Rising Stars: The Collaborative Executioner

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Do your employees think enough about your customers? The answer probably depends on whether you think they should. SuccessFactors doesn’t leave that question open for discussion.

Like fellow 2010 Rising Star Workday, SuccessFactors is a provider of software designed to tackle processes involving human resources—staffing, training, managing, and so on. It’s a segment that some have called human capital management (HCM), and there’s traditionally a bold line separating those systems from CRM software. But the reality is that the people overseen by HCM systems are the people interacting with customers on a daily basis via your CRM system. Hire the wrong salesperson, or mistrain a particular marketer, or fail to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a customer service rep, and all your best CRM efforts are for naught.

To date, only a handful of vendors and observers seem prepared to take that holistic view. Some, such as Predrag Jakovljevic, principal analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, acknowledge the CRM-related benefits in what Jakovljevic calls “setting performance targets for customer-facing employees.” And performance-related functions, he says, are what SuccessFactors is quite good at. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider emphasizes performance management and (thanks to recent acquisition CubeTree) collaboration, but only as steps toward its true Promised Land: execution of customer-facing business goals, or what the company calls Business Execution.

Founded in 2001, SuccessFactors went public in November 2007, and has since spent heavily on sales and marketing, not to mention the bang-bang 2010 acquisitions of analytics specialist Inform Business Impact (for $40.5 million) and collaboration-software provider CubeTree (for another $50 million). Jakovljevic refers to the CubeTree offering as being “similar to Chatter,” the much-buzzed-about product made available this year by SaaS pioneer Salesforce.com. “With the acquisition of CubeTree, SuccessFactors will begin to push the value of social-enabled business processes,” says Rob Koplowitz, principal analyst at Forrester Research. 

And there are a lot of SuccessFactors users ready to receive that value—more than 8 million of them, in fact (up from approximately 300,000 users in 2003), perhaps 2.1 million of which reportedly belong to Wal-Mart. 

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