We had the opportunity to catch up with the Cornerstone executive team for almost a day of briefings around the Cornerstone user conference in San Diego this week. And it was a packed agenda, with CEO Adam Miller kicking off, followed by Product Management leadership, Services leadership, Product development leadership and three customer success stories. 

Here are my top 3 takeaways of the briefing and the conference:

  • Good fundamentals – Cornerstone is certainly showing solid to good fundamentals. The company has a clear vision – be a ‘specialist [for talent management] amongst generalists [for all of HR]’ and keeps building on that. It certainly is good that Cornerstone is one of the fewer SaaS provider to have an ambition and plan to achieve profitability soon. When polling executives on their plans and challenges in their respective functions on the path to profitability we heard good and realistic assessment of the challenges. Profitability is a key factor to watch for HCM (and all SaaS) vendors – as ultimately vendors have to turn that corner, and while turning, there may be adverse reactions for their R&D investment, which hits SaaS customers particularly hard. Not the case for Cornerstone, which is very positive news.

    But Cornerstone goes beyond financial health, it was good to see that the company is also addressing technology health. All vendors acquire significant technical debt over time, and it is key to address that better sooner than later. For SaaS vendor addressing technology debt is a significant challenge, as they need to innovate while keeping the lights on. We can’t share too many details but it is good to see Cornerstone doing the good and necessary housekeeping activities its customer expect and deserve. 



Slide from Analyst Briefing Presentation


  • Vision of Talent Management – Cornerstone has reached completion in Talent Management, with which it means the full talent lifecycle from Recruiting, over Onboarding, Learning, Performance Management, Compensation and Succession Management. The new Onboarding module completes that cycle now. Now that all key areas of Talent Automation are there – it’s key for Cornerstone to keep differentiating from smaller single automation area vendors (mostly startups) and strengthen the integrated Talent Management Suite story versus similar competitors and the ERP vendors. For that Cornerstone will have to demonstrate thought leadership and help its customers to come along for the transformation that their enterprises need to undertake to become an enterprise with an integrated Talent Management system. 

Slide from Analyst Briefing Presentation


  • A marketplace – These days we see marketplaces popping up left and right – but mostly by the PaaS (see IBM and HP in recent weeks) vendors – not the enterprise automation vendors. And while there have been plenty of learning and courseware marketplaces – there has not been a category (here Talent Management) encompassing marketplace. So credit to some thought leadership and innovation goes to Cornerstone. The vendor will certainly select the usual partners – that are on the marketplace already – the real value will be tapped though when customers will be sharing best practices and custom work. The intriguing element is that Cornerstone has all the assets to make such a collaborative, customer sourced market place reality. Consider a Belgian (totally coincidental country pick) tax compliance report that just got legislated: Cornerstone has the collaboration abilities for its Belgian customers to collaborate, coordinate and share the creation of such a custom report. How that could be and would be monetized is a very different story, but it all starts with the customer enablement code. 



A good user conference for Cornerstone, with energized customers and a vibrant ecosystem. The vendor now needs to keep innovating not only in architecture and infrastructure – but also for its Talent Management products. A new Onboarding is a good job, but Onboarding is a table-stake and will not win the integrated Talent Management battle.

The good news is, that management has realized this and we are eager to see what is coming next. In the meantime Cornerstone must improve its Recruiting functionality and must keep an eye on Learning to keep its strong market and functional position in that automation area. So plenty of work ahead, we will check back soon.




More on Cornerstone

  • Cornerstone re-imagines Talent Mangament - and itself - read here


More on Recruiting


  • Musings - What is the future of Recruiting? Read here

  • Why all the attention to Recruiting? Read here

Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.