What Development Plan Enhancements in SumTotal 19.3 tell Us about the Need for Unified HCM

Dec 03, 2019

What Development Plan Enhancements in SumTotal 19.3 tell Us about the Need for Unified HCM

The Development Plan changes in SumTotal 19.3 are relatively minor, but reviewing them today reminded us how SumTotal is making investments in the user experience and usefulness of its enterprise software. 

Other than user interface improvements in the Development Plan, the changes are about interoperability. Here, it’s about how Talent Management and Learning Management work together to support and encourage lifelong learning. 

  • Users can now add Training Plans mapped to jobs in Career Path to their Development Plan, adding a new dimension to individual career development. 
  • Administrators can map a proficiency gap in Talent to a learning activity expertise level. This change enables the Development Wizard to generate recommended activities in Learn to address competency gaps for individual users. 
  • The Development Wizard now has options to enable competency self-assessment and manager assessment, improving the process for identifying strengths and proficiency gaps. 

The backbone of these activities is your competency structure, but your competencies inform much more than employee development. If youre maintaining your competency libraries and updating them as current and future skill needs change, they drive.

  • the skills you recruit in your talent acquisition platform.
  • the assessments you use to determine the potential for advancement. 
  • performance and feedback functions, including 360 reviews, 
  • compensation framework and practices.
  • succession planning and career pathing activities, and 
  • workforce planning, including strategies for addressing skill gaps. 

HR teams have been telling us for two decades they need unified software platforms for managing all their functionsand technology providers have responded, but with mixed success.

The Promise of the Cloud 

One promise of HR’s migration to the cloud was to provide a more integrated suite of tools, and vendors approached that demand in a variety of ways. 

Starting in the late 90s and earlier, startups began springing up to provide single-function platforms such as learning or performance management. They attempted to broaden their appeal, often by partnering with other startups. For example, in the early 2000s we integrated performance management in Success Factors with the SumTotal LMS. The partnerships often lasted only long enough for each company to develop a solution to replace the partnership. 

These companies expanded their offerings beyond their core capability, but the results were not as good as those companies that specialized, but they were a lot less costly and easier to implement than the tools provided by major ERP vendors. It was about this time that that the debate between “unified systems” and “best-of-breed” proponents arose. 

Toward the end of that decade, Workday launched its unified Finance and HR platform, sparking ERP vendors to acquire cloud HR platforms to cobble together centralized systems, with varying degrees of success. Over the next few yearspayroll vendors and LMS providers (like SumTotal) developed unified HR platforms. 

In recent years, established companies have struggled to keep up with the growth in the industry. Intelligent tools and experience platforms are coming on strong, as are wellness tools, assessment platforms, self-directed learning, and many other innovations.

The Debate Continues 

The single platform versus best-of-breed debate has been going on for years and will continue. We can make a strong case for native dataflow and ease in reporting across all HR applications in a unified suite. We can also argue that technology providers who specialize in one area are almost always more capable than those who must manage the complexity of an entire suite. The pace of innovation tells us that HR teams will always have several software platforms, and a dozen will not be unusual. 

Your business strategy should drive your technology strategy. An organization with diverse audiences, multiple locations, and rigid compliance requirements, unified platform built around an LMS may be your best choice. If your company’s recruiting needs demand that you use the best talent acquisition system available, you won’t want to settle for a simple applicant tracking system. 

Of one thing we can be sure: creating an employee experience that will attract, develop, and retain the best talent requires automated HR functions that work well together. 
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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