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HR Tech Brings New Products but HR Budgets May Limit Potential

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At this year’s HR Tech in Chicago a broad range of new software products for human resources professional to address their people-related processes across a range of activities from recruiting and on-boarding, compensation and incentives, learning and training, performance and succession along with the workforce analytics and planning were available for HR and associated IT professionals. These are still the areas of business technology transformation from ERP and HRMS to Talent Management that HR has been continuing to invest. The pace of change has unfortunately been operating at a slower pace as the economic environment has reduced HR budgets and ability to consolidate their application portfolio to a common Talent Management platform or adopt individual ones as they would like. This does conflict with some industry analysts dedicated to HR that state growth in the market but would not expect less from them since they depend on this for their own business. I spent a very long day at the event to visit with key technology executives and discus the industry and review many products and technologies.

One of the most insightful meetings was with the CEO of Kronos, Aron Ain who provided details on how they are transforming their Workforce Management solution in their next release at the beginning of next year. This advancement is critical for organizations with workforces that primarily operate on time and attendance based hourly employees where Kronos is a market leading provider. Kronos has completely re-examined the paradigm of how managers and employees interact and what channels they use to do their job functions like planning, scheduling, communicating, approving and monitoring employees. By using the latest in web technologies and interfacing mobile notification and approvals along with using mobile technology like Apple iPhone creatively, this next release will change how applications in the workforce management market operate. Kronos has thought through the need to support generational competencies and diversity in hourly labor intensive organizations. Kronos will have the wow factor that propels them further ahead in the market but the software needs to be completed and released.

I also sat down with the CEO of Human Concepts, Martin Sacks who presented what they have done in advancing the use of how organizational charts are expanded to support workforce metrics and information that can be used for succession planning and examine scenarios for organizational change. The product can be easily used for Talent Pooling to identify the individuals that might best fit new initiatives and objectives in the organization. All of this is part of what they call Workforce Decision Support and the capabilities they provide which gets back to the basics of what HR organizations need to do and provide capabilities to those they support. Most importantly the time to setup and deploy these capabilities can be done quickly and has been a strategic advantage to Human Concepts to meet the last minute but demanding needs of HR organizations.

I had a chance to meet with over fifteen providers to further review their announcements and products. The theme of analytics and reporting dominated across many of the Talent Management providers at the conference though the topic is still not well covered in the educational part of the event. The challenge of consistent workforce information is one that I discussed recently as it becomes a significant challenge for HR professionals. In addition new advancements to the usability of applications was also present with vendors adding easier to interact with applications and capabilities and many quietly demonstrating their new interfaces on Apple iPhone as they complete this product accessibility need and testing with customers.

In the realm of dedicated providers for Workforce Analytics there were many choices for HR as companies like eThority, IBM, Infohrm and Kronos. I sat down with the CEO of eThority, Mike Penska who has continued to set the benchmark for usability and functionality for interactivity on workforce analytics to learn more about their deployments and how they are advancing their products. Also IBM with their completed integration of Cognos has continued to advance their deployments of analytics and BI into HR with their platform and dedicated solution. Kronos continues their efforts in what they call Labor Analytics which has been leading the market with their depth of deployments into hospitals and retail industries must be in almost a thousand organizations today. Infohrm has continued to provide more depth in their benchmarks with now industry specific benchmarks to determine where HR should focus their efforts.

The latest in advancements to the Talent Management suite providers was a major portion of the event with new applications and capabilities were present in companies from Authoria, Kronos, Plateau, Saba, Salary.com, Softscape, SuccessFactors and Taleo who spent their time to provide me updates before and at HR Technology. Let’s take a review of these announcements. Authoria announced Decision Views which provides new methods to visualize information through easy analytics into reporting and organizational charts along with interface to personal business objectives and recognition board for year around Talent Management needs. Kronos announced their release of Workforce Acquisition 8.5 to help with the recruiting and onboarding of individuals into labor workforces. Plateau expanding their depth in LMS introduce Plateau Talent Gateway which provides the integration of a talent profile with social networking into a portal where knowledge and information can be shared. Saba announced the availability of Saba Enterprise 5.5 with improved capabilities to develop and measure skills and workforce intelligence for gleaning information about your employees through analytics and reporting. Salary.com announced the integration of TalentManager with CompetencyManager and the expansion of CompAnalyst to assess market pricing and pay competitiveness. As well they announced their acquisition of the assets of Makana to expand their position to include variable pay used in sales as part of their compensation management efforts. Softscape announced their expanded their capabilities by expanding their business intelligence capabilities to provide simpler reporting and analytics of workforce information along with embracing Microsoft Excel with templates. SuccessFactors was demonstrating their recently announced Business Execution Software that I recently reviewed and what they call Metrics Navigator that provides a dashboard of workforce metrics but a simple method to look at where it aligns to business objectives. SuccessFactors also announced their first recruiting application which Siemens will begin to use and is essential in competing against other suite providers. Taleo was demonstrating Taleo 10 which provides new and improved faces to their applications along with their Talent Grid for exchanging information and best practices. This showdown of whose Talent Management suite has best capabilities was clearly found by the demonstrations and discussions on the exhibit floor. The Talent Management shootout or demo war was won by Salary.com.

I also met with Infor who has been integrating their human capital management and workforce management sets of applications but also how their robust performance management applications can compliment these applications and provide integrated role based portal to information and applications through what I have reviewed called Infor MyDay. Oracle did announce PeopleSoft Enterprise Human Capital Management 9.1 which has key capabilities to more directly support Talent Management though they are still only providing the applications in on-premise and do not offer a software-as-a-service rental approach which has been the primary method of purchasing Talent Management.

I also saw significant focus in education on the use of Twitter and why HR needs to adopt the technology for their organization. It appeared to me to be a distraction or lower priority from what technology should be reviewed and adopted by HR organizations since so many are not even provide useful workforce analytics or provide applications to meet the basics of Talent Management. I thought that maybe discussions on the use of technology to support mobile devices like Apple iPhone and RIM Blackberry would be more useful since this is a key interface for employees in organizations. There was more discussion on how to embrace social media but not enough on what HR needs to do for establishing governance on the use of Twitter and Social Media and how to use technology to ensure compliance to specific policies. It is clear that the technology for HR is changing dramatically and any organizations primarily using HRMS is not sufficient and can be a competitive weakness for your organization.

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