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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cor(e)nerstone HR right around the corner (UPDATED)

About to join the full HCM club?
One of the advantages of being an independent consultant is the great diversity of clients, industries, projects I get involved with. One of the drawbacks, especially in the HR technology space, is that when it comes to moving antiquated HR systems (on-premise SAP, Oracle, Meta4, HR Access et al.) to the cloud, supply is pretty much on the thin side. If I am asked  one more time to work on an RFP where the vendors under evaluation are SAP (SuccessFactors), Oracle (Fusion) and Workday, I'll slit my throat (I can almost hear the sound of glee coming from some vendor quarters at such a prospect).

It is therefore with increasing trepidation that I am keeping my ears pricked for the news from Santa Monica, CA. Why Santa Monica? Well, let me take a step back.

Although the cloud has been around for a a few years now, the investment needed to build a core HR module to support a full-fledged global HR system (or HCM) is such that, since Workday created the first cloud system, only two other vendors have entered the fray: Oracle built theirs from scratch, (well kinda, the first Fusion draft was an on-premise system that was tweaked to be able to be hosted); SAP bought one of the talent software leaders, SuccessFactors, which had already started building a core HR module (Employee Central) and  kept on pumping in funds to see it come to fruition.

And ...that's it! Shocking as it may appear, no other vendor has come up with a solid, global cloud or SaaS-based HR system. Some talent vendors have tried to follow in SuccessFactors' steps: Canadian-based Technomedia is promising "something" and French-based Talentsoft  has developed a light HR admin offering for a couple of its customers.

What about Santa Monica-based Cornerstone? After  all, they are the largest independent, organically built talent software vendor. If smaller vendors can start down the core HR road why can't Cornerstone?  Workday is treading on Cornerstone's toes by beefing up its talent footprint and planning on building its own learning system. Once that is done, the partnership with Cornerstone will have come to its logical conclusion (Workday is also using Cornerstone as a customer, by the way.) So, why wait any longer? Getting cold feet, Adam?

Or still testing the waters?

Actually, although there is no official communication from the vendor, Cornerstone is working on a core HR offering. It would be insane not to. I have been prodding them for a couple of years now to do exactly that. Sure, it's a lot of hard work, look at SuccessFactors whose Employee Central is far from being as robust as one might wish. Building HR admin functionality that can be used in Argentina, Austria, Algeria and Australia requires good understanding of local requirements (read here my "Five pillars of HR localization" - or glocalization as I prefer to call it). That means getting the right product management team in place (no more junior managers, Adam, you need people with experience) who can make some hard choices regarding the best data model to accommodate multinational companies. Strong thought leadership is required to avoid pitfalls that even the leader, Workday, has encountered. Think about payroll. Once you go down the HR path payroll is right around the corner, so to speak. Think about how your technology can adapt to and build a global payroll engine. And absence management. Both are complex, both are linked. The more you think ahead, the higher the rewards.

Can't wait for my next HRIS RFP where I can advise my client to include in the vendor shortlist  the name of Cornerstone (another advice, Adam, drop that OnDemand from the name, just too unwieldy and redundant  -  all cloud systems are now on demand, anyway). The question is, shall I take a vacation through the end of the year and come back in 2016 to a brand-new HR system debuting on the market? Or will that happen sooner? No longer a question of if, but when.

Exciting times ahead!

UPDATE OCT. 12, 2015: At last week’s Convergence event in London, Cornerstone took the wraps off their new core HR offering with an interesting positioning: called Link, this new product is not supposed to be a traditional Core HR (or HR Admin) product. According to the company’s CEO, Adam Miller, Core HR as we’ve known it, courtesy of SAP/Oracle/Peoplesoft/Workday et al., is simply outdated. 2/3 of  companies don’t need a global HRIS or Core HR  anymore, he claims, since the value of any HR system is in talent, so the user profile (which is being beefed up in Link to interface to/from third party systems) is way sufficient. Interestingly, one of their customers I chatted with (French banking giant BNP Paribas -who once upon a time ran PeopleSoft) agrees and have interfaced their various payroll systems and CSOD modules to a Link-like home-grown light core HR.

BNP Paribas seems to agree with Cornerstone's vision -
but without its product

This strategy is clearly targeting Workday (not to mention legacy vendors). Will it work? Will a significant market segment buy into it? I find the idea seductive, even conceptually alluring as I told Adam Miller and the other analysts/influencers at our get-together, but the market has been formatted for so long  into thinking a global HRIS is a key requirement that unless CSOD shows  compelling vision and strong thought leadership I don’t see this really taking off. And somewhere in the back of my mind there is this nagging doubt that this vision is self-serving and born more out of necessity than design. Could this strategy be the result of CSOD’s inability to build the deep/robust functionality that are part of Core HR, as well as  Payroll, Benefits, Time, all requiring strong process expertise which CSOD currentlly does not possess? (Check the Link datasheet - although there is no pricing yet.) 

On a side note, I was gratified to see that in his keynote address Adam Miller followed my advice and announced they were now dropping On Demand from the company name.   


  1. Ahmed, I'd gladly connect you up with our product team to get you a better idea of the Core HR Hub module Technomedia is implemented along with a demo. Feedback from industry experts is always welcomed. DM if interested. Shawna.Berthold@technomedia.com.

  2. The associated LinkedIn discussion group discussion can be found here:

  3. Interesting view, and I agree this could make sense for Cornerstone (and the market). However, I doubt they have the man power (product managers, architect,...) to deliver such a complex solution soon, especially if you consider all the recent developments they delivered (insights, platform, revamping their LMS...). But I hope I'm wrong, and the platform may be the toolbox needed to accelerate such development and they might already be using it to build this Core HR offering.

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  5. Bill Kutik "borrowing my title and main thrust...in July 2017, two years AFTER my own piece: