"The Truth Might Make You Uncomfortable"

Author: Steve Cohen

Originally from New York but my wife and I moved to Tampa Florida in 2012. I have spent my professional career in sales and sales leadership with extensive experience in the HR services and technology space. I have two daughters age 16 and 19. I feel there is no such thing as work life balance if you strive for excellence in your career but I do believe in counter balance. I am a huge Florida Panthers Hockey fan and I enjoy the gym as well training in the Krav Maga Martial Arts.

I thoroughly enjoy coaching young adults and helping them navigate their feelings and life challenges. It is pretty common to find me around the dinner table coaching my kids and their friends.


I have often wondered what being a mama’s boy really meant.  Growing up in New York, getting called a mama’s boy wasn’t exactly what you considered to be a compliment. It usually meant that you were weak, cowardly, and reliant on your mother to take care of you and although I was called a mama’s boy far too often, I am also personally guilty of using this expression against others in a negative way. 

When I was younger, I remember being called a mama’s boy by my friends and teammates when I would rush home to be on time for dinner, or when I would meet my mom on time for a pick up from hockey practice, or even when I would reject drugs or alcohol at parties. I hated this expression for it made me feel weak, less of a man somehow.

There’s one occasion I remember specifically- my junior year of high school when my mom brought me a jacket to school because the weather was getting colder and she didn’t want me to get sick again.  As I reflect on that day 40 some years ago, I still wish that they didn’t announce the jacket delivery on the school loud speaker during homeroom.

During my college years away in San Diego, I would talk at length on the phone with my mom and have detailed conversations about school, friends, and my general well-being. Somehow, these “normal” mother and son conversations always seemed to generate some poke or jab from at least one of my roommates that often led to yet another mama’s boy joke.

Now that I was older, the mama’s boy jokes didn’t taunt me nearly as much as they did when I was younger. Instead the continuous jokes made me curious if my relationship with my mom was different than those around me and made me really question what being a mama’s boy truly meant. Maybe being called a mama’s boy wasn’t that bad after all? But this wasn’t a topic that most men discussed in the late 80’s & 90’s.

When I got married, my wife was appreciative of my relationship with my mom and never tried to drive a wedge between us or be disruptive to our relationship.  My mom knew her boundaries, but that didn’t mean I didn’t council with her about raising a family and how to maintain a healthy marriage. I think it is so important for men to have someone they can confide in that has no hidden agenda.  Let’s face it, we are very lucky if we have three people on the planet that actually truly care about us, and for me, one of those people has always been, and will always be my mom. 

My wife and I are raising two daughters and over the years, I have found the dynamics of a mother daughter relationship to be very different, but there is still a common thread. When our children are happy, my wife is happy. When my children are sad, my wife is sad. This emotional connection and the ability to feel what another is feeling completely astounds me. How many people out there really feel when you feel?  How many people lose sleep at night worrying about you?

My mom is now in her early 80’s and her health is failing. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and I know not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about me. I am 54 and my mom still calls me every other day to ask me how I feel, how’s the job, kids and wife and if I made it home safe from my business trip. She is my raving fan and looking back, I don’t regret one day or minute of my life being a mama’s boy. 

Maybe it’s time we change the dynamics around being a mama’s boy by teaching sons from a very young age to embrace and cherish the unconditional love our moms provide us with and to celebrate, honor, and respect mothers far beyond the second Sunday in May.

Recently, I was asked by someone half my age, “Are you a mama’s boy”?  My answer, “YOU ARE DAMN RIGHT I AM!”

I Can No Longer Protect You or Can I?

At a recent sporting event, my youngest daughter was verbally assaulted by drunk fan, but fortunately, I was there to defend her. This incident actually sparked me to write this blog as the reality set in that I won’t always be there to protect her.  I will share that I was very proud of my daughter’s composure during the incident and I left the arena encouraged by her maturity in the wake of a very disturbing situation.

From the day a child is born, mom and dads are overcome with the natural instinct to protect our kids.  Whether girl or boy, we are willing to sacrifice our own lives so that our kids can be safe, healthy, and happy.  Every parent worries about their children’s well-being 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even the slightest sign of an illness can ruin your day and something more serious can completely destroy you.  So when do we stop worrying?  When can we come up for air and do we ever shift from protector and nurturer to just nurturer?

I am a father of two daughters, ages 16 and 20, and maybe men worry more about their girls than boys but according to my Dad, the worry is just different. From the time they are toddlers, we are constantly coaching, loving, guiding, teaching, and often hovering to protect them.  From what to eat, to what to wear, the importance of faith and education, and the type of people they should surround themselves with, we tackle these discussions one at a time and repetitively.  As they mature into young men and women, we have the dreaded discussion about sex and the tough conversations about what kind of character traits, history, and behaviors our kids should be looking for in a significant other to date or potentially share their heart with and even their lives with.

I have come to the conclusion that there is not a parent out there who has found the perfect balance between being a mentor, coach, parent, and friend that provides the right dose of guidance, discipline and encouragement.  In a blink of an eye, if we are not careful, our kids can find themselves headed down a path that may not end well. The wrong friends, bad health choices, bad career guidance or simply no healthy relationships to reference all play a role in the outcomes.

If not us, who else should we trust with our kids?

So what do we know anyway, right? Just ask any teenager or adolescent and they will gladly share with you how they believe their parents DON’T GET IT, DON’T UNDERSTAND and TIMES ARE DIFFERENT.  Somehow they think we are robots and we don’t hurt, love and struggle and that our life experience is not relevant.  I share with new parents that all kids become judgmental so be prepared to have your credibility challenged.  Just because you aren’t a perfect role model doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be present in your kids’ lives.  Being an active, engaged parent and looking out for your kids is not a luxury or an option, it’s your primary job second to nothing else in your life.  If you aren’t present, engaged and willing to deal with the angst that comes with it, you may have failed them.

Being present, engaged and willing to have the tough and sometimes confrontational discussions can be very draining emotionally and can often lead to parents disengaging. If you are reading this and feeling discouraged, I urge you to find the energy by looking at all the good in your children to help fix what might be broken, as you may not get another shot at it.  Our kids need us!!!

We all struggle as parents with drawing the fine line between knowing when to step in and when to back off, especially when we are watching them make a mistake that may have long-term consequences. Almost every parent will tell you that if you push too hard they will often deliberately continue the behavior you fear most.  Are we supposed to watch a train wreck? Do we risk it? Is our job only to give guidance and it’s up to them to either take it or ignore it?  Frankly what choices do we have?

Maybe society survived for thousands of years because parents were active in determining their kid’s choices. Have we swung too far the other way? Have we become complacent? Have we caved to the outside pressures which are more powerful than our spoken words?  I don’t know all of the answers, but divorce rates continue to climb, kids are coming back home after college with no direction, 1 in 8 teenagers are suffering from depression, and in my opinion, women are being more objectified today than three decades ago.

I have concluded that despite all of the guidance from those who I respect and admire and regardless of how exhausting it may be, I will do my part to ensure I protect my kids from what they don’t see happening in their blind spots. That is my job and it’s my privilege to have this assignment.

Love, Dad

Please share your feedback and feel free to respond to the blog with your answers to these questions.


Off to College- Letter to My Daughter

Dear Daughter,

As I sat in my dorm room with no distractions, I read the words written for me by the person in my life that is my hero. His guidance to me as a young man has stayed with me for over three decades and I can only hope that this letter provides you some guidance as my Dad’s letter did for me.

Let me start by sharing with you how much I love you. There are no words to describe how deep a Father’s love is for his daughters. The day God blessed me with you will always be the best day of my life.

I also want to take a moment to apologize for not always being the perfect Dad. My personal and professional frustrations often have taken a toll on me. As a maturing woman, I think it’s important for you to understand that men often associate their purpose in life with their financial and career accomplishments. I hope you will forgive me for not always being present, positive, or engaged. Through the trials and tribulations, I can assure you that family has always been the most important thing for me. It has been a privilege watching you grow into the wonderful woman you have become..

