Ultimate Software: Connecting to the Future
Last week I spent several days attending Ultimate Software’s annual Connections user conference in Las Vegas. As usual, it was extremely well-run, and the hundreds of UltiPeeps (as Ultimate Software employees call themselves) are truly dedicated to their work and to each other. Ultimate’s events showcase the level of care and expertise the organization brings to the table as a partner. Both their conference and their solutions extend far beyond the basics to ensure that the entire experience delivers value. Like many of its competitors, Ultimate is working to expand its offerings and relationships beyond the traditional boundaries of payroll and core HR. To accomplish this, they are focused on understanding, engaging and serving their customers, which in turn helps those customers better understand, engage, and serve their employees. And given that 68% of mid-size and enterprise respondents to m.Research’s 2019 HR Impact Study expected their HR technology budgets to increase by 5% or more in the coming year, it’s important for buyers to understand exactly what their investment in solutions like Ultimate will get them.
A Thorough Understanding
Ultimate’s AI capabilities and the power of its Xander platform continue to be underrated and underplayed in the marketplace. Like Madonna or Cher, other “one name” artificial intelligence engines have been widely publicized even before they were united with practical HR applications. The work being done by the Xander team (largely from its 2016 acquisition of Kanjoya) is both highly innovative and exceptionally useful, and deserves to be recognized as such. It is the underpinning of Ultimate’s powerful Perception offering, which combines survey capabilities, sentiment analysis, and evolving real-time insights. These insights result in better talent decisions, help position individuals for higher levels of productivity and performance, and give leaders a roadmap to help guide their organizations to the right results. This deep and thorough understanding is essential as organizations look to the future. In m.Research’s 2019 HR Impact Study, the #1 hiring concern found among mid-size and enterprise businesses was the inability to predict which new hires would become productive employees. Ultimate is helping hiring managers and business leaders with their assessment predictions, to select the right people for the right roles.
Evolution of Engagement
The industry’s understanding of engagement has evolved in recent years. Most organizations now realize it isn’t as much about employee “happiness” or satisfaction as it is about an individual's ability to execute well, stretch and grow without breaking, and deliver experiences that benefit the individual and the organization so both can be more productive. Ultimate’s Mobile 2.0 solution is an important step in this evolution for users, making it easier for individuals across the organization, and across the world, to interact with HR data and processes, and deliver a unified experience. Ultimate also continues to add capabilities like enhanced time capture and onboarding that bring new functionality to users. Our research shows that new functionality and an enhanced employee experience through better self-service were the most cited reasons for replacing payroll and core HR technology in the past 18 months.
Serving Employees and Clients
Part of Ultimate’s culture is the concept of service. They have long provided employees with “service days,” paid time off to volunteer in their communities. There are also service projects that Ultimate organizes to occur simultaneously with their employee and user events. Since Ultimate’s founding in 1990, customer service has been at the heart of every client relationship, so it makes sense that they are taking the lead in helping their clients service their employees.
In addition to the improved functionality and access noted above, there were a couple of interesting new ways of serving employees that I noted this year. Most significantly, in July 2018, Ultimate acquired PeopleDoc, an HR Service Delivery platform, serving approximately 1500 customers in 180 countries. Ultimate is using this acquisition both as a foothold in the global market and as a tool to offer HR services like HR Case Management and Electronic File Management. This more holistic view of what delivering HR means to employees is a strong complement to their previous functionality.
There were also two payroll-related services that caught my attention. The first service was the announcement of a partnership with SimplyPaid for payroll disbursements. As you know, this is an area I have spent a lot of time looking into. While on-demand pay is a growing trend, how it is delivered can have considerable material brand impact on employers. Stay tuned for details as I will be following up with Ultimate and SimplyPaid to learn more about this feature. The second service, UltiPro Giving, is a charitable-giving solution that makes it easy for HR to launch campaigns, whereby employees can donate a portion of their paycheck to specific causes. This is something I hadn’t seen much of in the marketplace (beyond the old days of the United Way campaigns). I’ll be interested to track adoption of this functionality, especially in concert with on-demand pay options.
Ultimate Software surely has a lot going on, with a stream of strategic acquisitions as well as a recent return back to private-equity ownership. The next 12 to 24 months will prove to be an exciting time to watch this growing organization.