Understanding the Vendor Landscape Report

Our Methodology

The Starr Conspiracy Intelligence Unit (TSCIU) developed its Vendor Landscape Report™ methodology as a multidimensional model with the purpose of understanding the market attributes of HR technology categories and vendor attributes to characterize how companies within a specific category interact with the market.

Market attributes

This brandscape will focus on market attributes, such as market stage, size, and growth, and the following vendor attributes for SMB HCM providers:

  1. Brand power: Based on brand awareness research when available and our own assessment when it is not.
  2. Message focus/market position assessment: Based on our analysis of how well the vendor understands the market and is delivering and communicating a compelling value proposition.
  3. Competitive strength assessment: Based on the vendor’s brand strength, financial strength, strategic alliances, and how defensible its position is.
  4. Competitive potential: Based on the company’s business trajectory. For example, is it a rollup player, target for acquisition, an IPO candidate, or a persistent niche player?

Who are the key audiences?

This report serves the needs of three primary audiences:

  • Senior executives and sales and marketing leaders at HR technology vendors, who will gain a better understanding of the market and how to improve from a brand and message perspective in order to attain a better competitive position.
  • HR technology buyers, who will gain a better understanding of market trends impacting HR technology, the technology vendors and specific technologies to explore, and brands worth investing in.
  • Venture capital/private equity investors, who will gain a better understanding of the market and how marketing, message, and brand all play a role in the success or struggles of specific companies.

Why are we doing it?

In HR technology, we were early adopters of a number of marketing innovations that have become mainstream, such as marketing automation and content marketing. However, as an industry, we have been considered laggards in use of brand.

Buyers of HR technology are becoming more sophisticated. As a result, brand power is often a substitute for due diligence. The strongest brands gain market share faster, see better demand generation results, book more revenue, and become early favorite vendors — or sometimes the only vendor considered.

Although SMBs have been outsourcing payroll and benefits for years, we see technology advances and changes in the benefits landscape driving unprecedented market flux. Traditional industry leaders will be disrupted and new leaders will emerge with sudden, surprising velocity. Companies will grow faster, go public sooner, and consolidate earlier in their growth. We expect during the growth cycle of the next few years:

  • Category average for revenue growth is approximately 40 percent
  • Category leaders average 60 percent growth
  • Industry breakouts show 200 percent growth

What is this work based on?

The Starr Conspiracy does more quantitative research on brand and message in HR technology than anyone — dozens of surveys every year. However, all findings and inputs in our Brandscape™ report come solely via briefings and TSC primary and secondary research outside the purview of paid client work. Our goal is to help companies understand their brand power, message focus, competitive performance, and competitive potential, and how they fare in relation to competitors.

How is this different?

Traditional analyst firms focus on technology and process. They are also lagging indicators of the direction of a market. We take a forward-looking approach that focuses on the needs of companies and marketers — what the future holds, how to prepare for it, how you can grow as a company, and how to improve your brand to increase your competitive position.


Although businesses throughout the SMB have been outsourcing payroll and benefits coverage for years, we see today’s SMB solutions meeting at least these four requirements:

  • HRIS — Solutions that provide a central repository of employee data. Although demand for these solutions was previously driven by the need to meet compliance requirements, today the ability to power workforce analytics is driving growing interest. At a minimum, this requires HRIS/HRMS, but could also include time and attendance and other workforce management capabilities.
  • Compliance — Solutions that help employers keep up with the increasingly complex federal and state regulatory requirements, such as ACA reporting, I-9, etc.
  • Payroll — Solutions that allow employers to pay employees accurately and on time, and meet compliance requirements.
  • Benefits — Solutions that facilitate administration, enrollment, and employee access to health and welfare benefits coverage and information.
  • Talent — Solutions that correlate talent outcomes with business outcomes.

HCM vendors may or may not have extended their solutions into talent management, learning, engagement, talent acquisition, or myriad other HR technology categories.

Inclusion criteria

SMB HCM vendors are included based on any of the following:

  • The vendor’s presence and brand position in the North American SMB HCM market
  • TSCIU’s ability to measure the vendor’s brand awareness independently via our ongoing research
  • The vendor’s participation in TSCIU’s briefing and research process

The vendor landscape report is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of all vendors in the market, but a measure of vendors that have significant brand presence or potential.

List of vendors

In this report, we are reviewing the following vendors:

  • Ascentis
  • ADP
  • BambooHR
  • BDB Payroll
  • Benepay Technologies
  • Ceridian/Dayforce
  • cfactor Works/Vibe HCM
  • CheckPoint HR
  • Compass HRM
  • Fairsail
  • FinancialForce
  • Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll)
  • Kin HR
  • Infor
  • Kronos
  • Justworks
  • Namely
  • Oracle
  • OrangeHRM
  • Paychex
  • Paycom
  • Paycor
  • Paylocity
  • PeopleStrategy
  • PowWowHR
  • Sage
  • SAP/SuccessFactors
  • TribeHR/NetSuite
  • TriNet
  • Ultimate Software
  • Workday
  • Workterra
  • Zenefits
  • Zuman