I am so grateful that you have had your mom as a role model. I hope you will begin to understand what a rock star your mom is and the amazing foundation she laid out for you to be a strong, independent, confident woman. Through her unwavering support of each member of this family, she has taught you what being completely unselfish looks like and what true love feels like.

High School is full of drama and you did your very best to navigate it. I am happy that you made some new friends and equally sad for you that you lost some old ones. You are about to embark on one of the most exciting chapters of your life so leave the past in the past. The bonds you may have developed with people from your childhood often fade, but the new relationships you form over the next 4-8 years will have the most impact on your future. Always remember to never let anyone or anything define you!!!!

Your educational opportunity, meeting new people with different views, and experiences are all part of this new chapter. As you’re walking through campus on a beautiful day in Tallahassee, just stop, soak it in, take a moment to appreciate your beautiful life and just smile.

You are officially off to college, so please take what I have taught you and make good decisions. Respect yourself, take care of your body, live by the moral code that is the foundation of the person you are.  Meet new people and avoid being judgmental. Most of the students you will meet are trying to figure shit out just like you. Trust no one and keep your guard up at all times for nobody is there to protect you. This world can be a scary place and I don’t want you to be a victim.

Please keep in touch with your sister on a regular basis. You have been her role model, her idol, and she has a deep love for you. Find it in your heart to continue a relationship with her. A bond with a sister who loves you can be the greatest blessing of all and if you are lucky, she will emerge as your best friend in the years to come. 

Most likely, you will lose one, if not more than one, of your Grandparents over the next 4 years. Understand that nothing brings them more joy than getting a direct call from you.  Avoid Snap Crap for 5 minutes and just call them to check in. I promise you that you will cherish your last conversations with them.

I am personally overwhelmed by the thought of not seeing you every day. You have been more than a daughter to me, for you have been my closest friend and companion. I may need to text you often as I adjust to this new chapter of my life.

Find balance at college, but remember why you are there.  Keep your eye on the goal at all times so that you can prioritize what’s most important.  Your grades must come first and fun second. These 4 years will fly by and I can assure you that you won’t remember all of the parties you attended, but your academic results will significantly determine your next chapter.

I love you very much and I am so proud of you.

Love your biggest fan,


I Am Sorry, but There is No Heartbeat

Did you know that according to the CDC, stillbirths impact about 1% of all US pregnancies or 25,000 stillbirths a year? I personally had no idea until it happened to my wife and I just over 20 years ago.

I decided to write this blog as a tribute to my wife and her courage, but also with the hope that I can help other men who have gone through this or may go through this horrible experience.

After a miscarriage and losing a baby due to anencephaly, my wife and I were thrilled that we were pregnant again with a baby boy. We were in our 8th month when my wife experienced an unusually rough night of excessive baby kicking. Since it was unusual, we decided that we should go for a checkup the following morning.  The words that every expecting parent fears most seemed to echo through the doctor’s office that morning, “I am sorry, but there is no heartbeat”.

Nobody ever asked me directly what it felt like to hear this news, but I can share with you that I was overtaken with anger and I couldn’t find the courage to look at my wife.  I knew my priority was to support her as she was about to go through a full labor process. No words can help a woman through this and I don’t think we spoke but just a few words leading up to the delivery.

What nobody prepared me for was the decisions I would need to make the next day. Would we hold the baby, name him, bury him, or have a funeral? I was receiving guidance from strangers and loved ones who had never gone through this experience. I reached out to my spiritual leader who advised me that my religion didn’t recognize birth or death in this fashion. I will never forgive him for that. There were leaflets distributed, but I couldn’t bring myself to read them. We received guidance from a counselor who shared that many families choose not to hold the baby, for it’s often more painful long term.

I will share with my readers that not holding him was the worst decision I made that day and there is a gaping hole in my heart as a result of it. We elected to not have a funeral, but my parents made the decision to have him buried at a local cemetery. I think my Dad knew that one day, I would want to visit the grave to find closure. We made that visit 10 years later, and though extremely painful, it was also healing. The unmarked grave now has a beautiful headstone.

