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The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech: The Emergence of Intelligent Software is the product of great conversations around the world and in various forms of social media. (In particular, my facebook feed has been the scene of a lot of thoughtful commentary on AI in HRTech. Please friend me to join that conversation).

The goal of this post is to provide a nexus for reviews of, commentaries on, and debates about the report. It would be beyond surprising if everyone who reads the report agrees with it. Transparency is an essential element of the next generation of software. This is meant to be an experiment in the public dialog about an analyst’s report.

We are in the earliest of stages in the evolution of intelligent software. While there is little evidence of actual Artificial Intelligence, there are a good number of really interesting experiments that apply Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Neural Nets, and Big Data Techniques to Human Resources questions and data. The report explores 30 of those projects and draws top-level conclusions.
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Imagine that these are the early days of electrification in the United States. There are electrical wires strung everywhere. Houses are beginning to have light bulbs. The power flickers and surges. The now ubiquitous transformer (which takes variable input and produces stable output) isn’t yet a part of the system. 

We are at the pre-transformer stage of Intelligent Systems. In non-HR settings, predictive tools and techniques are applied to systems that have predefined rules, outcomes, and end-states. Systems that learn have definite conclusions.

When you try to apply those techniques to dynamic human systems, you run into significant challenges. All organizations change their decision-making processes based on a stream of relatively unpredictable events. Each time the organization encounters changes such as capital availability, leadership structure, mergers/acquisitions, policy updates, competitive environment shifts, disruption, reorganizations, layoffs, product redesign, new products, economic environments, stock price volatility, and so on, the learning system has to recalibrate. These things are the essence of organizational life.

It’s clear that the quality of recommendations varies in response to these changes. It’s not clear how we know if or when it’s happening. That’s where the metaphorical need for a ‘transformer’ arises.

The report is designed to illuminate the risks and opportunities of a technology at this stage of development. 

I am anxious to discover what you thought of it.

Back to the report page.

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  • BobCorlett

    John, You have an unparalleled ability to transform fear and dread (“Run Jim, the robots will take our jobs!”) with the judicious application of hard thinking.

    The report is a rollicking good read, cutting through marketing hype with respect, delightful prose and adept analogies, describing, “an amazing wonderland of experimentation” and the artificial distinctions that distract from the main point, “…that discussion is about as useful as defining the boundary lines between various generations in the workforce-useful in theory not so much in practice.”

    The report is a must-read for anyone in the market for these products, brilliantly organized by function, product and even the right questions to ask. And let’s not forget the ugly questions nobody wants to answer about “enterprise software product liability.” This phrase will stick with me a long time, “these new tools may create liability before it can be discovered and managed.”

    Vendors may disagree, but you have done a profound service for buyers here.

  • The complexity of the tools landscape is one of the main problems in being a HR / Recruiting practitioner today. There is no reasonable way for any single individual to conduct effective due diligence across dozens of categories of software – I think one of the main reasons why enterprise do-it-all platforms are still the default purchase.

    The industry needs reports like this; better for buyers, better for vendors. This is must read report for anyone planning HR / Recruiting budget in 2018

  • Kelly Robinson

    If you’re being sold the AI revolution and considering how to streamline processes with an investment in machine intelligence, or just trying to understand the landscape of change that’s coming, then you need to read this! If you’re involved in HR technology, this report clears up the sideline chatter of artificial versus actual intelligence, and while that line will entirely blur it brings to life the next 24 months!

    There is incredible advice on what to consider before you buy such products, the questions you should ask; the people investment you are likely to make and thought-provoking legal considerations.

    Have you considered how long it will take for machine intelligence to benefit your business; if you have trained a puppy before then get ready!

    An in-depth look into the leading companies in this space; the change they are trying to effect and the reality of today provides valuable insight.

    Case studies of companies successfully using AI in the recruitment sector with thought-provoking examples help to understand how, or if, this is useful for your business.

