An Independent HCM Software Review
A defining feature of Ultimate’s reputation is that it was in at the ground floor of moving HR software and technology into the cloud. When ex-ADP vice president of operations, Scott Scherr founded the Weston, Florida-based company back in 1990, he wanted an organization that would be, "continuously innovating and striving for product excellence”, and his clear vision was to become the industry leading provider for Payroll and HR professionals. Interestingly, after more than two decades of operation, Ultimate has remained true to that goal and resisted the temptations of diversification into providing broader Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) functions (unlike many HRMS vendors). The focus has remained firmly on payroll & benefits, HR and talent management. While potentially limiting, this narrow strategic focus on pure human capital management has in recent years resulted in consistent recognition by leading industry ‘names’ and technology analysts.
Becoming an Award-Winner
In a way, Ultimate could be seen as having paid its dues. The early years were spent patiently carving a niche in a marketplace dominated by the big four vendors (SAP, Infor, Oracle, and PeopleSoft) and true recognition has been awarded only relatively recently. The first of two turning points came in 1998, when an Initial Public Offering (IPO) saw the organization “move to Wall Street”. This strategy raised Ultimate’s profile significantly and, combined with some timely functionality enhancements, led to a number of reputation-enhancing awards—an upwards path that has continued to the current time, which finds Ultimate Software servicing over 2,400 clients across more than 115 countries and catering to a broad array of industry sectors.
As to those awards, specific product achievements in just the last few years would be:
- The 2010 "Optimas Award" from Workforce Management for workforce management initiatives that directly improve business results – the 2010 winners’ list also included such giants as Microsoft, IBM, and Infosys Technologies.
- The 2009 "Best of SaaS Showplace" award from THINKstrategies for production of tangible business benefits, including 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 Awards).
- The distinction of being the sole "Leader" in the 2008 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.
Furthermore, it’s not just Ultimate’s software that garners awards, when it comes to customer service and support, the laurels include:
- The 2011 Forrester "Groundswell Award" in recognition of the effectiveness of Ultimate's online customer community.
- The 2011 "SuperNova Award" from Constellation Research for successful application of emerging and disruptive technologies for the benefit of customers.
- A 2010 certification from the Service Capability & Performance (SCP) Certification program (for the 12th consecutive year).
And finally, moving from external to internal, from the point of view of Ultimate’s 1,200 employees (that cast a staggering 95% retention rate), the company took the number one spot as "Best Medium-Sized Companies to Work for in America" in both 2008 and 2009 as well as the 25th spot on FORTUNE’s 2012 Best Companies to Work For—not only creating great products and support, but also creating the right underpinning workplace culture.
Success in the Cloud
Going public might have been the first turning point for Ultimate, but the second significant move was the decision in 2002 to move away from selling payroll and HR software licenses in favor of deploying solutions via the software-as-a-service subscription model (SaaS). In fact, the company hasn’t issued a software license since 2009 and today recurring revenues in the form of subscriptions (and maintenance) total more than 75% of all sales. Today, Ultimate continues with its strategy of transitioning clients to a cloud environment, encouraging existing customers to migrate to a SaaS deployment. This strategy placed Ultimate at the forefront of the payroll technology industry’s adoption and exploitation of the cloud; however, it also simply reflects a necessity for any leading software house in the present market environment. Just as years ago, Ultimate made the move from DOS to ASP in its product design, so it continues to make the necessary technological shifts and changes to remain abreast (and oftentimes ahead) of the competition.
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