We had the opportunity to attend Ultimate Software’s user conference UltiConnect in Las Vegas, held at the beautiful Bellagio resort. The conference was well attended with over 2000 attendees, a record number for Ultimate. 

Always tough to pick the top 3 takeaways – but take a look: 

No time to watch – then keep on reading:

Product Innovations – Take a look at my Day #1 Keynote takeaways (here), the two that hit the mark with me were
  • Pay Insights – Questions about correct or incorrect paychecks have been always a drag on employee performance and payroll manager efficiency. Tackling the problem with better explanations, more interaction as Ultimate is planning to do for the rest of 2016 is a welcome approach. As the keynotes referred this was inspired (amongst others) by marquee customer Google, but I am sure this will be well received across the Ultimate customer base. And it is one of the areas where we think there is room for innovation in the payroll space.
  • Leadership Actions – Helping people leaders with advice, training and actions is probably a plan that will lead to good outcomes. Ultimate plans to provide people leaders with a set of actions that they may want to take to become better people leaders, to get the people they lead more engaged, to solve certain people challenges etc. Almost naturally this cannot be functional with a preset bundle of actions, so it is good to see that Ultimate plans to roll out the feature with configurability from version. 

Analytical Applications Momentum – Ultimate is one of the many vendors that had analytics on their product roadmap for the last 24 months, the good news is that Ultimate provides ‘real’ analytics (those who take an action or make a recommendation – more here) and has made four analytical applications available over the last 12 months. With an uptake of over 600 customers (out of a 3000+ install base) of the earliest analytical application focusing around retention risk, Ultimate probably has the largest customer base adoption for a ‘true’ analytical application. Good to see, though I would have liked to see more true analytics innovation, but on the flipside customer adoption takes time. We will be watching the next quarters.

Platform Innovation – Every vendor that has been around for 5+ years runs into platform innovation challenges. So it is no surprise that Ultimate, in its 26th year has an older and a newer platform. The newer platform being the architecture on which the new Recruiting and Onboarding applications have been built on, the older (more Microsoft centric) platform runs the rest of the products. Ultimate has shared that it has revised it go-to platform recently, and the direction is towards Pivotal’s CloudFoundry PaaS running on OpenStack. Certainly a good update in direction, but time was lost in the process and it is time for Ultimate to build more product and move older products to the new platform. One popular approach to tackle such a transition is to expose APIs for integration purposes and that’s the mission of the new Ultipro Connect product. It is scheduled for 2017, so quite some way out, but interaction with customers is positive. So a lot of new platform coming to Ultimate product development at the moment, 2016 will be key to see its validation and uptake in the customer base, more likely even 2017. 


Analyst Tidbits

Ecosystem – The Ultimate ecosystem is doing well and growing fast – what started with 6 partners in 2013 is now standing at 96 partners – and it reads like a who is who of enterprise software with a large chunk of HCM players. Almost 50 exhibited at UltiConnect and from my random both check were all very happy to be there. It’s good to see that Ultimate was able to create an ecosystem in short time, creating options and value for customers.

NetSuite – A year ago both Ultimate and NetSuite surprised us with a partnership. A year later both vendors report back and state they could not be happier. The number of joint customers is a good sign for that. The integration is advanced to the point that the Ultimate employee master replaces the employee master in NetSuite, when Ultimate is present. A single employee master in regards of CRUD operations is supported. Good to see a working partnership, and given that NetSuite has not changed its HCM partner strategy (after 3 pivots in about a year) is also a testament that something is working well. Joint customers are happy with the progress of the partnership as we found out.

Usability concerns – At the last two UltiConnects Ultimate was able to show substantial UI innovation and new user interface paradigms. The newer UI is implemented well in Recruiting, Onboarding and some new functionality, but the older user interface on the more Microsoft centric is showing its age. Ultimate will need to do some work in the future, better sooner than later.

Services Innovation – One of the key announcements of the Day #1 keynote was along a new ‘tierless’ support model. In more detailed briefings we learnt it is really about higher support levels ‘swarming’ the first level support calls, with the goal to drive to faster call resolution. A good move that should get answers to customers faster, and more importantly bring first line service representatives up to speed faster. But Ultimate is investing on the self-service side, too – with a new community offering, where customers can help customers and ultimate is only coming in when needed. Both are good moves to make a customer community successful on the support side.

On the implementation services side Ultimate has been also offering more services, e.g. for change management and around the new analytical product offerings. Good moves that should help customers to what ultimately matters most for both customers and vendors – customer success with the vendor’s solution.


A good UltiConnect conference for Ultimate customers. The vendor is growing and doing well and that positive momentum is always felt at a user conference. And Ultimate knows how to appreciate its customers, who by themselves are passionate about culture, product and vendor. Anyone doubting that – make it to McCarran on Friday after an UltiConnect conference and see how many customers are travelling back in Ultimate conference shirts. A move encouraged by the vendor, but also easily endorsed by attendees, where acceptance of vendor and culture is getting close to cult like settings.

It’s equally good to see that Ultimate is innovating in product, reverting back to the core of what most users leverage, payroll, it is good to see investment here with Payroll Insights. And on the ‘real’ analytics side Ultimate probably sees the largest uptake of it new analytical offerings across vendors, with over 600 customers using the retention predictor. That’s remarkable, as the first wave of adoption of analytical applications is washing along the beach of reality check and day to day proof of value.

On the concern side the vendor needs to accelerate its move to its newer platform(s) to create a common user experience and product set. With CloudFoundry as PaaS platform and OpenStack for IaaS services, Ultimate is more likely than not heading in a good direction. With global expansion underway, Ultimate will also have to expand beyond North American data centers. And the user experience of the older, built on the Microsoft stack applications needs improvement.

But overall a good UltiConnect user conference for Ultimate customers and the vendor, showing traction, innovation and strong indicators to be on track to reach the ‘legend’ (as CEO Scherr puts it) of reaching one billion of revenue in the near future, as it looks 2018.

More on Ultimate:
  • First Take - First Take - Top 3 Takeaways from Ultimate’s UltiConnect Day #1 Keynote - read here
  • Event Report - Ultimate Software Connection - People first and an exciting roadmap ahead - read here
  • First Take - Ultimate Software UltiConnect Day #1 Keynote - read here
  • Event Report - Ultimate's UltiConnect - Off to a great start, but the road(map) is long - read here.
  • First Take – 3 Key Takeaways from Ultimate’s UltiConnect Conference Day 1 keynote – read here.

Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here and checkout my magazine on Flipboard and my YouTube channel here

And here are my notes - on Twitter - of Ultimate UltiConnect 2016: