The word “connection” has many meanings. This week I experienced quite a few of them. First, I attended the Ultimate Software Connections 2020 event in Las Vegas. Second, it was my first time to connect with a lot of my colleagues and friends in a long time—22 weeks, in fact, since I was in Vegas, just before my DBS surgery. Both were great experiences.
Just a few days before the conference, a merger was announced between Ultimate and Kronos, so there was much excitement for Ultipeeps (the preferred term for Ultimate employees) and clients to meet Aron Ain, CEO of Kronos, and soon to be the CEO of the combined company. I have known Aron for years, and there is no denying the passion he has for his employees and customers, and this clearly resonated with the audience. There are many hurdles yet to overcome, and my fervent hope is that this is an opportunity to embrace a huge pipeline of amazing talent from both companies and push for more diversity in the leadership of the new company. I will be watching this closely. Both organizations have made strides to create diverse and inclusive leadership, but as they model the way forward for HR clients, there is still room to do more.
As for product, new solutions for items like on-demand pay, employee giving, and enhanced AI offerings within the Perceptions product were all center stage. I expect the product pipeline to evolve rapidly as the two organizations start to bring their R&D together after the merger deal is closed. I will admit that since I knew about this impending combination, I paid more attention this year to the cultural aspects of the group than product announcements, because how these two organizations chart their path together will have a far bigger impact in the coming 12 to 18 months than products.
The sense of inclusion and connection were incredibly strong at the event. One hallmark of the event were the “belonging buttons,” letting us self-declare our hidden diversity by wearing buttons with titles like “ally,” “parent,” “survivor,” “veteran,” “transgender” and many others. The idea of celebrating our belonging was powerful, and let us literally see some connections we may have missed. These were also very popular conference swag, second only to the branded mini bottles of hand sanitizer.
As for me personally, it was wonderful to be back with my friends and colleagues in the industry. It was also great to be on the road again, where I’ve lived for more than 20 years. As I wrote on my Unshakable Optimist blog the other day (“Out There”), the kindness of strangers has long been a part of my life and I truly appreciate it. I also relish the special connection across our analyst family that has developed over the years. Many of us work alone or at small firms, or even if we work in big firms, we often work in home offices and spend more time together at meetings and conferences than we do with our families. We’ve weathered a lot together, and given the growing list of conference cancellations this year, we may not see each other again soon. So whether I’ll be watching from my home or on the road, I will be watching to see where Ultimate and Kronos go together in the near term and the long term. And I’ll be thankful for every opportunity I get to connect with my colleagues and friends again.