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Oracle HCM Cloud AI, UX, analytics unveiled at Open World 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — Against the backdrop of the Oracle Open World 2017 conference, the software giant unveiled upgrades to its Oracle HCM Cloud system, adding artificial intelligence, analytics and user experience capabilities.

The announcement came as Oracle extended its concerted push into the cloud by further automating with new algorithms the Oracle HCM Cloud software-as-a-service suites.

The moves around artificial intelligence (AI) dovetail with a general progression in HR technology toward tools that make core HCM and specialized HR software, such as recruiting, more intuitive and more capable of applying advanced analytics to HR data storehouses.

The AI and user experience functionalities are part of a new release of Oracle HCM Cloud: Oracle Cloud Applications Release 13. Also included are new recruiting, workforce health and safety management and governance, risk and compliance modules.

“The latest additions to Oracle HCM Cloud incorporate simple but powerful features that enable organizations to leverage the latest innovations to anticipate and plan for the future,” Chris Leone, senior vice president, Oracle Applications Development, said in a release. “By combining innovations in artificial intelligence and user experience with major enhancements to core HR modules, we are able to help HR leaders drive digital transformation and positive business outcomes.”

HR tech analyst Holger Mueller, of Constellation Research, said the Oracle news was “more than Oracle has released in years.”

Mueller noted that Oracle added native recruiting to further integrate its HCM suite and that the company is trying to make its talent management technology work better.

“And AI is always key these days, though it’s less than I’d like to see yet,” Mueller said.

Noting additions such as for volunteering, Mueller said, “It’s good to see innovation across the portfolio.”

He also said it will be interesting to see how users of Oracle’s Taleo talent management system will react to the company’s new moves in that area.

Keeping up with innovations

Meanwhile, HR tech analyst Brian Sommer said that with the Oracle HCM Cloud play, Oracle appears to be trying to keep pace with innovations around AI and chatbots in HR recruiting software.

Now they’ve added this chatbot capability … for job candidates trying to navigate all the available positions. It’s kind of nice, but it just maintains competitive parity.
Brian Sommerfounder, TechVentive Inc.

Sommer also noted that Oracle has previously included AI components in career development and learning modules.

“So, now they’ve added this chatbot capability … for job candidates trying to navigate all the available positions,” said Sommer, founder of the tech consulting firm TechVentive Inc. “It’s kind of nice, but it just maintains competitive parity.”

Sommer said the new Oracle HCM Cloud algorithmic capabilities for HR hiring managers to help screen candidates could be a significant move, but it was unclear if Oracle had corrected for existing biases in employment data sets.

“I hope they’re going to open up the black box around the algorithms to make it incredibly transparent and make it tailorable for customers to adjust as the algorithms and the recruiting operation get more savvy,” he said.

As for the UX capabilities, Sommer said all major HR tech vendors need to revamp and upgrade user interfaces and usability to stay competitive, and Oracle appears to have met those aims with this release of Oracle HCM Cloud.

HCM part of broader outlook

As Oracle unveiled the Oracle HCM Cloud updates, Mark Hurd, the company’s CEO, said in a keynote that Oracle is responding to a rapidly changing global economy with technology accelerating and countries’ gross domestic products stagnant, but consumer spending and expectations high.

The Oracle HCM Cloud announcement came during the height of the run-up to the HR Technology conference, the biggest U.S. HR tech show, which starts Oct. 10 in Las Vegas.

Two major native HR tech vendors in the HT tech space, Ceridian and Workday, are holding their annual user conferences in the same time frame. These Oracle competitors and others traditionally also release what they consider significant product upgrades or sometimes new products at the events.

The Workday Rising 2017 conference is Oct. 9-12, overlapping with the HR Technology show. Ceridian’s Insights customer forum is Oct. 2-6.

Smaller but still influential HR tech vendors such as SmashFly and Entelo are also competing vigorously in the recruiting arena against Oracle and other HCM suite vendors, Sommer said. Some of Oracle’s moves are more of a reaction to them than to the bigger vendors, he added.

Oracle said the new release of Oracle HCM Cloud also includes new applications for:

  • recruiting, with stronger sourcing and wider recruiting capabilities;
  • workforce health and safety, management; and
  • governance, risk and compliance.

The company also said additions to existing modules include:

  • software to help employees who want to volunteer;
  • knowledge management tools to improve the Oracle HR Help Desk Cloud; and
  • a continuous employee feedback function.

Microsoft changes antivirus policy under Kaspersky pressure

Kaspersky has dropped an antitrust case against Microsoft after the operating system giant promised to change a contentious antivirus policy in future Windows updates.

Microsoft had been criticized because Windows antivirus policy had been to automatically disable third-party antivirus software in favor of Windows Defender if the antivirus software was not compatible with a Windows update.

Microsoft was warned in June by the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) that such practices were illegal after Kaspersky had filed a complaint. Kaspersky also filed antitrust complaints with the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office.

In response, Microsoft announced it would “evolve” its antivirus policy in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update in order to give developers more time to make their software compatible.

Rob Lefferts, partner director for Windows Enterprise and Security at Microsoft, detailed the changes, saying Microsoft would work more closely with AV vendors, increase the time vendors have with new Windows 10 updates, and change how Windows notifies users of antivirus products expiring.

Andrei Mochola, vice president of consumer products for Kaspersky Lab, wrote in a blog post that Kaspersky is “absolutely satisfied” with the antivirus policy changes and “will be taking all necessary steps to withdraw our claims and inform all regulatory bodies that we no longer have any matters for Microsoft to address.”

Experts applaud Microsoft’s antivirus policy changes

Rob Sobers, director of inbound marketing at Varonis, said Microsoft likely learned its lessons from past antitrust cases surrounding Internet Explorer.

“With so many vendors offering AV protection, the reality is that companies and consumers are choosing the AV products that fit their needs and are not defaulting to products from Microsoft,” Sobers told SearchSecurity. “By making this decision, Microsoft is acknowledging the widespread adoption of third-party AV solutions and ultimately doing what’s best for their customers.”

Gabriel Gumbs, vice president of product strategy at STEALTHbits Technologies, the data security company based in Hawthorne, N.J., said Microsoft’s original antivirus policy wouldn’t have held up over the long term anyway.

“The impact is a positive one for enterprises, however, it is far more important for Microsoft,” Gumbs told SearchSecurity. “If enterprises do not have confidence that they could upgrade because their end-point protection software could possibly not be effective, that would have a direct impact on Microsoft’s revenue.”

Mike Shultz, CEO of Cybernance, the cyber risk governance company based in Austin, Texas, said Microsoft would have been foolish to fight in this case.

“Microsoft holds fairly substantial risk, particularly in the EU around anti-competitive measures, and they don’t need this fight right now — one that they would likely lose. It’s better to compromise and live to fight another day,” Shultz told SearchSecurity. “The implied positive relationship between Microsoft and the third-party providers can only be good for the enterprise user. The more capability and compatibility that is provided to the enterprise, the better for all.”