In the airline world where I started my career we used to joke that although we couldn't predict the future of airline software we did know what it would be called - FORTRAN.  

Such is the power of branding.   What FEDEX is to shipping, Xerox to copies, Kleenex to tissue, FORTRAN was to that early 1970s vision of technology.

Similarly, we don’t know what the future of staffing software will be but it’s a safe guess that we’ll call it the “Cloud” for a long time to come.  Originally used to describe networking beyond the firewall, “Cloud” has come to mean whatever a fast talking sales person wants it to mean. 

Service bureau, sure call it “cloud”.  Software appliance or hosting environment?  Cloud.  Web interfaces – cloud.  Job board – cloud.  Multi-tenancy – cloud.  VMS portal – cloud.  And so on.

However just because it’s an expression that has come to mean everything and nothing, that doesn’t mean the underlying technology isn’t having a big impact on enterprise software.  It is. 

The truth is there are huge economies of scale in computing beyond your firewall and what with the rapidly decreasing price of internet and internet devices, it’s downright tantalizing.

TempWorks clients know this.  We’ve been maintaining the server cloud for operations of Manpower and others since 1997.  As I mentioned I come from the airline software world and even before my time (I’m talking back in the mid to late 1960s) airline technology was all about the cloud and multi-tenancy.

How to make sense then of this amorphous yet rapidly changing notion of “cloud computing”?  Fortunately we have two heavyweights in the software industry – Marc Benioff CEO of Salesforce and Hasso Plattner cofounder of SAP. 

They weighed in on the subject as it applies to enterprise software as a whole in the video above.  It’s a great clip and worth the two hours of it if you are heavily involved in enterprise software decisions.

Benioff, the salesman, argues in infomercial fashion that all enterprise software is going to the cloud.  To his cloud, I should say.  

Benioff articulates a utopian view of the world of which he is the center.  I admire him for getting away with marketing stunts like this where he is utterly incapable of delivering anything but an advertisement, all the while delivering beside an accomplished scientist like Plattner who despite his stammering is able to articulate a vision far beyond the walls of SAP.

Plattner describes a future of innovation that can’t be predicted, that can’t be so neatly contained within one computing environment. 

He concedes that Salesforce has had a good run with an excellent CRM app, but that the future of relationships – of networking – is not predictable and certainly not beholden to a single vendor as Benioff suggests.  Plattner is correct in stating that it’s the people who can connect stuff and not own it who will be the winners.  

In the clip he has good reason to boast of SAP’s vast army of integration experts.

I see staffing software falling in line with Plattner’s overall vision for enterprise software.  Compelling products will propel the market for many years.  But there will be no dominating force.  Although TempWorks is well-positioned in this category, I’m well aware that some 15-year-old in his Mom’s basement in Peoria is coding up an Android staffing software app that will get 50k downloads next year.  And we’ll be rushing to keep up.

Staffing, being very much a relationship business, will ride social networking’s coattails for the next decade in unpredictable ways.  Whichever way those winds blow, we’ll still end up calling it the cloud.

Our strategy at Tempworks will continue to be that of making it as easy as possible for customers to innovate on their own in the cloud (much like SAP) all the while relying on our rock solid CRM and back office.

Tags: Staffing Software, VMS, Technology, Marc Benioff, FORTRAN