The Acquisition Spree 1

On December 7, 2011, in HR Scoop, HR Technology, HR Trends, by John Sumser

If you read Monday’s piece (Whale Eats Fish), you might think of this one as Whale Risks Indigestion.

I’ve spent some time at the SuccessFactors offices in Silicon Valley. Not enough to be a citizen, more like the number of times you use your museum membership. It’s one of the most intriguing cultures I’ve ever run across.

I used to joke that the company had a ‘raw meat bar’ just outside of the areas visitors were allowed to witness.The joke was that the culture was so aggressive that it metaphorically resembled the meat eaters in the first versions of V. The company was, and is, an anomaly in both Silicon Valley (with the exception of its spiritual progenitor, Oracle) and the HCM Marketplace. The company dreams big, runs on rocket fuel and mania, and has a take no prisoners strategy.

The business, its products and its gestalt are not everyone’s cup of tea.

In the end, that gives our market a much needed bunch of segmentation. If you’re in HR and actually want (as opposed to liking to say you want) to be involved in corporate strategy, you get there by breaking stuff, by innovating. The folks at SuccessFactors never worried much about breaking things (or throwing an HR manager under the bus to get a sale).

The only possible way that you can understand the acquisition is to see SAP as extremely desperate. Adding the SuccessFactors vibe to the extremely smart but terribly plodding EuroGiant is a sign of impending house cleaning.

SuccessFactors is a performance management company. Here’s what that means. Their tools rigorously (when well used) document and quantify performance. The underlying model is a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to vision and accomplishment. The core SFSF mantra is meet the number or get going.

It’s actually a great way to run an organization (particularly a group of Special Forces Soldiers). It’s hyper competitive, radically transparent and completely intolerant of fluffiness. Some observers suggest that almost all of the testosterone in the industry is inside the walls of SuccessFactors

SAP has some fluffiness. How else can you explain the firm’s inability to keep up with the marketplace. Sales come; new features emerge; but, market agility isn’t on the list of core competencies at SAP.

Over at SAP, it’s also a sales culture. The captive customers get the opportunity to buy the next big thing. It’s always an acquisition and never a real integration. The SAP version of sales is the ‘working the fields’ variety. The team harvests the crops when they are ripe.

Hope for a culture clash and civil war. Anticipate Walter Mitty. Old cultures die hard.

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