Insights from Ceridian Insights 2017

The timing of Ceridian Insights 2017 was interesting. I had recently been interviewed by Canada’s The Globe & Mail re: Ceridian.  The focus of that interview followed the history of Ceridian. The reporter and I discussed the transformation that Ceridian has undergone since David Ossip took the helm several years ago.

Ossip replayed much of that history to the conference attendees. The main themes in this narrative were that Ceridian:

  • Acquired Dayforce, a new multi-tenant cloud HR solution, as a way to modernize the technology used by Ceridian customers
  • Sold off several product lines to avoid R&D dilution, to lighten their debt service load and to focus on products with a long market runway
  • Created a new culture that focused heavily on customer satisfaction
  • Would rapidly transition existing customers from service bureau offerings to new Dayforce and PowerPay cloud offerings while also taking away customers from other payroll service bureau and HRMS software providers

Most software companies are “one and done” phenomena.  They create some interesting product(s), enjoy some market success and then are finished. Sure, they may get bought and sold a time or two and the management might get switched out with increasing frequency but it’s rare for these firms to ever surpass their prior glory days. It’s precisely this phenomenon that makes Ceridian interesting as it’s breaking the pattern. The new Ceridian is not only dissimilar from the old Ceridian/Control Data, it may become bigger and more successful than its prior incarnation.

But, let’s temper that thought for now.  ADP, a Ceridian competitor, is trying to match some of Ceridian’s new product and service developments. Workday, SAP and Oracle all offer more than just HCM solutions with major product line extensions in Finance, Supply Chain, etc. to cross-sell. It’s a competitive HCM space, for sure, and Ceridian will have to earn its way into deals, one prospect at a time.

Prospects? What were they thinking?

I love shows where the vendor allows industry analysts a free rein. I learn a lot by speaking to customers and prospects. Ceridian makes it easy to do this by ecolor-coding the name badges for us.

I shamelessly buttonholed about two dozen or so customers and prospects. I asked them questions like:

  • How they liked Ceridian
  • What products they were running away from
  • What other products they were considering

Not one customer or prospect really had anything negative to report.

Five years ago, Dayforce was missing a lot of critical functionality. Today, the product line holes are considerably smaller in nature. One customer is still waiting for Dayforce software to produce a (U.S.) EEO-4 report and another indicated that their Dayforce implementation took a bit longer than Ceridian estimated but that was, according to the customer, the customer’s own organization and political fault.  Otherwise, I just couldn’t get anyone to really dish out some big dirt.

Many prospects included firms that had outgrown their current solutions. Some were looking for an all-in-one HCM/Payroll suite.  I sensed many of these wanted solutions that were always current technically and from a compliance/regulatory perspective.

What apparently sold/sells these prospects is Ceridian XOXOX program and related implementation/ support activities. Software buyers like vendors that don’t start billing the subscription service until AFTER the customer goes live. This is something most Ceridian competitors don’t offer.

Prospects also like dealing with ONE firm for both the software and implementation. Customers have been burned too many times by vendors that turn over implementation activities to third parties whose interests may not necessarily be aligned with those of the customer or the vendor. Ossip also referenced an analyst report showing that Dayforce implementations averaged a return on investment in 8 months with competitor products taking something closer to 27 months.

Ceridian Insights 2017
Ceridian implementation – designed to achieve fast time to value

The prospects I met this year included a lot more net-new potential customers than firms considering a move from the legacy service bureau solutions to Dayforce.  Ossip pointed out that the majority of the company’s revenues are now cloud based with 2,700+ customers live on Dayforce.  This shift in prospective customers may be indicative of just how many older customers have already made the transition to Dayforce.

Integration & configuration

HR systems in larger firms can have 100 or so integration points. They must connect to financial systems, benefits providers, 401K plans, insurance firms, operational systems, time tracking technology, one-off HR software products and many, many more solutions.

The creation and maintenance of these integrations is time-consuming and expensive for HR and IT departments. Worse, these integrations frequently change and require a lot of maintenance.

Dayforce Link got some conference love. It’s a tool that’s designed to take a lot of integration headaches away especially for more common integrations.

Another headache cure Ceridian touted was it Validation Dashboard. Dayforce customers see the results of over 400 automatic configuration audits. These audits detect configuration errors during implementations.