There was a consistent message from those that loved me most- stay strong for your wife as she needs you.  Get back to work, get back to life, so life can begin again.  This is how we as humans survive and I did just that.

As I reflect back, we needed counseling, we needed to mourn more effectively, and we needed to grieve. Men, we are not often asked, are you okay, truly how are you, what are you thinking, or what are you feeling?  I encourage men that may be going through this to find time to mourn, share your emotions with those you trust, and recognize that you too have suffered deeply. It’s okay to feel the pain and talking about it will help you heal. For those reading this blog, if you have a friend who is dealing with this tragedy, don’t be afraid to talk about it. This is something most parents don’t share outside their inner circle.

For those that don’t know me personally, my wife never gave up on having a family and she showed unprecedented courage to try again. Today, we have two beautiful daughters and to say that we love our girls is an understatement.

The Power of a Single HCM Application

Multi-generational, virtual, and global workforces have added a new layer of complexity to the traditional functions of HR, Payroll, Benefits, and Talent Management. Attempting to manage all of these functions via disparate solutions is proving to be a major challenge for HR leaders, yet many organizations still operate off of 3-4 systems.

In response to the SMB client driving up the demand for a single system of record for all things HR, both traditional service bureaus and HR technology vendors began developing and promoting an all-in-one, unified, single HCM platform.  

Some vendors bolted on applications, while other vendors developed additional functionality, established partners, or designed an entirely new HCM system from the ground up. The outcomes for the end-user can vary significantly depending on the path chosen by the vendor. This is why it’s ultra-important that both the functionary and executive decision makers understand exactly what they’re investing in before signing a contract.

The HR department is under a lot of pressure having to perform many functions and derive the greatest value from their organization’s most valuable asset- their people. HR departments need a system that they can rely on and can serve as the backbone of the HR department to attract, engage, and retain employees and efficiently administer back office HR and Payroll functions.


1. Improve Employee and HR Productivity

HR departments are relieved of the cumbersome, time consuming, administrative tasks often associated with employee master file maintenance. One application for complete employee lifecycle management eliminates paper-based processes, multiple spreadsheets needed to produce reports, and the transferring of data between various modules that aren’t always compatible. With Mobile apps and user-friendly self-service functionality, employees are empowered to manage their core personnel data, enroll in benefits, self-onboard, record time, and conduct reviews.

2. Boost Employee Engagement

With only 32% of all U.S. employees engaged, HR Leaders continue to be challenged to navigate the demands of a virtual and multi-generational workforce. Keeping employees engaged and developing a culture that attracts and retains top talent is the talk track at every HR table across the country. From agriculture to the technology sector, employees expect real-time feedback, instant access to information, and the ability to easily collaborate and share information with their colleagues in a single place.

3. Better Data

HR data is the foundation of making sound business decisions. Pulling data from multiple systems to generate reports is frustrating to HR leaders, revealing gaps between systems and requiring extended employee training. With a single data record for all things HR, you can easily access data and create instant reports on everything from recruitment to retirement. A single employee record stored in the cloud ensures that a file never gets misplaced or misfiled and that data is always consistent and accurate. Data on its own is a core reason as to why 33% of organizations are willing to sacrifice feature capabilities for a single vendor platform that offers a single source of truth.


A single source of truth, it’s the latest buzz in this industry- so what exactly is it?

It suggests that HR should drive an organization’s strategy from a single platform that consists of real-time, meaningful analytics with only one copy of all transactional data. This single source of truth provides critical guidance for all of your talent management decisions and aligns every department in the organization.

A single source of truth is the supporting foundation for AI (Artificial Intelligence), PA (Predictive Analytics), and a 100% mobile employee and manager experience.

Letter to My Daughter

I know how overwhelming life can be at times and the anxiety you have over your life choices. The first step to finding balance is to learn how to cut yourself a break. You have an entire life ahead of you and there will be bumps and bruises and setbacks along the way. Your goals will shift and the journey is often unpredictable. If you stay focused on a few goals, stay positive in the wake of negativity, you’ll be just fine and maybe even Great.

“Focus on what is right in your life to find the energy to fix what appears to be broken.”

