We had the opportunity to attend Ultimate Software's yearly user conference, Ulti Connect, held from April 1st till 5th 2019 at the Wynn Conference Center in Las Vegas. The event has moved from the traditional site of the Bellagio and the transition has gone well; attendees liked the new settings. Record attendance of 3100+ attendees. 



Prefer to watch – here is my event video … (if the video doesn't' show up – check

Here is the 1 slide condensation (if the slide doesn't show up, check here): 





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Going private doesn't affect Ultimate – There are often concerns, in many cases warranted, that going private will change the DNA of an enterprise. So far Ultimate's move to go private seems not to have fazed the vendor. In contrary, employees seem to be more motivated to do the right thing. But it's still (very) early into the H&F ownership of Ultimate, a year from now will be the next proof point. 


Ultimate UltiConnections 2019 - Holger Mueller - Constellation Research - @holgermu
Adam Rogers opens Ultimate Software Connections Conference  2019

HR Services delivery push – Not surprisingly, Ultimate used its user conference to present its push into HR Services, triggered by the PeopleDoc acquisition. Specifically, it means that Ultimate wants its North American customer base to adopt its new Employee File and Employee Case Management applications. There is substantial upsell potential and Ultimate faces little competition and replacement quarrels as this is a new area of automation for most of the enterprises in its customer base. Reception was warm, but let's see how well customers will implement Ultimate HR Service Delivery in the next 12 months. 
Ultimate UltiConnections 2019 - Holger Mueller - Constellation Research - @holgermu
The UltiPro Mobile Growth

Much improved Mobile 2.0 – Mobile UX moves the fastest across all persona and platform permutations in the enterprise software space, so it is key that vendors update their mobile applications on a rapid cycle. Ultimate is doing that, with its new mobile version, that has an improved UX and new capabilities. At times it seems that Ultimate is trying to escape its more pedestrian browser UX with mobile, and the gamble may take off. Users will flock to the mobile version instead of using the browser version. Not sure if that is strategy but that is the starting trend at customers by now. 
Ultimate UltiConnections 2019 - Holger Mueller - Constellation Research - @holgermu
Martin Hartshorne unveils Ultimate's move into HR Services with Employee Case Management

Tech Stack simplification – Ultimate's tech stack has been a collection of great technologies, accumulated over the years. Good to see the architecture team has now found a way to simplify the stack and a new product development philosophy should keep the stack lean. Also positive is that Ultimate is moving loads to the public cloud, a first for the vendor. But the immediate future is going to be hybrid, with Ultimate keeping up and refreshing investment in its own data centers. It's a good first step, as there is no good return for CAPEX in SaaS vendor owned data centers. 
Ultimate UltiConnections 2019 - Holger Mueller - Constellation Research - @holgermu
The Ultimate Software Product Development Philosophy


A good event for Ultimate, that is also pushing out its AI assistant Xander to more capabilities, e.g. (Continuous) Performance Management, and candidate matching in Recruiting. Xander has been good for Ultimate customers, helping them running HR more successfully. Attendees were positive on the new capabilities and enjoyed the new venue. Ultimate has probably the most engaged conference attendees when it comes to participation in both educational and recreational activities of a vendor conference. Good to see the engagement.

On the concern side, Ultimate needs to find the development speed to move all its offerings to a consistent UX. The 'gamble' of a mobile only approach may work out, but the next year will have to show if Ultimate can extend the mobile capabilities beyond employee, manager and (some) HR admin capabilities, of will have to go back to fundamental renovation / innovation of the browser UX. A leaner architecture is key, and we will see if Ultimate has the discipline to deliver towards that. That will make it easier to run in hybrid mode, though we would like a vendor not to spend on inhouse data center re-freshs in 2019.

But overall a positive event, good to see Ultimate is still Ultimate, good to see the continued expansion of Xander, which continues to deliver value for Ultimate customers. Good to see the portfolio extension with HR Services, now it will come back to see how much market penetration Ultimate can achieve with the capability in its core North American market. Stay tuned.