Things were quiet around Saba for a while, as the vendor struggled with re-stating earnings… then the vendor surprised with the acquisition of Canada head quartered Halogen.


So let’s dissect the press release in our customary style – it can be found here:
Redwood Shores, CA – May 1, 2017 – Saba Software Inc., today announced that it has completed its acquisition of Halogen Software, Inc. (TSX:HGN). Saba, Vector Capital and its affiliates, and Michael Slaunwhite, Halogen’s co-founder, executive chairman and largest shareholder, have acquired Halogen for CAD$12.50 in cash per share.
MyPOV – Good summary and interesting mix of buyers – apart from Saba and Vector there is a buy back from Halogen co-founder Slaunwhite in the mix. It certainly creates a sense of ownership by Slaunwhite, who is not exiting, but staying on with Saba.
The new, combined organization is now one of the largest independent talent management companies in the world, with 1,000 employees serving more than 4,000 customers in 195 countries around the globe.
MyPOV – That’s a nice title to have, though size is not everything. Redundant product offerings need to be consolidated, customers educated, transferred etc. before Saba can really leverage the scale the size brings. It will also be interesting to see how many cross-sell opportunities the combined entity has.
“No matter what size the company, all organizations are ultimately trying to solve the same challenge, which is how to better their business performance by engaging, developing, and investing in their employees,” said Pervez Qureshi, CEO of Saba. “The combination of Saba and Halogen brings them something very powerful – the expertise of the best and brightest minds in talent management, a deep commitment to helping our customers solve new challenges in new ways, and a true passion to deliver value and innovation, better and faster. This is a unique combination, and something no one else in the market can provide.”
MyPOV – A good (and long) quote by Qureshi. Unfortunately, it does not clarify what the uniqueness on the product side is. But good to see talent, commitment, passion to help customers become better and faster.
The dynamics of the workplace are changing, and organizations that are evolving their approach to employee development and engagement are realizing more productivity and performance. Together, Saba and Halogen plan to deliver a new vision for talent management – one that combines people-centric learning, engagement, and performance in new ways, enabling organizations to meet their employees on new terms, and transform the employee experience.
MyPOV – Words matter and sequences matter. The absence of the ‘Talent Management’ buzzword vs the ranking of learning, engagement and performance may give an insight to the self-realization of the vendor. And while Learning is important, and currently going through a best practice revolution (think of video, self-published, self-paced, micro learning, flip training etc.) it is not the first thing that comes mind in enterprise. Getting the right talent to the right place at the right time is the name of the game – learning is important – but only ¼ or less of the whole automation puzzle.
[…] As pioneers in their respective areas, and with over 40 years of combined experience in talent management, Saba and Halogen share common vision, values and culture, as well as a commitment to the growth and success of their customers.
MyPOV – Always good to have cultural fit and compatibility in a merged company.
“Halogen customers selected the best performance solution in the marketplace today, and Saba acquired Halogen for the same reasons their customers use the software; the people, the products, the culture, and the innovation,” said John Hiraoka, Chief Strategy Officer at Saba. “This is something that we not only intend to continue, but to accelerate in the market. As a combined organization, we intend to rapidly deliver best-in-market innovations to both Saba and Halogen customers, with the same commitment to their growth and success they’ve come to expect.”
MyPOV – Unusual to have another vendor CxO quoted, what is missing are quotes from customers and partners, showing excitement about the new Saba. But there is only so much room in a press release.


Overall MyPOV

It is good see life and growth for all market participants, competition makes products better and more affordable and with that enterprises more successful. Since the acquisition of SuccessFactors and Taleo, it had gotten quiet in the very large Talent Management vendor segment. As enterprises want to leverage suites, a concentration process will play in the hands of less integration risk. But Talent Management suite vendors are in the middle – between the complete HCM suite vendor and the startups looking at single (or a few) pieces of HCM automation. Their challenge is to innovate fast enough but integrate on a Talent Management level into a suite that stays ahead of both startups as well as suite vendors. No easy task for all vendors in this category.

Saba was already a player here, now it has gotten innovation (Performance Management) and customers (SMB) from Halogen to help it scale more. But scale only helps when the tough decisions are made in regards of product overlap and the efficiencies are reaped in the go to market.

On the concern side, the new Saba has not made roadmap announcements yet. To be fair Saba has some time with this, but time is of the essence in all merger situations. The machine learning approach is a good direction, e.g. Saba was one of the first HCM vendors to apply machine learning in Compensation Management – three and more years ago. But Machine Learning (or the marketing term du jour – AI) is missing from the press release.

On the philosophical side, it is interesting that with Skillsoft / SumTotal, Cornerstone and now Saba / Halogen it is the original Learning vendors that are now the leading Talent Management suite vendors when it comes to size. Turns out that Learning can be both a blessing and curse…. We look forward to seeing the planned roadmaps of the new Saba and to analyze the direction. Stay tuned.