Zach Thomas By Zach Thomas

HR Technology (not “tech” according to show chairman Bill Kutik) was again a success despite economic woes constricting travel budgets — or maybe it was highly attended because arrangements to get to the windy city were made a few months back. In any case, here are some key take aways:

11th Annual Analyst Panel: I was invited to participate in the highest attended analyst panel session (1,268 people to be exact) alongside other leading analysts and consultants. View the results. The topics varied from Web 2.0 to the impact this economy will have on product sales. Bill Kutik (moderator) asked the audience a series of questions with electronic voting. One interesting tidbit is that two-thirds of user companies did not expect their HR technology spend to get cut. We will have the exact numbers later this week — can’t wait to see the raw numbers.

Web 2.0 Was The Buzz: All vendors had some mention of Web 2.0 ranging from the integration of a social network to announcing new UIs with technologies like Ajax (not sure the latter qualifies as Web 2.0), and there was a panel with practitioners explaining how they used Web 2.0 in the enterprise. I hosted an expert session that was a mixture of vendor and user companies. We had large healthcare, higher education, and high tech companies represented. As you might expect the high tech firms were much further down the Web 2.0 path than the other firms.

The Vendor Shootout: For those not familiar with the vendor shootout here is the scoop — vendors self select to present scripted product demos, their CEO presents, the crowd votes, and a winner is selected. This year’s vendor shootout was between Authoria, Cornerstone OnDemand,, and Softscape. It was intended to show the entire talent life cycle from hiring through performance management, compensation, etc., but was really more geared towards development with little emphasis on recruiting — probably because very few vendors have depth of functionality across all pillars of talent management.
The results? The audience choice was clearly Authoria — though I think this was largely due to the showmanship of their CEO Tod Loofbourrow and the sharpness of the UI. So I have to agree with Jason Corsello that these ratings should be taken very lightly.

There was a whole lot more to see and experience at the show from Taleo again having Cirque du Soleil (a customer of theirs) acrobats flying above their booth, to Workscape giving away a new Saturn Hybrid SUV, to too many product releases to count, and as always, great parties and dinners sponsored by technology providers. Was it the last hurrah before we all hunker down to weather the economic storm? I sure hope not. HR technology should be a cornerstone of any firm’s plans to wring out inefficiencies and cut unnecessary costs.

Hope to see you all there again next year!