Wild rumors, alarmist blog posts, and uncertainty is driving a lot of industry interest and online traffic about the Datatel + SGHE transaction. One blogger has even gone so far as posting information about how to track company changes (layoffs) through LinkedIn.
To get the latest updates, I had a chance last week to speak to former SunGard HIgher Education colleagues Michelle Reed, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, and Laura Kvinge, Vice President Marketing about layoffs, company direction, and rebranding.
When the transaction close was announced in January there was an article on Philly.com that indicated that layoffs were on the table and then a clarification in the Washington Business Journal that came out shortly thereafter? Were your comments reflected in the way that you intended?
Kvinge: “What that story was about and what I was talking to the journalist about was the day that we closed the transaction, there was a rumor that we were laying off hundreds of people through a big massive layoff, which was absolutely incorrect. And at that time, that conversation was very much geared toward the common sense of aligning businesses, and that it will take time. And as of that day on that close, those reductions were fewer than 40 people.”
In the announcement back in August the company touted some 3,000 employees in some 40 countries worldwide. Given the fact that both companies compete in the same space and similar technology and service offerings, it it fair to say that you will have somewhat less than 3,000 employees with the same or expanded global coverage?
Reed: “So, one of the things that I will tell you is that while we announced in August, and we didn't get through the regulatory approval until early December. So, from that period, from August to December, I know people tend to think that we must have been doing so much work and so much planning together. We couldn't. The reality of it is there were a tremendous number of conversations that couldn't take place. And so, we got through the approval process. And frankly, getting a leadership team in place was the next stage that had to take, that had to occur for the business, and getting clarity of who is going to be in those leadership roles and who is going to be helping bring the business forward.”
So this is an important point, the combined company has been at this – rationalizing the organization, understanding the technology portfolio – for less than 60 days?
Reed: “That’s correct. Some people have been put in roles and are trying to work through this process. Now, we're still pretty early in the integration process. Right now, there are still lots for the business to think about and thinking about how we operate, how we best serve our customers, and how we communicate with our customers. From a marketing perspective that we're looking at. How do we communicate who we are? There are different methodologies for keeping customers informed about where we're going, what road maps look like, how we're investing because there's quite a bit that we need to work through, and the intention is not to... We don't want to break things. We don't want a bunch of broken glass all over.”
Are there any particular areas that the leadership team is focusing on?
Reed: "Each of us on the leadership team is focused on our areas, and we keep in pretty close contact across the functions. And we're looking at how do we optimize our own organizations, how do we work across the business to ultimately benefit customers. Being able to look at smart ways to leverage some of the things that we are doing across both of the businesses is really important to us."
Let’s talk CRM. Oracle purchased Right Now Technologies, a strong software-as-a-service platform, and in December Hobson’s bought Intelliworks. With Datatel’s success with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform (Recruiter), what is the future of Banner Relationship Management (BRM)?
Reed: "Really, what it comes down to is that they (Recruiter and BRM) are solutions that meet very different needs. Recruiter is very much focused on the early stage of recruiting and admissions, where BRM focuses more on the holistic life cycle."
What message do you have for customers who may be concerned about their past technology investments through either company?
Reed: “As we've talked about, this combination of bringing the businesses together, we've been very consistent in reinforcing just a handful of promises to the market. So, the first one is investing in the primary solutions our customers rely on. We understand that one size does not fit all.
Second, that we were going to find ways to bring together the global community to benefit all of its members. That's really important to us. So, a lot of the initiatives of the businesses are focused on sharing - taking advantage of and finding ways for the community itself to leverage the value. Very important in finding ways for that community to work for the greater good, and then, providing access to a broader portfolio solution. And providing options and choices to customers is very important, and then, finding ways to accelerate innovation.”
When can customers, and the industry in general, expect to see the rebrand?
Reed: “It’s been quite eye-opening for all of us thinking about the complexity of branding a company in today's age. So, it's been a fascinating and wonderful, and very challenging learning exercise, I think, for those of us in the marketing team who's been part of the process because there's so many disconnected processes that we have to think about. There's the creative dimension of it, and coming up with a name that conveys the essence of who we want to be and become, making it sort of aspirational. There is the own-ability and protect-ability element of the brand as well.”
Kvinge: “It's really interesting to see the effects that a new brand has in energy and kind of motivation because people (inside the company) are excited about... Even though they don't know what's happening with the name, or what the company will be called.”
While Reed and Kvinge would not specifiy a timeline for the rebrand, it's possible that an announcement will be made at this week's Summit in Las Vegas.