I found by creating a list of all the wonderful things I’ve accomplished and can still accomplish, I find my way back to center.

It’s the fine balance between living in the Here and Now, verse looking in your rear view mirror or only looking ahead. Most people will tell you only look forward and never backwards but this is not realistic.  I think it’s equally important to cherish what you have accomplished and also learn how to forgive yourself for a past failure. None of us are perfect and learning how to forgive yourself may be one of the most important things you learn to do.

Here are some of the behaviors that are helping me that hopefully can help you:

  • Find new friends and people in my life that can inspire you and bring out the best in you. Decide today to rid yourself of all people that are toxic in your life.
  • Take care of yourself physically and mentally. This means being a bit more selfish with your time. You must prioritize your wellness for you only have one life to live.
  • Make a better effort to love those around you and make sure they know how you love them and appreciate them. A simple thank you, I love you message goes along way.
  • Spend more quality time with my mother and father for their hourglass is not full of sand. There are no life contracts and those people you love most can be taken from you in a blink of an eye.
  • Narrow down your professional and personal objectives. Focus on the vital few verse the many. It’s the vital few that will yield the most results.
  • Chill the Fuck out and have some Fun!!!!!

Always remember you are not a quitter and you didn’t quit anything. You took your pursuit as far as the journey was meant to be. In fact, you had the courage to pursue everything vs being a coward and not facing challenging goals. That is what you must tell yourself every day.

That drive to attempt what is often a huge undertaking will prevail for you. You never stop the pursuit of a new journey just because the others didn’t work out as you hoped.

We are fighters with big dreams which often comes with a price of disappointment. Many more journeys are to come with many more setbacks ahead. I promise you that sprinkled in there will be the life highlights, special moments, memories and some amazing accomplishments.

Now dust yourself off and be the courageous talented young women I know you are.

Love, Dad


So much for the house with the white picket fence

If you are under the age of 30 you most likely are confused by the title of this blog.  A house with a white picket fence, what’s that all about?  Believe it or not this simple sentence once helped define the American dream.  We were told to stay in school, work hard, get a job, fall in love, have kids and raise a family. If we were successful we may even own a home with our own backyard where our kids could play and be safe.  We were taught to respect authority, take care of our elders, honor our country, live by a strong moral code and regardless of your religious background embrace God.  We were assured if we worked hard and remained loyal to our employers they would indeed be loyal to us. During Sunday night dinners our parents encouraged us to get a good paying job with a good company and the House with the White Picket fence would be attainable.

This was the story board for so many of us and it created a sense of purpose, family and community.  A pathway to the all so elusive state of happiness.  Generations of Americans had a common goal to work hard, be loyal to our employers and to those that helped us along the way. We knew our neighbors and for many of us, our Uncles and Aunts, Grandparents and Cousins were all part of our upbringing and core to our support system.

Much has changed over the past two decades 

The endless stream of content delivery of extravagant life styles, over indulgence and gluttony has distorted what the goal should be and how people should conduct themselves.

Employers are more focused on shareholder value and wealth for the very few. As employers continue to demonstrate their lack of loyalty to their employees they have created an entire workforce that demonstrates no loyalty to those who employ them.

Innovation has changed the way in which we engage other people and not for the better.  Women and men are judged on images and not substance for all you need to do is swipe left or right.

Working hard is not good enough for we live and work in such an extreme competitive environment.  Getting an education is no longer of high value unless you graduate from a top university with an advanced degree and that may not be good enough.  Our kids are measured solely on their test scores the schools they attend.  The system is designed to make our kids feel like they are under achievers if they don’t attend the top 10% of the university system. Attending a reputable major university and getting solid grades is no longer the standard for opportunity.

We live in a society with a divorce rate over 50%, the rich are getting richer and a middle class has disappeared right before our eyes.  How many of us today live near our brothers, sisters, parents and cousins and what impact has that had on our lifestyles and lack of support eco system. Simply ask those around you to draw a picture of their life goal, their purpose and you may be unpleasantly surprised by what you see and hear.

