Top 100 Influencers in HR v1.66: Kevin Martin
We’re taking a deep look at the world of the industry analyst. Straddling, as they do, the gap between vendors and practitioners, these pathfinders are always at risk of being perceived as biased. Much of the rhetoric you see and hear about the various analysts is designed to counteract the perception of bias.
Industry analysts occupy a unique position of trust. They work closely with vendors in order to establish opinions and insight about the companies and their offerings. Rather than deploy a full time team to wade through everything in the technology arena, most companies outsource their research (whether or not they think of it this way) to Industry Analysts. Analysts parse information about features, functionality, trends and products that would overwhelm an individual HR practitioner.
Over the year or so that we’ve been looking at influence, we’ve covered 9 people who fall into the analyst group. Wielding disproportionate influence, this eclectic group drives the HR Industry from a financial perspective. The right word from the right analyst can seed acres of contracts. At the same time, some very high profile awards (like the HR Tech shootouts) generate a good deal of smoke and very little fire.
Before we’re done with the project, about 20% of the top 100 will be analysts.
One could be forgiven for thinking that these players are really at the heart of industry influence. With real decision making input in the affairs of thousands of vendors and practitioners, industry analysts shape the trends, technologies and innovations that populate HR Departments. Here are the analysts we’ve covered so far.
- Josh Bersin‘s organization delivers massive volumes of research to its 500 subscribing companies.
- Gartner, by far the best known industry analyst firm, serves the HR Departments about 400 companies in the group led by Jim Holincheck.
- Brian Hackett runs one of the dozens of micro-firms offering insight through peer to peer collaboration, solving the same problem.
- Steve Boese, one of the emerging class of new media rooted analysts, does his work in the courses he teaches.
- Bruce Steinberg roots his industry analysis in labor market trends.
- Wes Wu, currently employed by Knowledge Infusion, is the longest running observer of technology trends at enterprise scale.
- Bill Kutik is one of the leading analysts of HR Technology and the father of the HR Tech show.
- Elaine Orler, founder of Talent Function, integrates technology analysis into her practice in a singularly hands-on way.
- The reigning queen of the HR Technology analysts is Naomi Bloom whose fingerprints are all over the structure of enterprise offerings.
That’s an awfully long introduction to Kevin Martin. Martin runs a group of Aberdeen’s practices that focus on customer and employee-centric research. He is the principal analyst in Aberdeen’s HCM practice.
Analyst firms have a variety of operating models. They all take funding from both sides of the aisle, so to speak. Many of them bill users and claim to have little or no revenue from vendors. The truth or falsity of this claim merits close inspection.
It is really common to find analysts speaking at vendor conferences. Even if no money is exchanged, the value of the exposure is enormous. The cozy relationships between vendors and analysts bears your attention.
When Martin arrived at Aberdeen, the firm was more or less known as a ‘pay for play’ operation. That is to say that Aberdeen had the reputation for being a place where you could purchase a positive review. Though there is some reason to see this as the pots calling the kettle black, the reputation is long lived.
That was the first question I asked Martin in our interview. He was quick to thank me for getting the tough question out of the way. “That reputation”, he said, “forces us to be ridiculously scrupulous. Everything we publish is based on hard data.. We poll our group of 450 HR leaders every month and spend our energy understanding what they do.”
According to Martin, “HCM is the science of linking human performance to business performance.” He says, “there is a huge disconnect between HR and the rest of the organization. A well run HCM approach can close that gap and give the enterprise a massive competitive edge.” We joked that he should be writing ad copy for Success Factors as they single handedly revise the industry’s self-concept.
Martin measures Aberdeen’s success. The most important piece is end user satisfaction. Martin wants his research to be read and understood (unlike some of the other firms whose data is a way of building a consulting business). Since the research is financed by vendors, he wants to be sure that they are recognized while making it clear that they can not influence the outcome. “We offer branding opportunities, not influence.”
We discussed the future of HR. Martin sees a rapidly growing trend to move Talent Management out of HR and into the rest of the organization. “If you ask the folks in HR ‘who is the most important part of the TM function’, they’ll all say ‘HR’. Everyone else in the organization says ‘it’s the CEO.”
Managing an employee’s experience from cradle to grave is the next major trend Martin sees. “Recruiting may stop but talent acquisition never does.” He imagines a world in which all of HR is CRM-centric. “It’s the relationships over time that energize the workforce.”
Finally, Martin sees agility as the dominant buzzword in the next generation of HR. “HR that works enables the firm to turn on a dime. That is what emerges when you get the data fully integrated and kick the foot draggers out of the process.”
The analysts worlds are cyclical. One year, one of them is the most influential, the next, it’s someone else. Kevin Martin’s star is shining currently because he’s had to work off a tough reputation. Expect to see his fingerprints in a lot of places.