The HR technology industry has had many different lives since first adopting process automation in the 1990s.
Initially, there were providers creating customized software to address specific employee-centric needs of each customer. This already complicated the HR professionals’ relationships with their software providers, making it extremely difficult to implement necessary updates across the user base and keep up with emerging technology trends. With such complex processes tied to every aspect of employment — from hiring to performance management to learning and payroll — it’s easy to see how this space became very crowded, very quickly.
At the same time, technology as a whole completely transformed, becoming more accessible than ever with the majority of providers moving to a Software-as-a-Service, or cloud-based, model. Some software companies built this way to start; others migrated their on-premise clients onto what’s commonly called SaaS, favoring their newfound ability to host applications and data online and utilize shared computing resources. This brought down the cost of technology implementations and allowed for faster, better software upgrades.
SaaS became the new go-to for technology, but many organizations were already looking around the corner to what was next — Platform-as-a-Service. While SaaS allows companies to more easily manage necessary computing resources like networks and servers, PaaS essentially allows more tools to be brought to market quickly, helping to simplify the actual coding and deployment of applications.
SaaS is a dream for technology buyers, while PaaS is a dream for software developers. The benefit will soon trickle down to end-users because more software products will be available more quickly, and all accessed through a common user interface.
One of the industry’s biggest success stories of recent years is undoubtedly Salesforce.com, a company that has addressed customers’ desires for easy-to-use software that can support a variety of business transactions, from marketing automation to customer relationship management to service ticketing, within one platform via strong integrations with other technology providers. By empowering customers with a third-party marketplace, AppExchange, to select the point solutions best-suited for their unique needs and allowing them to plug into the force.com platform, salesforce.com emerged as the dominant player in the PaaS movement.
The company’s ability to embrace PaaS helped salesforce.com address one of the two top concerns of every CEO: sales. (CEOs’ second top concern? Acquiring and retaining the right talent.)
And while a Platform-as-a-Service leader in sales operations exists — and is thriving — the market is ripe for a platform that can provide similar support to businesses’ talent acquisition efforts. Consider this: The U.S. recruiting market is valued at $130 billion with talent acquisition in particular comprising $8.5 billion of that.
Employers realize the importance of investing in the right people to drive their business strategies, and they want technology that fosters synchronization of HR processes with simple integrations that offer the benefit of a unified software’s look and feel, but with best-of-breed tools behind the scenes to power reporting across different solutions.
Gartner reports that the PaaS segment has shown the most impressive growth across the entire enterprise software market. Talent acquisition leaders are discovering how PaaS may become the new SaaS — allowing HR professionals to identify, test, manage and report on all of the solutions their business needs from one system, one platform of record. Talent data management doesn’t have to be a mystifying process anymore.
The ability to build a PaaS solution or app-style marketplace hinges on each provider’s interest in opening programming interfaces to their platforms and working closely with selected application vendors as partners. Talent acquisition does not live within a silo in the HR industry, and neither should its dedicated technology. With smart, simple user interface design, talent acquisition platforms have the opportunity to become the central starting point for all employee-centric services, creating a much-needed category to address both of the C-level’s top business concerns.
Susan Vitale is chief marketing officer at iCIMS.