Microsoft at a Ceridian event

A Microsoft executive was on-hand to take the big stage with Ossip to announce Ceridian’s global payroll alliance with Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 product line. This deal enables Microsoft Dynamics partners an opportunity to use a single payroll interface for their customers. Dynamics 365 users (or channel partners) don’t need to know all of the country-specific fields needed to calculate payroll in many of the most populous countries globally. Ceridian will take the interface outputs that it needs for a specific country and either complete the payroll calculations itself or utilize its network of payroll providers.  Readers should note that the UK Payroll sub-name with Global Payroll refers to Ceridian’s new native UK payroll capability.

Microsoft Azure will also play a role in this international expansion.

Other product news

Ceridian announced several new product launches and related events. In the learning area, Ceridian is partnering with LMS vendor Docebo. I’ve covered Docebo previously and their approach to learning is intriguing. This relationship should be beneficial to both parties and quickly accretive to users.

A Compensation Management module was also launched. Given the variety of compensation planning methods in-use today by corporations, I’d expect to see this tool continue to morph over time to accommodate more and more nuances. Compensation management is always tough as HR is trying to control costs while retaining best talent. These tools need to consider the compensation that competitors are offering in all of the labor markets and geographies where they have staff. Oh, and let’s make it even tougher by expecting a tool will be able to handle:

  • all of those nuances where your job descriptions are different than competitors
  • situations where some people need their payrate to catch up to missed raises in down years
  • relocation/ cost of living adjustments and other factors.

Predictive analytics and AI were also showcased.

In my opinion, Ceridian, like most of its competitors, is still a ways from being a provider of killer predictive analytics. The enterprise software industry is choking on over-promised but under-delivered predictive analytic capabilities. Most software firms are lucky to field a dozen analytic applications/applets as they’ve learned these take time to develop, often take a lot of personalization for the customer and don’t scale well.  So, I’d put Ceridian right there with its competitors in being in the early stage of this capability.

Likewise, when Ceridian offered up their (obligatory) Alexa demo, it was all question/response mode. While I’ll give Ceridian credit for offering up a teaser demo that was lengthy, entertaining and far-ranging in the kinds of content served up, it wasn’t all that anticipatory in its answers and guidance like I’ve seen from firms like Aera Technology.  This will likely take years for them (and all of their competitors) to develop fully (see the Alexa commentary in this piece I penned for HR Technology Conference this month).

My take

Growing up, we had a dog that always knew when our car or pickup turned off the highway and got on the gravel road to the ranch. Like that dog, I can always spot when a vendor or a product line hits a major maturation point.

Ceridian’s approaching one of these now. The Dayforce product line is a very mature and complete HCM suite with more goodies coming. The company’s customers are converting over to the cloud-based Dayforce solution in volumes that many old-school ERP vendors will envy. Ceridian management has been executing on a strict timetable to remake the company, its solution set, its culture, its development team and more. And, just as important, Ceridian’s owners, a private equity firm are seeing a realistic opportunity for a liquidity event.

When I spoke with The Globe and Mail reporter weeks ago, I said that I expected some kind of material change of control to occur in 2018 for Ceridian.  It’s the highway to gravel road sensation I’m sensing.

Think about it. After all of this change, what would be the next chapter for Ceridian? Another firm would consider building out other back office applications. Or, will they build out more local in-country payroll solutions for other parts of the world? That makes sense if they intend to dramatically grow their non-U.S./non-Canada sales efforts. Whatever the answer, the company will need to pivot to a new long-term vision. What that vision is, I don’t know. Management is either keeping this close to the vest or isn’t thinking that far out. I know if I were Ossip, I’d be thinking about monetizing my success with this turnaround and taking a nice long vacation.

While all that’s interesting to ponder, it takes away from the following reality: Ceridian has moved heaven and earth to make Dayforce a successful, robust solution and has done so in record time.

One final thought: Ceridian’s Insight conference occurred immediately after the worst mass-shooting in American history. Being in Las Vegas was surreal and somber. It’s not the mood one associates with a user conference where parties, after-parties and bombastic showmanship are the usual order of the day.  When I arrived at the conference hotel, you could hear birds, the wind blowing, etc. outside. The Vegas Strip was eerily quiet, almost respectful.

The Ceridian Insights 2017 user conference opened, interestingly enough, with the CEO of MGM Resorts. He thanked everyone for attending and not cancelling. And, he was correct. To have done otherwise would have been to submit to the terror caused by that shooter. Only 23 of the several thousand attendees cancelled.  Since that shooting, Las Vegas tourism has changed – my heart still goes out for the dozens killed and hundreds wounded there.

