An Independent HCM Software Review
One of the first companies to embrace the idea of "HR in the cloud", Weston, Florida's Ultimate Software was founded in 1990 by Scott Scherr (former VP of Operations for competitor company ADP) with the express intent of "continuously innovating and striving for product excellence"—to become the industry's best or "ultimate" software for HR and payroll professionals. Indeed, aspirations to take on broader Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) functions have not been a part of Ultimate's strategic roadmap, and unlike many of the larger vendors within the HRMS software space (and even some of Ultimate's smaller, more direct competitors) the company's focus has remained exclusively on HR, benefits, payroll, and talent management. While not without its drawbacks, this strategy of providing a singular end-to-end solution for human capital management has resulted in consistent recognition by leading industry experts and technology analysts over the past several years. Namely, as it pertains to Ultimate's offerings, the company has garnered specific praise in the form of:
- The 2010 "Optimas Award" from Workforce Management for workforce management initiatives that directly improve business results—putting Ultimate in the company of other 2010 Optimas winners including Microsoft, IBM, and Infosys Technologies.
- The 2009 "Best of SaaS Showplace" award by THINKstrategy for producing tangible business benefits, such as lower costs, faster operations, and greater profitability for users.
- The 2009 "Favorite New SaaS Product" and 2008 "Best Product Development Team" award from the American Business Awards (People's Choice Stevie's Awards).
- The 2008 distinction of being the sole "Leader" in the Forrester Wave report on Human Resource Management Systems in the U.S. Midmarket—garnering the top score for product strategy and vision, cost and value, and overall current offering.
Further, for the company's efforts in customer service, recognition has been given in the form of:
- The 2011 "Groundswell Award" from Forrester for the effectiveness of Ultimate's online customer community.
- The 2011 "SuperNova Award" from Constellation Research for successfully applying emerging and disruptive technologies to the benefit of customers.
- The 2010 certification from the Service Capability & Performance (SCP) Certification program—marking the 12th consecutive year Ultimate had received the award.
And finally, in recognition from its nearly 1,200 employees, Ultimate was ranked as #1 in the category of "Best Medium-Sized Companies to Work for in America" for both 2008 and 2009—all signs that clearly suggest Ultimate Software's senior leadership is providing the right culture for success.
From Scrappy Start-up to Sizeable Success
Though Ultimate Software has been providing HR software solutions for over 2 decades, the majority of the firm's success has only come recently; due in no large part to the crowding out of the market by SIOPS (SAP, Infor, Oracle, and PeopleSoft) during the company's earlier years. After an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 1998 that put the organization in the hands of Wall Street though, the tides started to turn for Ultimate. Garnering a slew of industry awards and pairing those with some well-timed functionality enhancements gave the company the boost it needed with customers and lead Ultimate Software to where it is today—2,200+ customers and representation in a broad array of industries.
Still, much of the success that propelled Ultimate can be attributed to the strategic decision implemented in 2002 to move away from selling HR software licenses in favor of delivering HR solutions through the software as a service subscription model. Indeed, as of 2009, no additional software licenses were issued, and today recurring revenues in the form of subscriptions (and maintenance) total 75+% of all sales. Though far from finished with the sun-setting of those traditional licensing arrangements, Ultimate is attempting as best it can to transition to a complete SaaS environment; moving as many customers as possible onto the same instance of the cloud software. These efforts represent not only the changing tide of the HR software industry, but also the efforts that leading companies have to go through to keep up. Ultimate Software has always been a company that keeps pace with technology evolution and can even trace roots back to their first solution which was DOS-based. However, just as Ultimate Software changed from DOS to ASP when the time came, this latest organizational reinvention may well prove to be the transition that solidifies the company's competitive positioning and future. Here, we review Ultimate Software's SaaS solution - UltiPro Enterprise – in more detail.
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