    If you think the robots are coming, and they are, you need to read this first.

  • This is an excellent report. In fact, it is outstanding. A report you will save and come back to again and again. It is easy to read, highly informative, educational, and thought provoking. Helps you to understand and make sense of the complicated and highly technical concepts, technologies and products shaping the future of work and how technology will change the way organizations find, recruit, onboard, manage/assess, and make people decisions. Although it is written for those responsible for making ‘HR’ product buying decisions, the information in this report is an important educational tool to anyone in ‘HR’ and to anyone whose work requires having knowledge of the HR marketplace – analysts, journalists, media, etc. In particular, HR product solution providers will find this report and invaluable resource to not only see what their competition is doing but to also inspire internal discussions on how their own products and technologies must change to stay relevant. Some specific sections I did not expect in a report like this but I found quite useful and interesting included enterprise software product liability implications of these new technologies, common use cases to show us how organizations today are using these technologies and some interesting forecasts from the researchers. – Mark Willaman, founder, HRmarketer

  • Ken Lazarus

    Very comprehensive and insightful report. Lots of great info and advice. Thank you for pulling together so much detail in one place. -Ken Lazarus, CEO, Scout Exchange

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  • Erin Ellis Spencer

    John Sumser’s report The Emergence of Intelligence Software: The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech on the “enormous pile of unsubstantiated hype” otherwise defined as AI in the HR Tech space today is exactly what the buying community, vendors, and analysts need to arm themselves with when exploring this emerging technology space. Sumser shares a frank view of the capabilities of this technology with usable definitions and vendor insights in areas including Algorithm’s, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Bots/Chatbots, and Robotic Process Automation. This report also lists major vendors in this space along with their actual functional capabilities in the area of Machine-led decision making functionality and includes a Market Map of where intelligent technology is being applied across the HR spectrum to specific problems by vendors and which problems they actually work to solve.

    This research doesn’t stop at definitions, capabilities, and greater understanding, but also explores the ethical considerations of software in this space. These considerations are crucial to both the vendors and buyers for the understanding of what the machines can do and learn to do, and for the liability they bring to a business. Ethics questions such as who owns employee data and the line between manipulation and motivation are crucial to consider when adopting such technology and are not brushed off in this report.

    As this report attempts to bring order to the resulting chaos of Machine Learning/AI/Big Data it gives a frank view of what AI is, what it is not, and raises serious concerns that must be addressed with this technology. Many questions are answered in this report, but perhaps more important are the questions raised and which must be considered by organizations as they seek to understand and harness this technology. The importance of this research lies not only in the clear presentation of the material, but in the thoughtful work done in understanding the future scope of a new type of technology and what it can mean to both the companies developing and deploying its power. As Sumser states – We are about to learn unimaginable things– this report touches on many of these things and should be seen as a starting point for understanding this new landscape. – Erin Spencer, Research Consultant, Sierra-Cedar

  • martinsnyder

    A few thoughts:

    – We have a principle called wisdom, which we apply to bodies of experience. It connotes a learned application of insight to arrive at a more useful truth than possible without it. It coincides with maturity, but not always, and mere maturity does not confer it. When it’s lacking notable maturity and/or learning, we sometimes call it common sense. Of course it’s not common, because life is irony. We are a long way from AI having a genuine quality of wisdom, but maybe not so far from common sense.

    – When electric motors first arrived on the scene they were very expensive and not small. The prevailing thought was that each home and establishment would have one, and it’s power would be distributed about by belts, cables, and various transmission structures of gears and shafts. Obviously we now how hundreds of motors in our homes and cars. Likewise, AI will not probably be anything near monolithic, but rather a massive swarm – a society- of clients representing various human interests.

    – In a swarm environment, we will need personal and organizational AI agents. Those agents will be useful not in prediction about what people may do and what the future holds, but rather in managing the vaster and vaster portfolio of other agents and interfaces that you have to deal with- to extend artificially your power to find, learn, use, combine, and replace apps and processes as you hack toward your goals.