[“Source-diginomica”]

10 Winning Entrepreneur Insights That May Surprise You

Every aspiring entrepreneur would love to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos, but most have no idea what really sets these guys apart from all the rest. Conventional wisdom has them looking for a painful problem, a very large opportunity, and minimal competitive barriers to entry. In reality, most great entrepreneurs find these necessary, but not sufficient for the big win.

They think outside the box, with a sometimes surprising set of strategies, as outlined in a new book, “Think Bigger,” by Michael Sonnenfeldt. He has collected in-the-trenches intelligence and lessons from his TIGER 21 group of over 500 entrepreneurs and executives around the world. Each has amassed $10 million or more in personal assets, and is willing to share their insights with others.

Sonnenfeldt presents a rich array of strategies in his forty lessons from the trenches, including the following paraphrased insights that I find often overlooked or even rejected, based on my years of experience mentoring entrepreneurs:

  1. Experience at a first-rate company is really valuable. Good big companies provide the training, mentoring, and experience managing teams that entrepreneurs need, but can’t afford. In addition, you can learn much about business principles, and your own capabilities, from being surrounded by many intense, ambitious, and super-smart peers.
  2. Entrepreneurship is rarely about just making money. The best entrepreneurs are committed to fixing a problem, or advancing a purpose, and making money is only used as a validation of their insight. Any money made is typically poured back into the cause, rather than relished for a high-class lifestyle or extravagances by the entrepreneur.
  3. Self-control beats passion for long term satisfaction. Passion often leads to a need for instant gratification. Most successful entrepreneurs either learn or are born with the capacity to delay gratification for critical periods in their lives. Even after success, they use self-control to continue to live modestly, and plow their profits back into business.
  4. Think twice before investing with friends and family. Some are so self-centered that they see family and friends as an easy source of capital. Smarter entrepreneurs know that nothing can bring more embarrassment, resentment, and peril to relationships with people you love and respect than losing their money. Don’t jeopardize key relationships.
  5. You are never to smart or too old for a mentor. In case you think mentors are only for “wimps,” you should know that Bill Gates always revered the guidance he received from Warren Buffet on many corporate matters. Most successful business people, whether retired or still active, love to share the wisdom they gained from their own experience.
  6. Entrepreneurial skills can limit investing success. Entrepreneurs and investors are different kinds of people, inside and out. Smart investors diversify their exposure across multiple assets; if any one of these fails, they are still in the game. A true entrepreneur makes one big bet on a new and untested asset, normally against conventional wisdom.
  7. Apply business skills to solve social problems. Social entrepreneurship is on the rise, with the advent of Millennials and a total world view. Companies that pursue socially relevant goals as part of their mission have the potential to generate double-bottom-line results – a financial return as well as a social benefit. One plus one can now equal three.
  8. Skip conservative – be optimistic, even delusional.  The best entrepreneurs just believe they can make it happen – even though conventional logic would peg the risk as being off the charts. Professional investors dismiss founders who give “conservative” financial projections, and usually make less. Shoot for the moon – you may hit it.
  9. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Too many entrepreneurs have a tendency to overrate their personal skills and wisdom, and seek out people who won’t challenge them. The smartest ones acknowledge their weaknesses, and find people who complement their skills, from whom they can learn and delegate authority.
  10. Resilience and determination generally beat IQ. We all know of successful businesses started by entrepreneurs who dropped out of school, while MBAs get no premium with investors. According to most experts, “street smarts” (experience) trump “book smarts” (intelligence) every time, especially if accompanied with a large dose of grit.

Whether you are already a seasoned entrepreneur, or just starting out, I recommend that you regularly strive to think bigger and outside the box, starting with the lessons from others who have been there and done that, and emerged successfully. We need you then to contribute to the next set of winning strategies for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

[“Source-alleywatch”]

How MailOnline is building an insights business

MailOnline is joining the ranks of a growing number of publishers keen to deepen partnerships with brands and agencies by offering more strategic — and valuable — services. The publisher has started offering key clients access to its live on-site surveying tool, Pulse, to help them make more sense of its digital audience of 29 million monthly uniques in the U.K. (over half of the U.K.’s digital population), according to comScore.

In the last few months, MailOnline has run hundreds of reader surveys on topics like views on brands or current events. The publisher will soon make its real-time analytics available to clients so they can see which articles are trending. It will also profile specific reader groups, so clients can ask questions like, “When are people most likely to read about mortgages?” or “What content are mothers reading apart from content about babies?” before spending money on campaigns.

