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Last week, I had the pleasure of joining some 500 HR leaders, practitioners and system administrators at SilkRoad’s annual user conference in Chicago. If you don’t already know, SilkRoad is one of the leading providers of HCM software solutions for companies with fewer than 2,000 employees (a ripe market these days).

As cited in Brandon Hall Group’s, Talent Acquisition: Benchmarking Analysis by Company Size – which is far more exciting than it sounds – many of the organizations in SilkRoad’s sweet spot are still managing talent management processes (and talent acquisition in particular) with their own slapdash mix of email, spreadsheets, and paper files.

Mid-Market Challenges for HCM Software

This poses a certain challenge for SilkRoad’s sales and client success teams, as many of their clients are first-generation HCM technology users. Not only do they often lack the savvy that comes with having overseen (read: survived) the arduous business of software selection and implementation multiple times, their HCM processes are often disjointed at best.

Add to that the fact that SilkRoad’s LifeSuite is comprised of six different products, several inherited through acquisition and running on a different platform with different APIs, and you can imagine why SilkRoad hasn’t risen to dominate the mid-market.

But while this might be a recipe for much frustration on both sides, it’s fostered a strong sense of camaraderie among SilkRoad’s clients – something I’ve rarely experienced at user conferences in the past. Every session I attended, regardless of topic, was peppered with candid conversations among panelists, presenters, and the audience. For an analyst – for whom client experience research is often limited to curated success stories – this provides a wealth of insight into the vitality of a solution provider.

It’s a rare thing, I assure you.

With this in mind, I joined several other industry analysts and thought leaders for a luncheon with SilkRoad’s executive team. SilkRoad has gone through some major changes in the last year – not the least of which being the installation of John Shackleton as President and CEO. For many of us, this was our first chance to sit down and pick their brains about the future of the company.

Software as a Service and the Value of Company Culture

SilkRoad’s goal is to become the first tried-and-true, SaaS-based, fully integrated talent management system in the mid-market. I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t everyone moving in that direction these days?” And the answer is yes. So how will SilkRoad distinguish itself?

For starters, they’re making a lot of headway in connecting the dots across their product offerings. SilkRoad’s Life Suite of integrated HRMS, Talent Acquisition, and Talent Development software was the 2013 winner of a Silver Award in Brandon Hall Group’s Excellence in Technology Awards for “Best Advance in Creating an Integrated Talent Management Platform.” Under the direction of newly appointed Chief Product Officer Rich Buchheim, I think we’ll continue to see bigger and better on that front.

As we began discussing the problems SilkRoad has had, however, and the tough decisions they’ve had to make, I realized the openness and candor that I’ve come to expect from SilkRoad clients are no accident. But it wasn’t until we began talking about the future of SilkRoad that I realized this spirit of togetherness is ingrained in the culture that makes SilkRoad such a unique player in the HCM software industry.

When asked how SilkRoad was going to seize the immense opportunity to serve the HCM software needs of the mid-market, Shackleton simply stated, “Our customers.” For the analysts in the room who hadn’t spent the last few days immersed in the conference and connecting with SilkRoad Champions and newbies alike, his answer rang hollow. For the rest of us, though, his answer rings very true.

Full disclosure: I’ve always been a fan of SilkRoad – and especially its Point product (which has been scaled down a bit as talent portal). Perhaps I’m biased when it comes to the company’s ability to emerge as a leader in the space, but… their clients seem optimistic as well – and SilkRoad takes that vote of confidence seriously.

I look forward to seeing how far they’ve come this time next year. Stay tuned.

Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group
@KyleLagunas

Kyle Lagunas

As the Talent Acquisition Analyst at Brandon Hall Group, Kyle heads up research in key practices in sourcing, assessing, hiring, and onboarding - as well recruitment marketing, candidate experience, and social recruiting. Through primary research and deep analysis, he keeps today's business leaders in touch with important conversations and emerging trends in the rapidly changing world of talent. Kyle has spent the last several years offering a fresh take on the role of technology as part of an integrated talent strategy, and focuses on providing actionable insights to keep leading organizations a step ahead. Previously the HR Analyst at Software Advice, he is regular contributor on SHRM's We Know Next and TLNT, and his work has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, Business Insider, Information Weekly, and HRO Today.

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