Vurv Revolution 2007, March 11-14, Wynn Las Vegas Resort
Event: Vurv Revolution 2007 (annual user conference), March 11-14 at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort
What: Vurv Technology says it "delivers the world’s most innovative and easy-to-use technology to ensure organizations attract, manage and develop an exceptional workforce. With solutions for recruitment, onboarding, performance and compensation management, Vurv helps organizations unlock the creative energy, talent and passion of their people." Vurv, formerly known as Recruitmax, is based in Jacksonville, Florida.
Conference info: For more information about Vurv, go to www.vurv.com.
Day 4: Wednesday, March 14
Q&A: Vurv’s senior management—CEO Derek Mercer, COO Amy McGeorge, CTO Angel Cabrera and CFO Mark Silverman—were on stage answering pressing questions and concerns that clients have about the company and its products.
First question: Was last night’s $5,000 prize a rigged event?
"Trust me, we had absolutely no idea that we were going to give away that much," Mercer responded as the crowd chuckled.
On a slightly more serious note, another conference attendee asked how Vurv plans to handle the acquisition of other companies. From a product perspective, Vurv will integrate any new technology that it buys into its platform.
"We wouldn’t buy another company to run it as its own independent unit," Mercer said. The way an acquisition plays out at Vurv, he explained, is that the company assesses the business being purchased, eliminates redundancies and then integrates it. Meanwhile, from an operations standpoint, McGeorge said training is an essential component within the company.
"We are continuously educating our customer service specialists to get them caught up quickly whenever we bring in a new product," Mercer added.
Another question was whether Vurv would consider offshoring some of its operations.
"I’ll let my attorney answer that question," Cabrera said.
Mercer laughed and responded that it is an appealing idea, since offshoring would allow the company to work around the clock with its overseas counterparts and complete projects at a much faster rate. The cost savings is also attractive, he said. However, it seems upper management still has some ironing out to do.
"There are a lot of positive aspects about offshoring," Cabrera said. "But we would have to approach it with a lot of care."
Day 3—Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Talent Shortage—or Not? Tuesday morning kicked off with a panel discussion, moderated by columnist Bill Kutik, about technology and talent management, but the most interesting part of the debate revolved around a simple question: Are we facing a big talent shortage, or not?
Jason Corsello of the Yankee Group strongly believes that the shortage is real. He pointed to the recent announcement that Halliburton is moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai as proof that finding talent is a huge global issue. "[American] companies will increasingly look globally to fill their talent needs," Corsello said. But analyst Lisa Rowan of IDC challenged Corsello's statement, pointing out that India is short some 300,000 knowledge workers, and that in Italy, there are more retirees than people in the workforce. Even in China, Rowan said, with the largest workforce in the world, there is a struggle finding enough managers and skilled workers given the country's one-child policy.
The panel did agree on one thing—that social networking sites aren't living up to all the hype that they would become a huge new tool in the war for talent. Michael George, Vurv product evangelist (yes, that's his real title), noted that only 12 percent of companies are using such sites as a recruiting tool, and that 63 percent of those companies use them to decline candidates. Added Rowan: "Not too many people are paying for social network technology. ... I'm not convinced that Jobster or LinkedIn can make any money on this."
Vurv's new product pipeline: Vurv used the Revolution conference to lift the curtain on coming product attractions: CE 7.3, CE 7.4 and the Enterprise Suite. Vurv’s most cutting-edge platform—CE 7.3—became available to existing clients March 1. New customers will be able to get their hands on it starting in May.
The CE 7.3 platform combines Vurv’s talent acquisition software—CE, Aloha and Beyond—under one umbrella. Meanwhile, the talent management upgrade—CE 7.4—will be deployed in September. The crescendo, however, won’t come until 2008. That is when the marriage of CE 7.3 and CE 7.4 takes place, creating what the company touts as the first holistic talent management enterprise suite. According to Brett Tearney, vice president of product development, this product will integrate the main pillars of workforce management: acquisition, sourcing, recruiting, performance management, training and development, compensation and offboarding. The company’s goals are ambitious. The market is waiting to see whether Vurv can pull it off.