“We’re pivoting our business; we want to be seen as a strategy and insights resource to clients,” said Bedir Aydemir, product marketing and insight director at MailOnline. “The idea is that we’re adding value before the client has spent any money.”

Digital advertising has been moving away from targeting based on broad demographic segments to more granular, interest-based targeting. Mail Advertising, the commercial division for Mail Newspapers and MailOnline within parent company DMG Media, is the driving force behind becoming an insight partner. According to SimilarWeb, over a third of MailOnline’s visitors come to it directly, making the publisher somewhat less vulnerable than others to the duopoly’s dominance. This also gives MailOnline a rich, enticing data set.

Speaking on stage at One Vizeum in London this week, Roland Agambar, CMO at parent company DMG Media said that the publisher has profiled 3.5 million of its readers. In this database, each customer has around 300 fields of data, including first-party data related to their viewing habits, engagement and transaction data — it sells everything from home goodsto travel cruises — enhanced with third-party data from partners like Netmums and Nectar. The publisher is close to having a single-customer view, and the business is starting to make use this database, said Agambar.

Database customers are separated into three segments depending on how valuable they are. MailOnline has a few thousand high-value customers, each of which spends about £4,000 ($5,400) a year with the publisher. It has a million customers in the low-value bucket. Messages are tailored to different levels accordingly; for instance, the publisher is in the process of understanding what message would nudge someone who visits the site infrequently to make a purchase or sign up to one of its newsletters.

Aydemir said MailOnline is starting to build what it calls a “next-best action engine,” which will automatically serve readers an action aimed to resonate best with them, whether that’s an ad from an ad client or an ad directing them to its property search service. “It might be serving them fewer ads, even though that’s counterintuitive,” he said, “but we want them to communicate with us more regularly.”

According to Aydemir, because MailOnline has scale, it offers guarantees of 1 million on-platform views for branded-content video, and it hasn’t had to buy traffic from social platforms or media distribution on other sites to match clients’ reach goals. Aydemir said clients are increasingly asking for more social distribution. This week in the U.S., it launched DailyMailTV, opening up another potential distribution channel for advertiser content.

Audience data is the backbone of any publisher, but using it for more commercial advantages is nascent, according to Dan Chapman, head of digital at Mediacom. “With a publisher’s understanding of their customers through analytics and research panels, they are in a great space to start stealing share in insight-driven creative concepting and production,” he said. A growing number of publishers are using this data commercially: Recently, ESI Media started delivering real-time article engagement data to advertising agencies.

MailOnline’s whole business is understanding the monetary value of customer data in ways that weren’t possible five years ago, said Agambar. One way this plays out is that Aydemir and memebers of his team now move around the company, collaborating with different departments to help them understand the value of customer data.

“We want to work in a partnership type of way with clients, but we need to be flexible,” said Dominic Williams, chief investment officer at Mail Advertising. “We’re a brand that still needs to evolve.”

[“Source-digiday”]

Martech enablement series: Part 7 — Insights, intelligence and integration

Welcome to Part 7 of: “A Nine Part Practical Guide to Martech Enablement.” This is a progressive guide, with each part building on the previous sections and focused on outlining a process to build a data-driven, technology-driven marketing organization within your company. Below is a list of the previous articles for your reference:

  • Part 1: What is Martech Enablement?
  • Part 2: The Race Team Analogy
  • Part 3: The Team Members
  • Part 4: Building the Team
  • Part 5: The Team Strategy
  • Part 6: Building the Car

In these previous parts, we looked at how your martech team is parallel to an automobile race team. We spent time investigating how a race team constructs their team and then builds a strategy for winning their individual races and the overall race series. We then looked at how this is also a successful approach to constructing and strategizing for a martech team, identifying this process as “martech enablement.”

As we discussed in Part 1 of this guide, martech enablement is ultimately about obtaining insights and providing tools and processes to take action to affect your marketing efforts in your marketing organization. In Part 6, we discussed “building the car” with a focus on breaking down the systems in your martech stack that allow you to take action.

In this article, we will explore the systems that provide insights and enable team collaboration. We’ll also look at tying them all together with integration approaches, tools and strategies. Once again, a shout-out to Scott Brinker for producing the “Marketing Technology Landscape” to help make sense of all the martech products available.

