Coronavirus Spread Hits HCM Vendors Sales Efforts First


While the wider technology industry has reported cutbacks in travel, event cancellations and mandates for employees to work from home, the coronavirus’s impact on the HCM technology space is still developing.

So far, it seems, vendors face the most exposure from disruptions to their sales pipelines as a number of industry events are affected. Conferences by SAP Ariba, SAS, Gartner and Microsoft have been postponed, cancelled or will be held online, according to a list compiled by ZDNet. Workday cancelled its internal sales meeting.

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On the other hand, the organizers of UNLEASH Spring, to be held in London on March 24 and 25, said the event will go on as planned. (UNLEASH America is also set to go on in May.)

Most of the canceled or modified events were scheduled to be held in March, while a smattering were planned for April and May. Conferences scheduled for later in the year, such as SAP Sapphire Now in May and Infor Inforum in September, will be held as planned, ZDNet said, as of March 5.

So-Far Subtle Impacts on HCM Tech

In the HCM industry, where remote work is relatively widespread, there were few confirmed reports of required changes in attendance. “I haven’t seen a lot of vendors or consulting firms changing what they do,” said Matt Lafata, president and CEO of HRchitect in Frisco, Texas. “No client has said, ‘don’t come.’”

Jeremy Ames, president of Hive Tech HR in Medway, Mass., said the industry is benefitting from strategies to aid work-life integration. “We have home offices, telecom and cloud services already in place,” he said. “We’re much better-positioned than we were before.”

At Ultimate Software’s Connections 2020 conference in Las Vegas, vendors, consultants and customers thought the virus’s impact on HR technology was either unclear or would be minimal. However, most agreed that conferences play an important role in the sales cycle, especially industry-wide shows such as UNLEASH or the new Select HR Tech conference scheduled for June.

Executives in the conference and exhibitions business report a steady stream of cancellations and postponements that have put the industry into crisis mode. One executive compared the coronavirus to the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Effects of the virus are being felt throughout the economy. On Thursday, the financial markets continued to fall. The S&P 500 dropped more than 3 percent. Energy, financial and industrial stocks were all down sharply. On Wednesday, United Airlines said it will begin trimming its flight schedule in the U.S., indicating a decline in ticket sales.  

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