We had the opportunity to attend Zenefits’ Shift 2017 event in San Francisco, held at the Metreon on September 21st, 2017. The conference was well attended, though less in audience  than the Z2 launch 12 months ago. But the main objective was to get an online viewership, and Arianna Huffington delivered, during her keynote / interview the online viewership spiked beyond 60k+.
Zenefits Shift17 Constellation Research Holger Mueller
A video shows more than a 1000 words, so if you prefer to watch: (if the video doesn’t show up, check here)

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


Always tough to pick the takeaways – but here are my Top 3:

Zenefits does another pivot: From disrupting to powering brokers. The original idea of Zenefits was to disrupt both software and brokerage. Use the brokerage commissions and make the software free. Last year, at Z2, Zenefits pivoted to more software, starting to charge the SMB clientele for software and services. At Shift 2017 the vendor communicated even more of a move to software, reducing its own brokerage function and adding the capability to help brokers run more efficiently. Likely Zenefits is productizing internal assets, my speculation here, a strategy that would make sense. Oh, and Zenefits unveiled also a new logo – but never talked about it… what a difference to Z2.

Zenefits Shift17 Constellation Research Holger Mueller
Fulcher welcomes to Shift17
Meet employees where they are: New mobile, Voice (Alexa) demo. Like many other vendors Zenefits follows the credo of people centricity, meaning that consumption of HR software needs to be made as easy and frictionless as possible… this means that HCM software needs to be consumed where users do work: Most prominently in chat software and ideally voice accessible. Zenefits showed a demo with Alexa, going through a time off request.

Zenefits Shift17 Constellation Research Holger Mueller
Carr talks Services
New Connect offerings – Ben Connect and Pay Connect. Zenefits has a strong platform and partner focus, but needs to make the consumption of partner services easy… meaning that it needs to do the integration work for these partners to allow easy uptake by its SMB customer base. Benefits does this through the Connect product family, and at Shift 2017 it unveiled the Ben Connect and Pay Connect products. Ben Connect provides integration to benefit providers, Pay Connect to 3rdparty payroll providers (ADP, Gusto, Paychex, and I believe on more provider).

Zenefits Shift17 Constellation Research Holger Mueller
Reeves talks Products
Native Zenefits Payroll now at 30 states. A year ago, Zenefits unveiled its payroll offering, supporting a handful of states, the vendor has now arrived at the support of 30 states… and remains committed to support all 50. I missed the roadmap presentation on this, but it supposedly exists, and is key for SMBs to plan their rollouts and / or to make software selection decisions.



A good user conference for Zenefits, that is going more into the direction of becoming an enterprise software vendor. New CEO Fulcher has brought in a new management team, with a new COO, CMO and head of product. All industry veterans, so we can expect good things to come for Zenefits customers. The new mobile product looks good, though Zenefits makes the common (SFO / Valley) mistake of favoring iOS over Android. With 50% of US smartphones being Android phones, not really people centric, but as mentioned a common and repeated flaw of HCM vendors.

On the concern side, Zenefits showed very little software. And while it is great to listen to Arianna Huffington, Patty McCord, Ben Horowitz and Shawn Achor – showing a live mobile demo and an Alexa demo is not cutting the balance between fuzzy feel good and tangible product. We saw the same recently at SuccessFactors conference (Oprah, the Cake Master etc.). Maybe both vendors have new management teams and need to cover over a pause in product development. But vendors should not forget, the main reason to attend their user conference is their product and its roadmap. All appreciation, vision and though leadership on general practices – comes later. Showing core software capabilities as slide show is not what users (and influencers) expect.

But for now, good progress by Zenefits, more software DNA in its executive team and likely its product future. Stay tuned.

Stay tuned.

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