Early morning wake-up call: What would you do if a building was blown up in the middle of the night a few blocks from the hotel where you were staying. A good chunk of Vurv conference attendees would respond: sleep through it. That’s exactly how they reacted when the old Stardust Hotel and Casino was destroyed during a controlled implosion at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The Stardust, billed as the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1958, was a legendary Vegas institution famous for inspiring the Martin Scorsese movie "Casino" and giving Siegfried & Roy their start. It was shut down last year and will make way for the Echelon, a much more upscale resort with more than 5,000 rooms set to open in late 2010.
Although all Wynn Resort guests were warned about the early-morning explosion, some Vurv attendees forgot it was happening. "I was so embarrassed this morning when somebody asked me if I had heard the massive explosion," one conference attendee said. "I slept right through the whole thing." Let’s hope he was more awake during the conference.
The BS police: Michael George, product evangelist for Vurv, put his money where his mouth is. He invited the audience to call him out if he used any clichéd business phrases during his presentation. "Call me out if you catch me ‘changing the paradigm’ or ‘empowering anybody,’ " he said. The reward for catching him: a Vurv T-shirt. Luckily for George, he didn’t falter. He did, however, end up giving the shirts away to members of the audience who guessed the meaning of common e-terms that Gen-Yers use when texting—such as LOL, which stand for "laughing out loud" (I thought it meant "lots of luck!"). The crowd-pleaser, however, was HIOOC, which translates to: HELP! I’m out of coffee."
Day 2: Monday, March 12, 2007
Monday morning keynote: Steve Farber, who formerly worked for the Tom Peters Co., now owns his own business, Extreme Leadership Inc. Guess what topic he talked about? Yes, you’re right if you guessed Extreme Leadership.
Farber had some interesting things to say, but as someone who has heard so many business speakers, it was hard to really pull a lot from his message that I haven’t heard from so many others at conferences like this. His four qualities of an extreme leader—Cultivates Love, Generates Energy, Inspires Audacity and Provides Proof—are intriguing, but after hearing Farber’s morning speech, I can’t remember a lot of specifics from all he said. Maybe it was the morning-after effect here in Las Vegas, but the glut of conferences these days means that there are lots of speakers like Steve Farber who say a lot that doesn’t really get absorbed.
The CEO speaks: Vurv chief exec Derek Mercer gave the first of his two state-of-the-company talks (he will be doing a Q&A with other Vurv executives Wednesday morning). He says he’s not a public speaker—Mercer quoted Austin Powers, saying, "This is not my bag, baby"—but he’s open and accessible, and that makes him better than probably 90 percent of the speakers I hear on the road each year.
Mercer introduced some new Vurv executives, including COO Amy McGeorge, who joined the company this past year from CitiStreet. He emphasized that Vurv is a products company first and foremost and that it wants "our products to work fast, accurately and perfectly every time."
He also said that the company’s annual revenue is about $40 million and going to $50 million. Mercer added that the company’s balance sheet is "extraordinary," and that the amount of cash on hand and accounts receivable way outpace the company’s accounts payable. There are no big hires or big openings at Vurv in the near future, he said, adding, "We just want to execute quarter to quarter, month to month."
To PeopleClick or not to PeopleClick: There were some rumors floating around the conference about whether Vurv is getting ready to acquire rival PeopleClick. Vurv CEO Mercer didn’t speak to this point directly, but he did tell attendees that "we have a few acquisitions in the works." He pointedly said that Vurv is not looking to be bought out or to sell the company. "We are NOT in the getting-acquired mode—we are not at all," Mercer said. "We are just continuing to build our business model." He also said that there is VC money available should Vurv need a cash infusion to make acquisitions.
Day 1: Sunday, March 11, 2007
It's nice to be out of Florida: Given how many technology conferences are held in Florida, it’s refreshing to have the Vurv annual conference here in the dry Nevada desert instead of the tropical and humid Florida heat. Like most conferences, Vurv kicked off tonight with a cocktail reception with great food and an open bar, all sponsored by Monster (which seems to sponsor the food at a number of these conferences). The real action, however, starts Monday morning with a bright-and-early 8 a.m. kickoff session. It will undoubtedly be a tough morning to roll out of bed early tomorrow given the siren’s call of the Las Vegas Strip tonight.