If I wanted to attract the attention of regulators, I’d announce an acquisition on the first day that the markets are able to digest the fact that I was acquired. That’s big cojones, astonishing marketing or a combination of the two.
It certainly isn’t the SAP way.
SuccessFactors’ acquisition of Jobs2Web, announced Monday, on the heels of SAP’s announcement of its purchase of SuccessFactors, was a head spinning moment. In the midst of a flurry of claims that the SAP move was about the cloud, SuccessFactors violently reaffirmed its commitment to the Human Capital Software market. The market analyst crystal balls simply clouded over. The market messages are so conflict laden that no one can really tell what’s going on.
A peek under the covers
Jobs2Web is a recruitment marketing platform. This is an idea whose time has come. There are probably 30 competitors in this hyper-fragmented emerging market sector.
The players range from tiny but potent smashfly to the new advertising agency being built behind the firewall at Kenexa. In the 21st Century, the HR Department is a communications engine, delivering brand information to internal and external stakeholders. The advertising and communications spend in HR dwarfs the technology spend already and social media simply amps it up. Every RPO and most HR outsourcing companies have an offering.
The underlying opportunity is the distribution and control of messages from the HR Department to its various constituents in and out of the organization. HR is the trench level operation in any company’s grassroots marketing campaign. The idea, while actively being shaped in the social media and recruiting world, leaves industry fuddy duddies in severe head scratching mode.
The problem with the market is its inherent fragmentation.
The Jobs2Web ‘platform’ behaves like a series of scripting solutions rather than a coherently developed piece of software. While the rhetoric of the cloud is that everything can be synched and integrated, the reality is that the world, HR in particular, is a series of sandboxes occupied by five-year olds who don’t know how to share. The cloud depends on cooperation in the ecosystem. Jobs2Web solves the fact that that isn’t happening. Each solution is a handmade set of tools for the particular case.
It’s just not a scalable approach. (That means that variable costs don’t decline as revenue increases). Each integration is a reinvention.
What that tells you about the newly turbo charged SFSF juggernaut is that it’s all about sales. The subtleties of software design and the truth or falsity of claims about SaaS and the cloud mean little to a customer with a problem. How one fixes the problem is the job of the fixer. That it gets fixed is what customers are interested in.
The SFSF acquisition of Jobs2Web is not about software. It’s not about the cloud. It’s not about SaaS.
It’s a message to the HR Market.
SuccessFactors is telling us
- that they’re in the HCM business to stay
- that delivering solutions matters more than orthodoxy
- that marketing labels (even when they’re data models) don’t matter as much as addressing pain
- that the key to the enterprise cloud is the hearts and minds of the people who work there
It’s a deliciously Frank Sinatra (I Did it My Way) approach.