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Our research agenda for 2012 in human capital management outlined the importance of workforce management for all organizations. One provider, WorkForce Software, provides systems that support scheduling, time and attendance, leave and absence and fatigue management. As I noted in my last analysis on WorkForce Software, the company’s focus on the fatigue aspect of workforce management, especially in white-collar environments such as transportation, utilities and healthcare, has provided them both recognition and growth. I attended the company’s first technology analyst summit this week to get a deeper view into the company and its products and see how it is shaping up in light of our research on the key applications providers in this market.

WorkForce Software continues to grow its customer and employee lists, with now hundreds of customers and rapidly growing cloud computing adoption through software as a service. The company continues to advance its core EmpCenter application, which provides a range of capabilities. Part of its unique approach is the configurability provided in its Advanced Scheduler, and its ability to monitor workers that might have multiple responsibilities that organizations need to account for cost or job tracking, which is critical for finance and activity-based costing where grants and budgets need to be closely tracked. This configurability is available without the need for custom programming; the policies and rules are defined by the business users who are held accountable for them. It’s easy to switch between activities and do costing for work at potentially different rates – a critical requirement for organizations such as universities and service businesses that use labor for a variety of needs. The application integrates pre-developed content from labor law and industry regulations to help ensure that scheduling complies with these policies. It’s predictive and policy software approach can assess any potential conflict that could happen with planned schedules is unique.

EmpCenter 9 was released this year with a major focus on supporting global and mobile deployments, and it provides a more open and integrated approach with other applications. On the global side of advancements, EmpCenter now supports 10 languages in addition to English. On the mobile technology side, the company has enhanced the mobile aspects of Workforce Management. It now uses HTML5 so that EmpCenter Mobile can operate across compliant browsers on Android and Apple devices. The company has indicated that HTML5 will replace native support of Android and Apple-based technologies. I am still a little skeptical on a complete move to HTML5, as it has not yet proven its stability across browsers, operating systems and Android devices. In addition, HTML5 cannot leverage local mobile hardware features for camera, video, field communication (NFC), gesturing and other technological advancements the way a native approach can.

The new release provides some critical productivity improvements. For instance, in what it calls one-touch callout, shifts can be announced to workers across multiple channels, such as email, text, phone and even social media, This helps address the preferences of workers; for instance, millennials often respond faster to texts than emails. Event-based scheduling can help plan one-time events or projects that need immediate attention for staffing, and can use one-touch callout to reduce the time it takes to get workers with specific skills. Across the board EmpCenter 9 has improved usability, from simplified steps in prompted wizards to more use of dragging and dropping in the application interface.

At the analyst summit, I got a deeper technology review of the software’s badge and biometric reader options. I got to see the new EmpCenter Engage Tablet, which uses an Android tablet for a range of time and attendance and other necessary worker interaction tasks, and which has a video camera that can be used for identification. This technology supports global deployments in regards to power and network connectivity, and supports attachments for other interaction needs. The Windows-based EmpCenter Touch Screen provides a simple kiosk-based approach that can be used in many environments. The company also can support time and attendance tasks at the desktop, allowing for easy checking in and out of projects. This variety of choices is part of the unique value in WorkForce’s approach compared to others, and it is an area that we focus on in our benchmark research on the needs of organizations in next-generation workforce management.

With regard to openness, WorkForce Software has expanded integration with ADP, IBM, Oracle, SAP and even Kronos to help make its software easier to integrate. I recently came across WorkForce Software at SAP Successfactors conference and saw how the two companies are working to integrate the talent management and new global payroll offerings. These technical partnerships help WordForce Software ensure the highest level of productivity and advancement for organizations who want to employ workforce management. As the company continues to advance its applications, it will need to address the concerns we have found in our data in the cloud benchmark and the broader needs we uncovered in our information management benchmark.

My review of version 9 provided some critical insight into its flexibility for meeting a range of needs across industries, especially those that need to track time and allocate costs. It has many nice capabilities for managers and employees for keeping track of information and alerting them to potential issues that could arise, such as when overtime could occur with a current schedule or when issues arise based on policies and compliance. It also can support a blended rate based on tasks and place of work. These are critical needs for varying industries, and point to the software’s flexibility for business users. Still, nothing is perfect – I believe EmpCenter could use technological advancements in its workforce analytics; specifically, usability and interactivity for a range of needs should have a higher priority than what I have seen. The company should also explore further ways in which it can help organizations engage employees, which will require some examination of social collaboration, and where it can integrate further with the onboarding of workers, to speed the process and find ways to limit the administration and paperwork required.

Workforce Software is doing a great job to advance the workforce management software market. Its challenges are less in its software and more in advancing the visibility of the breadth and depth of its offerings and gaining further adoption in white-collar industries, where businesses still manually handle many of their workforce’s scheduling, tracking and monitoring tasks. WorkForce’s fatigue management feature is a critical distinction for its software, and its approach can be used in many industries. Now, as it is fully engaged in the software-as-a-service approach, the company can gain new customers who don’t want to worry about technical implementation or resource issues at their sites.

