Note: I was invited by Ultimate Software to attend their Dream Big user conference #UltiConnect to get a better understanding of their product. There a number of HR vendors that offer either our VP of Sales Rhonda Taylor or me this opportunity. We are never paid (nor would we accept, if offered, compensation) to attend an event, and we are not required to do anything in exchange for accepting these types of invitations. I chose to write this blog recapping my experience at the event.
Ultimate Software’s user conference (Dream Big, April 2-5, Las Vegas Nevada) from what I heard—unofficial—attracted over 3,500 customers. It included four days of keynotes, general sessions, breakout sessions (100+) and evening entertainment. The exhibit hall (Ultimate Experience) featured more than 50 vendor partners with exhibiting booths including:
@AccurateBG, @activpayroll, @VerifyEveryHire, @Benefitfocus,
@bluewaterlearn, @brainiersol, @BUSFWD, @businessolver,
@CloudPay , @CornerstoneInc, @covalence_io, @DandEConsulting,
@DiscoveryBen, @ebiinc, @eQuestLLC, @EquifaxInsights, @FirstAdvantage,
@FrascoInc , @gosagroup, @hireright, @hivetechhr , @hodgesmace,
@hrchitectnews, @HRMS1 , @HRsoft_Inc, @HumanityApp, @icims ,
@immedis , @indeed, @TURBOTAX, @mosaiccg , @NeoSystemsLLC ,
@weareotes, @OutMatchHCM, @plansource , @Presagia ,
@ProvidenceTechS , @rapidpaycard, @sabasoftware , @Sability , @stg_biz ,
@sterlingcheck, @taxcreditco , @waltontaxcredit, @wiseconsulting
Ultimate Experience also included about 10 “Ultimate Experience” stations for each of the Ultimate products/modules: Payroll and Tax, HR, Talent, Business Intelligence and Integration, HR Service Delivery, Time, Ultimate Services, etc. Each station was staffed by Ultimate personnel doing demos on big screens and answering questions from customers. The event was very well run in every aspect: logistics/layout, organization and quality of sessions, support staff, food, entertainment, etc.
One person (me) cannot possibly report on the overall conference experience. After all, there were over 100 mini breakout sessions. I attended most general sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, several breakout sessions, visited all 10+ Ultimate Experience booths (to get demos of Ultimate’s products), and spoke with a number of Ultimate customers.
As I return home, these are four things I am taking away from the event.
1. Technology is great but it is NOT why customers buy products. I understand why product development and R&D teams (and analysts) obsess with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and things like containers, etc. The benefits these technologies bring to products are real. But customers don’t care how you made that candidate match or the technologies that make distributing, promoting and applying for jobs seamless. They just want stuff to work and that helps them do their job better with limited hassles (no “death by clicks” as one Ultimate product manager jokingly said). Are you listening marketing departments? Of course the technologies that are under the Ultimate hood are super high tech and quite amazing (especially the AI platform Xander®) but when speaking with buyers, they mostly want to know what it allows them to do.
Sidenote: Twice a year at Ultimate Software, they allow their engineers to work on whatever they want for 48 hours. One of the major product enhancements announced at the event was the result of this perk. Pretty cool.
2. Culture matters. Ultimate is often recognized for their culture and has won lots of best-places-to-work awards. It’s refreshing to see an HR company that cares about people and has a culture and products that reinforce this commitment to kindness, compassion and charity. Don’t laugh, but too many companies and individuals in our industry seem to have forgotten the “human” in human resources. Ultimate made a big deal about their people-first culture and my conversations with employees (and customers) validated this. One customer (5k+ employees) told me that Ultimate’s values and culture were a big part of their decision to switch to Ultimate Software. No joke. This “culture” and employment branding stuff matters.
Sidenote: Ultimate announced their new UltiPro Giving App (free to all customers) that lets HR establish and manage giving campaigns. Employees can donate easily by phone or browser; payment is automatically withheld from paycheck.
3. Last year’s acquisition of French startup PeopleDoc for $300 million is a big deal. It’s the foundation for Ultimate’s file and case management and online help center offerings. Customers I spoke with loved it and it got quite the applause during the general session. Here’s what Trish McFarlane and Holger Mueller had to say about Case Management:
File Management and Case Management are a part of the HR Service Deliver module of Ultimate’s software. Here is a short video about HR Service Delivery:
4. User conferences matter (and compete with traditional conference and expos). Over 3,500 HR professionals showed up for Dream Connections 2019. It’s probably safe to assume more HR “buyers” show up at major HR vendor user conferences than many major HR trade shows. Why? They learn. It’s a big deal. How many companies would allow 2-3 of their HR team members to be at a conference for an entire week? They do when they are convinced the knowledge gained will help HR do their jobs better and maximize the ROI for the investment the company made in the software. A number of the HR attendees told me this was the only HR conference they would travel to this year. Interesting.
5. Ultimate (and most every major enterprise HRMS platform) has come a long way in 20 years. I’ve been in the HR technology space since the early 1990s. I remember when it was a big deal if your software allowed employees to update their personal information without contacting HR! A full day in the Ultimate Experience room getting demos of all of the different modules Ultimate offers reminded me of just how far HR technology has come. There is some serious technology under the hood of these HRMS platforms and it’s benefiting HR departments/employers, employees and candidates. And it’s only getting better.
In conclusion here is a Twitter recap of the event’s most popular tweets, who tweeted the most, who was mentioned the most and the hashtags used most often with #UltiConnect (from HRmarketer software). To get this data we analyzed approximately 3,000 tweets with hashtag #UltiConnect from April 1-4.