and data drives more visibility into the org.  More visibility drives better business decisions.   Better business decisions drive revenue performance.

But, if this issue was one-sided it wouldn’t be a battle.  Selecting a “Best of Breed” Point Solution comes with a new set of even bigger risks than before.  One of the remarkable things I’m seeing with Point Solution vendors is that very few are staying true to their “focal point”.  I’m looking at dozens of vendors that either slice the solution too thin – doing a very very small part of the process really well – so thin, with such little regard for the rest of the lifecycle that the cost of using the product is much higher than the license price, just based on the complexity it adds from a duplication of effort and/or integration perspective….. and then there is the other extreme: Vendors that are extending beyond the “focal point” – looking more like a platform, but not offering the breadth of solution as seen in the legacy platform players.

Point Solutions extending beyond their focal point and into other core HR processes can come with some unusually large risks for the mid to large Enterprise. Consider Talent Management as an example.  You can’t draw the dotted lines between external and internal networks any more.  Social platforms that drive engagement with existing employees are also Talent Network extenders from a recruitment perspective.  You can now feasibly look at one Social Platform to engage in Collaboration, Performance Management, Incentives, Employee Referral Programs, Talent Sourcing, and more.  One of the big arguments for Social Recruiting products focused on network developments was their ability to avoid the complexity associated with compliance.  This complexity is a bear for solution developers to balance the data integrity and process compliance while offering an easy to use product for recruiters and a candidate experience supporting an Employment Brand in a positive way.

The differentiation challenge is getting more and more difficult for vendors as they market, and even more challenging for HR Buyers as they receive Vendor messages.

Where in the Employee Lifecycle should you fall back on your platform solution? Where should you look to a point solution for best-of-breed?  One very key data point to consider is where the innovation is coming from across the HR Tech Product Categories, and the viability of the vendors providing it.  We’ll continue to look at this, because when HR Tech Innovates #hrwins