We had the opportunity to attend Ultimate Software’s yearly user conference, Connection in Las Vegas, held March 20th till 24th 2017, at the Bellagio hotel. The conference was well attended with almost 2900 attendees, limited by fire marshal restrictions.

So, take a look at my musings on the event here: (if the video doesn’t show up, check here)

No time to watch – here is the 1-2 slide condensation (if the slide doesn’t show up, check here):

Want to read on? 
Here you go: Always tough to pick the takeaways – but here are my Top 3:
Ultimate Software UltiConnect 2017 Holger Mueller Constellation Research
Rogers, Hartshorne and UltiPro Learning

Ultimate has momentum – At the risk that this is getting repetitive (see my last 4 event reports), Ultimate is showing momentum. With 600 customers go lives in 2016, the increase of 700+ more customer attendees’ year over year is remarkable, but less surprising. Go lives trigger product interest and attending the user conference is an effective use of time. With Ultimate offering free training for life, most customers and professionals also take advantage of the numerous training options. And then having Maroon 5 as the main act is certainly something popular for the target audience. It remains remarkable though how Ultimate produces these growth numbers, mostly recording customer growth in North America only. 
Ultimate Software UltiConnect 2017 Holger Mueller Constellation Research
Ultimate 2016 Highlights

Xander, first out of the box AI offering among HCM vendors – Ultimate announced Xander, its AI offering, right now available for Ultimate Perceptions. Largely built on the Kanjoya acquisition and expertise. This is a good fit as Kanjoya was specialized on understanding unstructured data, something coming handy for the Perceptions products. But Ultimate did not stop there, in combination with the assets and expertise from the Vestrics acquisition and inhouse work, it has formulated and ambitions cross platform AI vision with Xander. And while we have to see what materializes later in the year for Xander, this marks the first formal launch of any major HCM vendor in the area of AI (if I missed one, let me know!). 
Ultimate Software UltiConnect 2017 Holger Mueller Constellation Research
Intro of Xander

Broadest Product Push (ever?)! – Ultimate has traditionally spend a very high percentage of revenue in R&D, but it did not necessarily show in terms of product delivery speed and breadth. For the years I cover the vendor, it seemed more like a ‘sluggish’ pace, with a focus on a single new capabilities per year (see Recruiting, Onboarding etc.) and other housekeeping. One can only expect that R&D resources were nonetheless busy in years before, maybe laying the foundation of what is coming now – a broad push for new product and functionality. A new Learning product (we didn’t go into details, maybe in combination with Schoox), new native mobile products (garnered the most applause by the keynote audience), a new Time Management module, new Reporting capabilities, a new converged UX, a developer hub and finally Xander. A back of the napkin calculation makes this more functionality available and coming in 2017 than what Ultimate announced and made available in 2014, 2015 and 2016. So, congrats for newly found stride.


Always good to attend events from vendors that are doing well. Growth leads to other good things, and it is the best ingredient for a successful user conference. A remarkable amount of new capabilities is available or coming during 2017, with vast repercussions for customers in regards of solutions portfolio, e.g. in the areas of Time and Learning. It’s good to see that Ultimate is also addressing UX challenges that we have been hearing (and writing) about since a few years, it makes sense to start with mobile and then try to get a better user interface to the HR users (who not surprisingly are to a certain point ‘clinging’ to the old user interface).

On the concern side, Ultimate R&D needs to deliver, and services and support teams and most importantly customers need to be ready to uptake and implement these new products and their capabilities. The industry as a collective has struggled to roll out analytical capabilities (predictive analytics mostly) past the HR departments, who on most cases, have set the bar too high, often depriving their enterprise and especially their people leaders from having an ability to make significantly better decisions. And on the commercial Ultimate should find a way to monetize R&D investment, as the rest of the industry does. That does not mean blowing up the price list, but charging for value. Too many ‘free’ capabilities can also be an issue for an enterprise’s HR team. But let’s see if this is a problem when we get there….

But for now, congrats to Ultimate, which has put its product development efforts in high gear, first results already showing, and garnering the price for being the first major HCM vendor to announce and ship a first version of an AI platform. It will be key to monitor the progress. Stay tuned.

Want to learn more? Checkout the Storify collection below (if it doesn’t show up – check here).