If you missed my intro blog, A New Rhythm in HCM, here’s the summary: I’m new to Forrester after more than 25 years working for software vendors including, most recently, SAP, where I was a part of the SAP SuccessFactors product leadership team. I’m very excited to be leading the reignition of Forrester’s human capital management and people strategy and operations practice area.

I’ve been on board about 60 days and have conducted more than 100 inquiries and briefings. I’ve been retained for consulting and advisory work. I’ve finalized my initial research agenda, and it’s underway, so I thought now would be a good time to share some initial thoughts around the most frequent questions I’ve received to date:

1) “What have you learned? What’s surprised you the most?” The gap between what a lot of vendors talk about and what customers need is even bigger than I suspected. Customers are reinventing key areas (i.e., talent acquisition, learning, or total rewards/benefits) and need help with how to do it. They also need solid strategies for attracting talent, improving retention, and boosting productivity and results. Vendors should be out front coming up with cool stuff . . . but not too far in front. My advice to vendors: Be right there next to your customers, with a more empathetic approach to their needs. Don’t be so far in front that you lose a pragmatic customer perspective. Focus on solving the CIO’s and CHRO’s problems, and bridge gaps between their different roles and expectations.

2) “Which (fill in your HCM term of choice) solution should I use?” Given the large variety of vendors in this market and continued innovation and investment (here’s a recent example from Dell and Microsoft), the answer is, unfortunately, “it depends.” My advice to customers: Start by thinking about your business objectives. I typically ask, “What’s the business reason for doing this?” An answer of “We want to move to the cloud” is not good enough. You will simply be moving the “HR file cabinet” from your office floor to a vendor’s cloud. Think about how your investment ties to and supports your overall business strategy and leads to measurable business results. Naturally, there are many other criteria, but starting with a solid business case with measurable business goals will help ensure that you’re on the right path. For additional inspiration on why, and what you should be considering, check out The Future Of Work Is An Adaptive Workforce.

3) “What types of research will I be doing?” I’m underway with a Forrester Tech Tide™ for HCM. It will help customers answer the following: “Which segments and solution areas make up the space? What is the maturity of solutions in these areas? Where should I prioritize my HCM investments? Why? What areas are contracting or expanding? Which vendors operate in which areas?” I’m also working on a piece about the new “core HR” solutions that will power the future of work. Following that, I will be looking at how these new core HR capabilities are being used to help support adaptive organizations (see above link) with continuous, comprehensive talent management. Meanwhile, I will also be working with several colleagues, including the renowned Liz Herbert on HCM solutions as a part of today’s digital operations platforms (yesterday’s ERP) and the super-smart Dave Johnson on employee experience topics.

4) “Will I be doing a Forrester Wave™?” Yes. The Wave for cloud HCM suites will kick off in Q4 of this year. You can keep tabs on what I’m up to by following me here.