Insights and intelligence

When you’re driving your car, a number of tools inform you how to take action. Looking out your windshield, windows and mirrors gives you immediate data that you respond to. Additionally, you have tools like your instrument dashboard, GPS, traffic data, your radio, and even your passengers.

Race drivers and the team as a whole have sophisticated systems in and around the car that are collecting information, as well as experts to analyze the information in real time, providing actionable insights that the team can use before, during and after the race. This is a huge part of the team’s competitive advantage that they use to win races.

Part of the martech enablement process is to leverage the data within your martech stack so that experts within your team can analyze that information to provide actionable insights, so your marketing organization can win your race.

To reiterate a point made in Part 6 of this guide, a solid data strategy is one of the most important components of martech enablement. This provides the foundation for extracting and “mashing” this data in a way that you can measure. A sound approach is to understand your organization’s KPIs (key performance indicators) and craft a data strategy that supports collecting data to enable measurement of those KPIs.

Many systems and categories of tools assist in the area of gaining insights. Below is a list of some of the systems used to provide visibility and understanding:

  • Web analytics platforms
  • AI/predictive analytics
  • MPM — Marketing performance management
  • Marketing attribution systems
  • Business intelligence (BI) systems
  • Dashboards
  • Data visualization tools
  • Social media monitoring
  • Sales intelligence
  • Audience and market research data

As you progress through the martech enablement process, your “insights” toolset will grow in both size and maturity. I want to remind you to stay focused on letting this part of your stack evolve from the incremental team objectives and series and race goals. Don’t lead with a goal of creating a cool BI environment or dashboard. Let these grow out of the goals driving the martech enablement process.

Strategic vs. tactical insights

I want to spend a minute discussing the difference between strategic and tactical insights and their alignment with your team, series and race objectives. For a refresher on these, see Part 5 of this guide.

When measuring and analyzing performance against your team and series goals, you’re looking at strategic insights where understanding the current level and performance trend is desirable. Think in terms of tools that show you the results of your marketing efforts across time. A tactical insight will generally be more closely aligned with your race goals and will be a singular value or KPI.

Relating this to our race team analogy, a strategic goal could be wanting to improve the team’s average finish position from the current state to some future targeted goal. Over time, you could measure and graph the improvement and trend toward that goal.

A tactical goal might be the desire to come in third place or better in a particular race. Your insight tool could represent that number as a single KPI. That isn’t to say that you may never analyze performance trends during a race, such as average lap speed. But there are values that benefit from analyzing as a trend and others that are just fine to analyze as a current and ending value.

Team management and collaboration

When it comes to management and collaboration in the race team, both pre-race and race-day systems are needed to support the team’s operations. These tools are necessary to get things done right in your marketing organization. Good management and collaboration tools help great people be a great team. Here are some of those systems:

  • Project management
  • Workflow
  • Collaboration tools
  • Business Process Management (BPM)/Agile & Lean
  • Talent management
  • Vendor management
  • Budget and finance

The nuts, bolts, welds, hoses and wires

It’s important to have a strategy and tools to hold all of this together. There are a few strategies to contemplate with systems integration and martech. Your marketing organization will likely take several different approaches to integration. These are generally broken down into three categories: native integration, IPaaS (integration platform as a service) and custom integration.

As technology matures, and the interoperability of products grows, companies are building “connectors” that allow for the exchange of data between their products and other widely used ones. These native integrations generally require some technical implementation or configuration, but the product manufacturers have done much of the heavy lifting to allow for the exchange of data between systems they have connectors for.

IPaaS is a “suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations,” according to Gartner. These platforms enable a more systematic way of creating and controlling data exchanges between products in your martech stack.

Custom development is as it sounds: a process in which software engineers develop custom applications to create and manage data exchanges between products and systems in your martech stack. Regardless of whether you take advantage of the aforementioned native integrations or IPaaS, you will likely at some level need to leverage good technologists to do some custom integration work along your path to martech enablement.

Stack it up!

To review, all the categories of the stack between Part 6, “Building the car,” and this part, “Supporting technologies,” your cohesive martech stack is composed of the following types of systems:

Intro to Part 8: Running the series and the races

Now that we’ve gone through the people, the strategy and the stack, we can move on to the execution part of martech enablement. In Part 8 of the guide, we’ll get into how your team iteratively and incrementally moves your marketing organization toward digital transformation and maturity.

I look forward to continuing to share with you about martech enablement in Part 8 of this guide.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily MarTech Today. Staff authors are listed here.


[“Source-martechtoday”]