At its recent Connect 2014 event IBM announced IBM Kenexa Talent Suite, an integrated talent management suite. The release strengthens its Smarter Workforce initiative by combining IBM and Kenexa products and services in one human capital management (HCM) offering. IBM Kenexa Talent Suite also addresses increasing efforts by human resources organizations to optimize their activities through more effective use of technology, a topic covered in our 2014 HCM research agenda. Specifically, the release integrates talent management process automation capabilities with collaboration and also can be complemented with its workforce analytics to help organizations be more efficient and productive; our benchmark research shows these are the leading benefits of using human capital analytics systems.
The new suite provides a direction for IBM’s HCM products and strengthens its market position, as it combines IBM’s strongest talent management applications with platform-level collaboration services, analytics and big data functionality – all of which IBM does well – in a centralized, role-based portal environment. Our research shows that collaboration and big data technologies are the top choices for improving analytics and that such capabilities are increasingly being used by executives and managers to make decisions, and IBM seems on track with these needs in this new release.
In addition, the suite that operates in cloud computing environment combines a set of applications spanning acquisition and optimization of talent through recruiting, skills assessment, performance management, succession planning and compensation along with social collaboration. Additionally, the suite can be complemented with IBM Watson Foundations, which provides for big data and information management capabilities. This in effect offers information optimization capabilities across human capital information. For more about IBM’s investments in the Watson business unit, see my colleague Mark Smith’s recent analysis. Using it organizations will be able to predict broader workforce trends, including insights based on social information gathered within the system. I would expect IBM to do even more with leveraging big data, analytics and planning into its applications especially with predictive analytics since it has a very in-depth set of software from the IBM portfolio. Talent Suite also incorporates capabilities from IBM SmartCloud Connections to provide collaboration services. The company says that adding social collaboration to learning will be added to the suite later in 2014 where it already provides learning on mobile technology.
This release should raise the bar on competition among the large vendors. With IBM, Oracle and SAP all offering parts of the core human capital management suite and strong next-generation capabilities, customers have more options to choose from. What’s most interesting about this latest round of suites is the power of the next-generation capabilities being announced from other large HCM vendors including collaboration and mobile with Oracle, and collaboration and analytics with SAP. These next-generation capabilities from the larger size HCM vendors, along with more from smaller vendors, offer customers more than just simple process automation benefits.
Many organizations today already have automated some of these talent management processes. So evaluating IBM’s release and the products of other large vendors is not primarily a question of getting new HR processes automated, though that may be the case. Rather, it is about looking at the advantages of having a full suite with next-generation capabilities. Integration centralizes the information, administrative tasks and the user experience, bringing less administration for HR and IT and more consistency for users. In addition, better analytical and collaboration capabilities can increase productivity (61%) or enable organizations to better engage and retain more of their workforce (52%), among several other benefits we saw in our research on human capital analytics. On the downside, organizations can lose some best-of-breed functionality in certain modules, and there are costs of implementation and training – critical considerations for most organization. Overall, however, if you have not looked at IBM recently, this new suite is worth considering, especially if your organization already uses any of its other talent management products.