    -IOW, certain bounded prediction capability will be important to useful AI, but wide memory, learning, adaptation, and connectivity are less glamorous, but will be ultra-important productivity vectors.

    – Speaking of wisdom, it’s good to see a straight line between Interbiznet days and tomorrow’s tech. The Same as it Ever Was 😉

  • Michael Kannisto

    As kids, we all went to school with someone who claimed that Santa Claus was a personal family friend, or that they once saw Bigfoot on a camping trip. If you are from the United States, knowing someone with a “girlfriend/boyfriend in Canada” was part of the American experience. Most of us, when confronted with similar outrageous claims, perfected a sort of neutral/bemused facial expression that ended up serving us quite well later in life . . . particularly those of us who went into HR as a profession.

    In fact, I find myself making that expression almost every day now as one who finds himself at the receiving end of a cold-water soaking of daily sales calls touting the coming miracle of “AI” and “Bots.” I was delighted to run across this dandy of a document called The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech put out by HRExaminer because it helps me navigate this new landscape.

    Why do I like it? For one thing, the first third of the document is NOT product reviews – but rather a practical and no-nonsense introduction to predictive tools, historical context, questions to ask when evaluating products, definitions, a Market Map, and many other useful insights for either a newbie like me, or a seasoned expert.

    Once the reader is properly prepared, the product reviews that follow are fair, informative, and comprehensive. Even if you don’t buy any of these products this year, you will doubtless be asked about them, and the page-long intro accompanying each review will help you become knowledgeable about what is out there, and what it can really do.

    This technology is new, largely untested, and is more hype than delivery . . . at the moment. However, it is here to stay and will change HR drastically. Unless you are an expert who knows all the players personally, having a resource like this will increase your ability to navigate this Brave New World successfully.

  • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked recently about Artificial Intelligence; what’s happening in the HR Technology space, who are the innovative vendors, and are we really going to see change? This report not only cuts through the hype, but more importantly it provides the context by which organizations can begin to discuss, compare, and evaluate various intelligent solutions currently on display in the HR Technology marketplace.

    Emerging markets often feel like a disparate mix of technology and outcomes, with few connections – this report, in John’s best no-nonsense way – provides not only a set of initial categories and use cases, but a valuable market map based on the buyer’s perspective. The power in categories and names are often underestimated, but no market grows without definition. John has started to define the undefinable.

    More importantly it doesn’t stop with defining the space – it goes on to provide a “judgement free” perspective on the ethical considerations every vendor and buyer needs to be aware of when developing, purchasing, and maintaining these solutions – this is an area where lack of understanding will not be a valid defense in future labor litigation; and it is most certainly not a good excuse to simply ignore these innovations.

    Predictive analytics, Intelligent applications, machine learning, or artificial intelligence – whatever you want to call it – this next generation of HR Technology will change HR forever. You can choose to ignore it and let it reach you like a tidal wave, or you can read John’s paper – and begin your own personal journey towards understanding.

    I was personally thrilled to find out that this would be an annual review, so like the tools themselves; I expect this research will continue to evolve in new and exciting ways in the coming years.

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  • Kara Mignanelli

    This is an outstanding report that takes a deep dive into the leading companies in this space. For buyers looking to understand the landscape of companies in this space, the report is a must-read. Insightful and informative, the report helps you make sense of the highly technical concepts, technologies, and products shaping the future of work and the ethical considerations associated with Artificial Intelligence. However, this report is valuable to not only buyers but also HR product solution providers to identify what their competition is currently offering and how that may influence their own products and future direction.

    The questions raised concerning enterprise software product liability are particularly interesting. As the issue develops in the marketplace, I look forward to reading the next edition of this report!

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Maren Hogan returns from a spate of HR and Recruiting conferences with her predictions on the latest trends. From sourcing...

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