The Innovators: Visier helps organizations get to know their true selves

The Vancouver company is a pioneer in the workforce analytics niche.

Credit: Visier

Visier co-founder and CEO Ryan Wong

The Vancouver company is a pioneer in the workforce analytics niche

Ryan Wong wants organizations to see the truth about themselves so they can create a better future. That means making data-driven decisions–the kind enabled by Visier, the cloud-based people analytics and workforce planning platform he founded with John Schwarz in 2010. “Everything an organization needs to know about their people, we touch it,” Wong says. “Whether it’s recruiting, whether it’s performance management–in
short, the whole life cycle of an employee in that organization–Visier will provide you that insight.”

Before he launched his Vancouver company, that kind of information wasn’t so easy for businesses to find, Wong maintains. He was previously original author and chief architect of the business intelligence platform for Crystal Decisions, becoming VP of engineering with France’s Business Objects after it acquired the Vancouver-based software maker in 2003 (only to be purchased itself by German multinational SAP four years later). Along the way, Wong noticed a problem: “We had been serving IT really well, but not the business user.”

Visier began building its client base by pitching a single value proposition to Fortune 500 companies, Wong recalls: “We want to help you understand how your workforce impacts business outcomes.” Every CEO and chief human resources officer wanted to know if they had the talent to win, he says. Visier offered them a ready-made product: “If you don’t understand your workforce well enough, this is how we can make you a hero.”

Today, customers include the American division of Spanish bank BBVA, German science and technology giant Merck, and U.S. hospital and clinic operator Providence St. Joseph Health. Visier’s top three sectors are financial services, health care and tech, which tend to invest more in people than other industries because they have a talent shortage, notes Wong, who was named CEO this year. (Schwarz, previously chief executive of Business Objects, serves as chair.)

Business intelligence titans SAP, Oracle and Workday, as well as a growing number of startups, want a piece of the people analytics market, Wong says. He welcomes the competition. “We like to think that we have created a space, a segmentation, where we need to have enough players to help us to promote the importance of people analytics.”

Pitches aside, Visier is more product- than sales-driven, Wong stresses. About 180 of its 400 staff work in research and development, and recent events have kept them busy.

Although Wong is quick to underscore its gravity, he calls the pandemic a blessing in disguise for his business. “If you think about the COVID situation, it’s really a people problem,” he says. “Organizations are trying to figure out, What does that mean for my workforce?” Diversity and inclusion is also helping drive innovation at Visier. “The whole D&I issue, the whole Black Lives Matter issue actually forces organizations at the board level, at the CEO level, to look at company diversity challenges,” Wong says. “Again, this is a people problem.”