For the last few years, I've been writing about the many mergers and acquisitions that have taken place in the employee communications applications (ECA) technology market. In the last four months alone, HCM (human capital management) provider UKG acquired mobile communications solution, Group.io, intranet provider Unily was acquired by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, and employee communications management solutions provider, Staffbase raised $115 million in a transaction led by General Atlantic valuing the company at $1.1 billion.
In reflecting on all that has taken place and most likely will continue, I keep asking myself: where is all of this heading?
Dozens of technology solutions providers are now looking to take advantage of what’s happening in the burgeoning “employee experience” category. And they are doing so given the opportunity clearly resulting from the changes in the workplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention the billions of employees in the world, which constitute a huge total addressable market.
Reflecting on the past several years, it dawned on me that, with the exception of one or two tech vendors, many operate in silos focused on a specific aspect of employee communications or engagement. Not exactly a recipe for efficiency. The professionals who use these technologies (i.e., internal communications and human resource professionals) shouldn’t have to work with five different solutions, each requiring different logins, not to mention separate annual subscriptions, to get their jobs done.
A Unified Approach: Employee Communications Management Platforms
This is where I see the ECA tech market shifting: away from a siloed approach and towards a more holistic platform — employee communications management platforms.
This approach offers communications professionals a single place to create and then distribute content in a targeted fashion to employees across multiple channels. In other words, users log in to one platform, and pay one annual subscription. They then create their news story or other content and decide whether to publish it to multiple channels; i.e. the company’s desktop intranet, mobile employee app, email newsletter, digital signs, or some combination of all of the above. Not only do employee communications management platforms have the ability to save the professionals using them considerable time, but think about all the employees who, as a result of this approach, now have a choice as to where they want to receive and which channel is the most convenient one or ones for them.
Technology analyst firm Gartner coined the market of Employee Communications Applications in May 2019 with its first “Market Guide.” Since then, the market has grown and has become increasingly more complicated. ClearBox Consulting has greatly helped to clarify the various solutions with its very comprehensive reports on both mobile employee apps as well as intranets and employee experience platforms. Nevertheless, something new looks to be on the horizon that Gartner and ClearBox should consider in their research and writing — solutions specifically designed to help and make more efficient the very professionals charged with using them.
So what’s my point?
Related Article: Another Merger in the Employee Communications Market?
Make Employee Communications Work for Those Who Use It: Internal Communications and HR
Technology markets don’t exist in a vacuum. In the workplace they exist because there is a need and an opportunity to help address real business problems. Until now, ECA tech firms have focused on and developed solutions to address different aspects of employee communications and engagement. But with so many solutions available and the confusion resulting from the proliferation, the time has come for tech firms to think differently. It's time to focus on the people using the tools, the people who are responsible for getting information to, communicating with and engaging with their employees regardless of whether they are based in an office, at home, on a factory floor or on the road.
Communications and Human Resource professionals are the individuals in organizations, large and small, who tend to be thinly resourced yet are responsible for getting the word out about important strategic developments, crises when they occur and everyday events. As a result, they are often pulled in numerous directions. Time and efficiency is critical to their success. This is a real world workplace business problem that exists and therefore a siloed approach to employee communications applications requiring multiple systems and logins no longer makes sense.
Enter a new technology market: Employee Communications Management Platforms.