Our children are addicted to their devices and not in a healthy way.  They have been brainwashed to expect instant gratification and have not developed the skills to be patient.  They have no meaningful relationships today so our children are lonelier than we were and like all addictions, their lives will only get worse not better if we don’t help them break this pattern.

Faith in God seems to be fading with both Christians and Jews seeing huge drops in temple and church attendance and enrollment in faith based activities.  In my lifetime, I have never encountered more young people who come from homes where religion was not core to their value system or a pure utter rejection of a broader power beyond themselves.

In 2017 over 10 million young adults were prescribed anti-depressants. Our kids are struggling with life purpose, a positive storyboard and vision for their future while the pharmaceutical companies make billions.

Maybe the house no longer has a fence

Our story boards have changed and there are new life goals that are just different, not better or worse.  The youth will determine our path and maybe that path is still yet to be determined. The one thing that is for certain, is we need more love, family, community, loyalty, faith and country.

Our kids need more active parenting, more life coaching and a stronger ecosystem around them to help them navigate the world at large.

For me personally, my first home with the white fence was where I started my family, got focused on a career and raised my kids.  This was my purpose!!!



Vendor or Client Responsibility?

Who is responsible when HCM technology and service vendors fall short of delivering on the desired outcomes?

Are vendors over promising, or are buyers making assumptions about technology and services during their evaluation process that haunt them later?

After two decades of sales in both the mid-market and enterprise HR space, I have seen a dramatic shift on how buyers and vendors engage.  In the late 80s and early 90s, prospective buyers had to rely on direct interaction with sales representatives to learn about products and services and sales representatives needed to meet with prospective buyers to learn about their businesses and their requirements.

A face to face meeting fostered relationships and established trust.  Sales representative were trained to conduct a thorough due diligence process and share their findings with the buyer. This evaluation process wasn’t perfect, and you don’t know what you don’t know, but the responsibility to deliver positive outcomes rested heavily on the vendor.

What has changed?
  • Over 60% of all research on a product or service is done online prior to even contacting a vendor and with the significant amount of information available on the web, most buyers feel certain they know enough prior to engaging in a discovery meeting.
  • Websites like SoftwareAdvice or SelectHub exist to help buyers narrow down their search based on core buyer criteria.
  • Through social media, blogs, chat rooms and industry forums information exists on the pros and cons of each vendor’s offering directly from consultants and current clients.
With all this information available, why do vendors fall short on delivering on their client’s expectations?  
  • No two customers are exactly identical and each vendor has a list of features and functions along with service gaps that don’t address specific client requirements.
  • Client uniqueness may be driven by employer size, industry, demographics, geography and overall workforce complexity
  • Vendors don’t voluntarily share their list of functional and service gaps. If sales representatives don’t know enough about the client requirements, outcomes can be jeopardized.
  • Buyers are reluctant to have open transparent discussions, quality time to conduct due diligence sessions and far too often limit vendor access to key team members of the team that possess certain intellectual capital.
  • RFPs and RFIs are used for the basis of determining feature and functional gap alignment, but inherently, they are flawed, for they are frequently influenced by the vendor community.
  • The cost of travel, virtual teams and packed calendars all have played a role in the breakdown of effective vendor and buyer interaction.
So what is the answer?
  • Vendors must take on more responsibility to adequately determine if they have enough information to ensure they can deliver on the client’s desired outcomes.
  • Vendors must invest in additional training for their field sales force and sales engineers to know how to ask the questions that must be answered by the buyer during the evaluation cycle.
  • Vendors must live up to their integrity value statements to ensure adequate transparency on those functions of their deliverables that can potentially impact their clients in an adverse way.
  • Buyers must be more accessible and flexible to accommodate their finalist vendor’s request to gather more information. If the vendor is not requesting more time, buyers should be concerned.
  • Buyers must be more transparent with their internal challenges that may prevent them from executing on their objectives.
  • When appropriate, buyers should ask for a list of some functional gaps that are being addressed in future releases that may impact the success of the project.
  • Buyers must be clear on how they will define and measure success and those results must be shared and owned as well by their vendor selected.
So who is responsible?  We both are!

When it comes time to search for a new HCM partner, it’s critical to take the time to conduct thorough research and have those in-depth conversations about your organization’s unique challenges. After all, the cost of a bad decision will outweigh any upfront investment you make in selecting the right partner.

Service Bureau vs. HCM Technology Provider

So what is the difference between a Payroll/HR Service Bureau and a Human Capital Management Technology provider?

This question continues to be asked by thousands of HR and Finance Executives trying to make a decision on the type of partner they should choose to help them with their HR, Payroll, and Benefit Management needs. There are fundamental differences between the two, but often the areas of distinction are cloudy for the decision makers. The risk of choosing the wrong partner can be extremely costly to any organization.

So when and where did the distinctions become so cloudy?

The evolution of HR, Payroll, and Benefit technology in the cloud has significantly changed the landscape for the industry. A shift in how technology is delivered to the customer and the expectation of service has led to the existence of a gray space for organizations with the DNA of a Service Bureau versus those with the DNA in technology development. Executive leaders of these vendors have an internal struggle to answer the most basic questions: Who is our ideal customer and how do we best serve them while increasing shareholder value? Clearly, these should be simple questions to answer, right?

But, these vendors are under pressure from their investors, both public and private, to market themselves to best maximize industry valuations. This corporate reality often results in organizations presenting themselves as something they are not, and ultimately, it’s the client that pays with a bad partnership decision.

What are the distinguishing characteristics between Service Bureaus and HCM Technology Providers?

Service Bureaus cater to the bell curve of customer requirements—our industry calls this a vanillaservice model of product and service capabilities “in the box”. A packaged product and service model with an assembly-line support infrastructure, built for significant volume, that generally yields improved profitability, but this means that all customers have to be placed into “the box” or the business model breaks down and the customer experience is impacted. The good news for the industry and for HR Executives alike is that the technology offered by the top tier Service Bureaus generally delivers significant functionality with a level of configurability that serves a broad base of customers. So essentially the “box” has gotten bigger and for thousands of customers the “box” works well and their business objectives are being met.

It is a pretty common practice amongst service bureaus, to either license software from a third party technology provider OR purchase a company that has developed a technology that better serves their customer base. Acquiring technology has been successful in the past, however, it does come with limitations often exposed by sophisticated buyers during their due diligence process. Service Bureaus tend to struggle to deliver system changes to accommodate unique client requirements. If the feature gap is significant, buyers should consider evaluating vendors that have proprietary technology that can improve user adoption and result in better outcomes.

Human Capital Technology firms have product development in their DNA and as a result when faced with trying to solve business problems, they rely on their ability to enhance their technology to meet the needs of their clients. HCM technology firms develop solutions that solve the business needs of certain buyer profiles so understanding the architecture of the system, core and enhanced functionality, configurability, user tools, and the marketplace the platform was designed for will help ensure a positive outcome.

Organizations are often like Zebras and Zebras all have their own unique stripes (requirements). If you believe you may be a Zebra, make sure the HCM provider likes working with Zebras and press them to demonstrate how the system will address your needs. Be careful not to assume that every provider of HCM technology can effectively handle complex payroll and tax management. In fact, many HCM providers rely on third party technology to address the complexities of payroll and tax, so make sure you understand the product evolution of the vendors you are considering.

In addition to technology solutions, many HCM Software providers have recognized and can deliver services beyond just technology. The industry refers to these services as Administrative Outsourcing Services (ASO), like tax filing, printing, garnishments, and benefit administration. When moving from a Service Bureau to an HCM Technology Provider, be sure to understand the level of services offered and how those services are delivered.

If you do your homework, conduct a thorough due diligence, and be transparent during your vendor evaluation, you will increase your odds of choosing the right partner.

Key Questions to ask the vendor to best determine their DNA:
  • What is their recommended due diligence process?
  • Are they trying to understand your unique requirements?
  • What is their billing method? Transactional or PEPM?
  • Did they develop their own platform or license or purchase it?
  • What client level of control will you have to system administration and configuration?
  • Do you have to contract for outsourced administrative services or can you manage internally?

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