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2018 Beeline Conference: CEO Doug Leeby Talks Integration Hurdles, What Lies Ahead

04/17/2018 By

Doug Leeby kicked off the 2018 Beeline Conference Tuesday with a talk on how Beeline has done over the past year and where it is headed. Given our interest in Beeline’s progress post-merger with IQNavigator, Leeby’s talk was very helpful.

Compared with past years, Leeby’s keynote was notably more serious, focused on the here and now rather than technology and innovation. Specifically, Leeby emphasized Beeline’s increased “customer focus” — no doubt of critical importance given the typical challenges that come with integrating two companies. Accordingly, the refrain of the talk was “it’s the people,” which Leeby further emphasized, saying, “Beeline’s secret weapon is people.”

Aside from this focus on people, Leeby also dedicated significant time to discussing the past year, particularly the challenges faced during the integration of Beeline and IQN. Challenges are normal for almost all mergers in the integration aftermath, and Beeline’s was no exception.

Integration Hurdles

Leeby said 2017 was a “really, really tough year” in this respect, noting that the first six months were “brutal.” After staff reductions, customer support posed considerable challenges. At the same time, Beeline has made progress on a number of fronts, according to Leeby, who noted some in this talk.

Looking back on the integration effort, Leeby graded the processes so far as a “B+.” He also elaborated on Beeline’s priorities over the past year, which were:

  • Keeping the business moving forward with existing and new clients (Leeby noted 31 new clients over the past year)
  • Reorganization, employees and retention
  • Platform convergence, which is already giving clients access to key features that before were exclusive to each platform

Concerning the last point, Leeby noted that platform convergence means neither Beeline nor IQN will be sunset; rather, it means that both platforms are gradually being sunset as convergence proceeds.

On the Horizon

With regard to what lies ahead, Leeby noted three areas of emphasis for Beeline:

  • Comprehensive, concerted focus on existing and new clients
  • Integration, organization and platform convergence
  • Ongoing development of partnerships and an ecosystem

Notably absent from that list were the topics of technology and innovation, mention of which was muted in Leeby’s talk, suggesting that Beeline is taking precautions to not get ahead of the curve of adoption. For instance, Leeby mentioned a use case in which Beeline might be pushing innovative technology less and instead advising customers on trends and what innovations could be appearing in coming years. We’ll come back to this topic as the conference continues.

Key Takeaways

Taken as a whole, Leeby’s keynote left us with the following impressions:

  • Beeline appears to have weathered the first year of integration reasonably well. It’s easy for such efforts to go awry or fail, but clearly Beeline is up and running, despite the bumps in the road in the first year
  • Though not discussed explicitly, it seems that a part of the integration challenge was eliminating redundancies and reducing cost structure. There were reductions in force, and Leeby did reference a more restricted spending policy. Though challenging, accomplishing the efficiencies goes straight to the bottom line — something that would appeal to Beeline’s private equity investors (the kind of investors that are not likely to park their asset for an extended period of time)
  • The company has now reset its priorities and is on a path to being much more than just the technology company it was. As Leeby put it, “VMS is dead.” Beeline seems to be on a transformation path to becoming a broader solution business addressing a broader range of talent acquisition needs (in Leeby’s words, total talent acquisition).

In any case, something has changed at Beeline. From what we’ve heard, this is likely a positive for clients going forward (and, of course, for Beeline’s investors). With all of the change occurring in the industry, 2018 is likely to be an interesting year, and we are intent upon following the company closely, alongside SAP Fieldglass and other peers.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the 2018 Beeline Conference in the coming days.