Is the feedback applications market saturated ?

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This year again, feedbacks apps were very well represented at the  Unleash conference in London.

Feedback apps : a response to an essential need

Feedbacks are a cornerstone of modern management if not of any modern enterprise. In a world where everything accelerates the yearly interview does not meet its goal anymore : if an employee wants to take stock he wants to do it right now and not in 8 months. If something must be improved in is work he wants to know right now and not in a month. And even on the enterprise side, listening to what happens on the field and identifying what irritates people must be done in real-time : none can afford to take time to fix or improve what should be. It’s a matter of performance, competitiveness and sustainability.

In this context, feedbacks applications blossomed these last years because they were the response to an actual need that was not addressed by established HRIS vendors. At the beginning they were very simple apps that got richer and sometimes more complex over time but, i, the end, they focus on a well defined need : allow business to take the pulse of the field and hemp managers to be connected to their staff in real-time though a two-ways communication channel.

The feedback applications market is mature now

Two years ago, feedbacks apps could be found in the startup zone of any HR event like HRTech (become Unleash). Today they exhibit in the main zone, next to established vendors. And their positioning evolves : Tandem, a former winner of HRTech startup contest is now on the other side of the fence and presents itself as a performance management tool.

Besides that, the major HRIS suites eventually embedded similar functionalities. The story is well known and repeats again and again : startups invest in a niche market on an emerging need, the need becomes mainstream, established vendors copy the startups. It happened for feedbacks as it happened for any new HR trend in the past.

What surprised me was the number of new feedbacks apps in the startup zone. It reminds me the times when, in 2013, someone contacted me to show me a brand new enterprise social networking solution. I could not prevent myself from thinking “industry pure players have been around for nearly ten years, established vendors now have mature and well integrated enterprise social-networking offerings, there are chances there will be lots of casualties soon as the market is consolidating and you’re coming with a new product ?”.

Is there room for a standalone app when major suits embed its unique functionality ?

Even beyond feedbacks apps, it raises the question of the future of a solution on a mature market where its unique functionality is being copied by players that already have a feet in nearly every possible client’s office and when it comes years after startups that already took all the available room.

No doubt that the Oracle, Workdays and co will hold most of the market by offering such functionalities to their existing clients in their global product. So why would one pay to get what a product he’s already using and paying for offers ?

Because one love innovative players ? Because a single-product and single-use case vendor will always be better on a specific need than a generalist vendor ? That’s what some think. But these clients have already chosen a provider from the first generation, Tandem or other.

To come on the market today one needs a truly disruptive and innovative product and I think that all the existing players have already done whatever could be done.

Me must also take into account the businesses will to rationalize their HRIS portfolio as much as possible. Newcomers will have to be very persuasive to be accepted as an exception and, if they manage to do it, not die from the “one more app” syndrome that eventually turns them into the “one-too-much app” for users that don’t want to juggle with tools anymore.

I expect we’ll see less feedback apps at Unleash Amsterdam in October. But maybe I’m wrong.

Photo credit : Bouton de feedback by TierneyMJ via Shutterstock