I’m thrilled to see “people” talked about as a major focus of business. Company executives recognize that people are critical to sustainable organizational growth. Talent is now a C-level priority. People development is a responsibility of all managers and leaders, not just the HR department. Great to hear! Vendors see talent management as a hot space and are strategically lining up to meet business needs — enter IBM!

In the last year, each of the large vendors has taken a different approach. SAP bought SuccessFactors, which had already bought Plateau in order to quickly beef up its SaaS offering in talent management. Oracle grabbed Taleo because it needed talent acquisition and learning for the Fusion product. Now IBM announces its intention to integrate Kenexa closely with its social capabilities in Connections. The briefings at this stage are at a very high level. IBM and Kenexa executives talked a lot about “social business ROI” and “smarter workforce.” What isn’t clear is whether this is more of a social play rather than an integration of the full Kenexa functionality. Kenexa has always said that software is only a part of its offerings. I suspect that Kenexa’s RPO business and strong employee assessment and survey work were the main attractions for IBM. Kenexa has a good recruiting offering too, but it is still working on a competitive performance management/talent management offering. Its learning is from OutStart, a mid-level LMS/LCMS that Kenexa acquired recently. OutStart not a top LMS provider. Before its acquisition by Kenexa, OutStart had bought Hot Lava, a company in the mobile space that delivers and tracks all types of device independent content. It’s unclear to me how (or if) these components factor into IBM’s long-term vision. IBM is placing so much emphasis on social that I expect IBM will consume Kenexa and use it to beef up what talent offerings it has within its strong social context with Connections – although I’m not sure exactly how yet. But, if that were the case, why didn’t IBM buy Saba with whom they have had a relationship for years? Saba certainly has made a social push in the last couple of years and they have an LMS that’s known internationally.

IBM has always been forward-looking in thinking about the role of people in an organization. They were early to the market with Connections, a very successful social application. I believe IBM will carefully assess what Kenexa technology they want to build out and integrate with social. I expect the Kenexa name will go away. Kenexa services business is a gem for IBM. Kenexa promises continued customer support but as the companies integrate, there will be changes and customers will have to break away or accept IBM "Talent Management" with a strong dose of social.