HR Technology Conference 2012-I’ll take Social Clouds for $500 please

Posted by: on Oct 28, 2012 | No Comments

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Another year, another HR Technology Conference in the bag.  Congratulations as usual to Bill Kutik, David Shadovitz and LRP.  Hard to believe this year was the 15th Annual HR Technology Conference.  Straight from the mouth of official website:

“With record-breaking attendance and record-breaking exhibits plus attendees from dozens of countries around the world, it truly was an international annual Town Meeting!”

I must agree on the record-breaking attendance and record-breaking exhibits.  The conference felt HUGE this year. Really really HUGE.  I half expected to see Naomi Bloom riding an elephant through the Expo Hall.  Hmmm. Mental note: Expo Hall, Elephant, Naomi Bloom. Check. As we head back to Las Vegas for next year’s conference the challenge will be how to provide a meaningful conference experience for everyone as attendance creeps towards Oracle OpenWorld status.  With this challenge maybe we should subtitle the conference for next year to be “Survivor Las Vegas”.

In my blog post for last year’s conference I mentioned we were at a tipping point on the Social Media factor.  This year, we flung ourselves over that tipping point to where every fourth word at the conference was “Social”.  The Twitter stream was actually a firehose on Monday and Tuesday.   I would be interested to know if people found the tweets helpful/informative or if they were overwhelmed by the sheer number of tweets in the #HRTechConf stream.  On the conference technology front, the Wi-Fi was pervasive throughout McCormick Place and was rock solid. The HR Tech 2012 Mobile app was great and so very helpful to us mobile-techno-junkies.

The expo floor as always was chock full of vendors.  The floor seemed a little more relaxed this year versus previous years.  I didn’t see vendors actively body blocking people walking down the aisles to make their pitch and I didn’t see attendees doing a hit and run at the booths to fill their bag with conference swag but I also didn’t walk the Expo floor with Dwane Lay and Paul Smith but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Could it be that people where more grown up this year?  I think SAP gets the award for what appeared to be the largest booth covering both SAP and SuccessFactors.

iPads were the preferred device in the expo hall and for the attendees taking notes.  There was no contest. Apple wins this note taking device segment hands down.  On the smart phone front, the preferred device was…..drum roll please….white.   Yes white. White iPhone 4, white iPhone 4S, white iPhone 5 (I saw plenty of iPhone 5’s), white Samsung Galaxy S III, white HTC One X.  White is the new black.  I did see one yellow Nokia Lumia Windows phone but that was attached to someone attending at different conference so I guess that doesn’t really count.

So enough frivolities, let’s get down to brass tacks.  Major themes at the conference: Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud.  Last year gamification was big and while I personally didn’t see it have a big presence this year, others have told me otherwise. Lest we forget about poor little Core HR in the info blast regarding social, mobile, analytics and cloud, vendors such as Oracle, SAP, Workday, ADP and Ceridian had ginormous booths to remind us that Core HR and Payroll are still relevant.  Core HR User Interfaces have been modernized and you can have it in the cloud.

Any vendor that wanted to be in the game showed off their social capabilities.  Any vendor that wanted to be in the game showed off their mobile capabilities. Any vendor that wanted to be in the game showed off their analytics capabilities. Any vendor that wanted to be in the game talked about their cloud strategy.  Wait, cloud?  What happened to SaaS?  Oh silly readers, SaaS is so Q1 2012.  Catch-up!! It’s called “The Cloud” now.  #whatever.  Speaking of clouds, one of my best overheard conversations was:

“We are all in the cloud, can’t we all get along?”

So what does this all mean?  Generally speaking it means most vendors are now on board with Social, Mobile, Analytics and SaaS/Cloud.  Their offerings will be in various states of maturity but they have now moved past the whispering in the product management meeting halls.  As for HR Executives, it means your options in HR software are probably getting exponentially larger.  That 5 year HR Technology roadmap that I am sure you already have and update every year now needs to be updated. As usual, your HR Technology roadmap is used to specify the technology needed to solve a business issue.  Don’t just throw up the social, mobile, analytics and cloud offerings of your existing software without first understanding the when, where, why and how first.

It looked to me like the panel sessions generated the most interest (and tweets) from the attendees.  Notable among these were the Talent Management panel, Social Media Panel and the CHRO panel.  The Big Kahuna panel was the “Bringing HR Into The Cloud – Naomi’s Master Panel” moderated by duh Naomi Bloom.  If you were hoping for a tech brawl between Steve Miranda (Oracle), Mike Capone (ADP), Sanjay Poonen (SAP), John Wookey (Salesforce.com), Stan Swete (Workday) and Adam Rogers (Ultimate Software) you were probably disappointed.  The panel agreed about the cloud more than they disagreed.  That aside it was an amazing panel and a full house for an 8:45am session the morning after the majority of the vendor parties.

One of the more popular customer sessions was Ben Brooks and Laurie Ledford from Marsh who led a session on implementing and using social technologies at Marsh University.  Engaging and honest.  As always the Awesome New Technologies session played to a packed house with the usual tweet zingers for some of the products.

Teri Zipper - twitter.com/tazipper

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Fascinating takeaways from this year:

  • Taxi drivers who sing Motown in falsetto can be very entertaining on a long drive from the airport to the hotel.
  • I have no sense of direction inside shopping malls and convention centers.
  • The chairs on the stage for Naomi’s master panel looked like they belonged on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
  • Holding an HR Technology Conference and the Chicago Marathon at the same time makes for some very interesting taxi rides from befuddled taxi drivers.
  • The Press room really needs some windows or maybe a nice string quartet playing in the corner.
  • Last year in my blog post I suggested Bill Kutik needed a smart phone advisor.  Apparently Marcia Conner took up the challenge.  Good for her (and for Bill).
  • You can easily gain 10 pounds from eating at all the great restaurants in Chicago.
  • A number of vendors were in “Deep Beta”.

Wait, what about Dwane Lay and Paul Smith? Oh yes. Thanks for reminding me.  With their hysterically funny SWAG video from last year’s HR Technology Conference, Dwane and Paul decided to give us an encore performance.  I give you the 2012 HR Technology Conference SWAG video:

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