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FUD, Salesforce and the HR Technology Crowd

Written by Gregg Dourgarian

FUD, Salesforce and the HR Technology Crowd I’m not sure how Salesforce has done it, but it has managed within the HR technology space to have turned highly intelligent consultants into mindless lemmings that drink the Salesforce kool-aid straight up when it comes to discussing modern software distribution platforms and in particular SaaS.

By “highly intelligent HR technology consultants” I’m talking about various people that are organizing or whose names are associated with  the HR technology conference at which TempWorks will be exhibiting in late September.   In particular I’m talking about people like Naomi Bloom and to an extent Bill Kutik but also various consultants from Jason Averbrook’s firm, Knowledge Infusion.

Now before I continue the unthinkable of insulting all the key players at an upcoming conference that I’ll be attending I want to comment that these are really smart guys and gals.  They write great.  My guess is their flawed perspective comes from a client base of angry-as-hell Oracle and SAP customers for whom Salesforce is a hail-Mary pass over intractable enterprise IT departments.  Kudos to Salesforce and kudos to their consulting efforts.  But let’s not become computer science revisionists for the sake of one’s client gigs.

Take for example this column by Knowledge Infusion consultant and author of the popular HR Technologist blog, Bryon D. Abramowitz.  He lists seven attributes of SaaS, and remarkably all seven come straight from the Salesforce bible and all seven are ERRONEOUS.  Here are his seven which he presents in two sets:

Based on this definition, there are countless vendors in the space that qualify as SaaS and just about any solution you buy can be made available in a SaaS model.

I would like to offer a more narrow definition of SaaS;

  • Hosted and maintained by the vendor
  • Delivered over the internet
  • Configurable but NOT customizable
  • Single code-base deployed across ALL customers
  • Software is hosted on servers that the vendor provides and maintains
  • Software is accessible via an internet browser
  • Access to the software is subscription-based rather than licensed
  • In the event that this post gathers at least some interest I’ll deconstruct all seven but for the moment I’ll focus on the one I wrote about as a comment to Bryon’s post which was “Software is accessible via an internet browser”.  Clearly this is wrong as any 35-year-old non-browser iTunes or Kindle user will tell you.

    SaaS-based vendors like TempWorks not to mention puny little Apple, Adobe and Amazon are all over non-browser technologies.   HTML and even the heralded HTML5 are just one of many competing SaaS oriented standards.  Just take a look at your phone.  I’ll bet many of your favorite apps on non-browser.

    { 5 comments… read them below or add one }
    1. Bill Kutik

      And me, Gregg, how exactly did I gore your ox? BTW, we just sold your booth space at the HR Technology Conference to a browser-based software vendor. And your link to the conference website is broken. Could you fix it?

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    2. Naomi Bloom

      Gregg (with two g’s), have we met? Is it something I wrote/said that attracted your attention? I don’t believe that my current work says much about browsers, and if you followed my twitterstream from Monday’s Workday Tech Summit (I wasn’t there, just “watching” from afar), you’d have seen mention of iPads etc. My most complete recent post on the subject of SaaS http://infullbloom.us/?p=910 doesn’t appear to mention the specifics of browsers either. So, while honored that I’m considered worthy of your attention, I am wondering what I may have said to set you off. Is it really about multi-tenancy? Or is it really about licensed on-premise versus true SaaS? And if it’s really about licensed on-premise, then you’re in good company with all of the software designed from the earliest packages, so around 1972, right through the late 90′s/2000. And while licensed on-premise will remain given how much is installed (in the same way that COBOL will always be with us), the momentum is with SaaS, and not because of anything we “influencers” may say. True SaaS delivers benefits that customers want. Such is life. Since you won’t be going to HR Tech, I’m sorry that I won’t have the opportunity to exchange news and views in person. Best regards, Naomi

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    3. gregg dourgarian

      Naomi…thanks for commenting here.

      I do enjoy your writing and if you read carefully I noted that in the post. Also, the song you write about in http://infullbloom.us/?p=910 “how u gonna keep ‘em down on the farm’…that’s a song my mother used to sing to me. It never occurred to me that it might be recorded somewhere. Thanks.

      One of my competitors distributes its apps in an entirely SaaS fashion – their clients require no software beyond the browser – using a SINGLE tenant database. As far as that might be from an ideal of mine or of your object model, their system works great, is 100% SaaS and does great things for a large customer base. They keep us hopping.

      All that to say we need to be really careful when applying architectural ideals like your hrm model to real world vendors. For starters, those vendors invariably aren’t homogenous entities – I can assure you that the larger among them have initiatives that embrace those ideals much beyond any existing, marketed product.

      Such is the lifecycle of technologies and the companies that provide them.

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