If you are ready to reassess your current approach to workforce management and have not considered WorkForce Software, you should examine it more closely, as it has a good reputation and a solid offering in the market.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

At this year’s Taleo World conference in San Francisco, more than 1,600 Taleo customers learned about the company and its suite of talent management applications. A major theme of the conference was the company’s investment in mobility and social media and the intersection of those trends with collaboration tools.

Taleo generates more than two-thirds of its revenues from its core recruiting software, which its customers are adopting its applications with recruiting (85 percent), performance (12 percent), compensation (4 percent), learning (13 percent) and succession. Taleo cross-sells to its existing customer base, which accounts for more than 50 percent of its bookings – about what you would expect of a company its size. The company’s growth fuels new technology development, which helps existing customers connect a variety of activities with Taleo applications.

As it announced and demonstrated in 2010, Taleo has been integrating social media with learning and recruiting applications. It is bringing to market new social talent-based applications that will run on Android, Apple and RIM mobile platforms, and integrating them with collaborative technologies in the enterprise and in the cloud, including Jive, LinkedIn and Microsoft SharePoint. This contrasts with the approach of companies such as SuccessFactors that bring their own collaboration and social environment products to market, then integrate with third-party providers. Which approach gains most adoption has yet to be proven.

Taleo also is trying to engage job candidates in a new way with a smartphone-based social application called Taleo Radar that is available and was announced. In its first release users can meet and interact with people in a way somewhat like they do with Foursquare, without checking in but rather based on who is around them. This application introduces a consumer and social approach that Taleo is experimenting with to see if it can be as viral as LinkedIn but focused on jobs and working people. The application has a nice user experience but lacks some significant functionality, such as integrating with social profiles from Facebook or LinkedIn as part of registration, and dynamically identifying people who could be relevant to meet. In addition, without a check-in feature it is hard to know where a person is actually located. Radar will require improvement and perhaps co-marketing with retail locations like Starbucks and others before Taleo can expect adoption by consumer candidates not familiar with the company. But in social media you can expect the unexpected, and maybe Taleo has something brewing with this application. If you want to find me on Taleo Radar, look for my name – don’t expect to recruit me socially to your organization, but I will provide recommendations on social recruiting.

In another mobility advance, Taleo demonstrated Taleo2Go, a set of upcoming applications that will operate on tablet computers and help in onboarding, talent profile reviews and integration with the social enterprise for help in finding appropriate people for business and networking within an organization. It uses innovative techniques to associate an individual with information and people based on what the person  enters into the application. It also looks at career and succession planning, along with goals and objectives reviews, in a visually intuitive manner. Talent2Go is still evolving and not available for any close-up examination yet. It is scheduled to be released sometime in 2012.

In Taleo’s core business of talent management, the company announced its latest version with advances that more recently came out to attract and engage talent and help build and assess team goals more efficiently. In addition, it keeps improving the Talent Browser application it announced over the summer. With a single click the application lets you handle tasks from performance checks to succession planning. Taleo is focused on being open with its talent profile. Since its version 10 release two years ago it has been able to interconnect with other communication, candidate-specific, social networking, collaboration, HRMS and talent-related applications. Taleo has also moved to make its career websites compatible with smartphones and tablets. Another advance coming is talent identification through searching using relevant selectors such as readiness for promotion, potential to perform and even willingness to relocate.

Taleo has invested in its infrastructure as well. According to the company it’s the only talent management provider with a hot standby data center for large enterprises. It says its software processes 6.7 million candidates, 288,000 hires, 69,000 performance reviews and 39,000 goals plans every month. This provides a foundation for Taleo to make acquisitions and migrate their users to its facilities. Taleo has been integrating recently acquired companies with its own software’s user experience and navigation methods, and simplifying secured authentication. Those recent acquisitions include Learn.com for  e-learning applications, Cytiva to gain more recruiting customers and Jobpartners for expanding into Europe.

Taleo is expanding its position in learning management systems with Learn.com and gaining ground in the crowded performance management applications market, in which it has had success in the last couple of years with new customer growth and large deployments. In 2011 improved performance of its conversation hub and integration with email have provided better collaboration. As Taleo CEO Michael Gregoire pointed out, the younger generation of workers wants to have more frequent interactions on goals and progress than the traditional annual appraisals that our performance management for talent management benchmark research has found 88 percent of organizations continue to perform. Making it simpler for managers to hold employee reviews is important, as the same benchmark research found more than half of organizations want to make alignment of goals and career management easier.

The Achilles’ heel of Taleo’s application suite is its compensation management applications. My analysis, confirmed in our benchmark research, shows the software requires broader and deeper capabilities to support a range of incentives and rewards linked with the frequent performance checks, but also on the path to a pay-for-performance set of processes. Our 2011 Total Compensation Management Value Index concluded that Taleo has room for improvement across the board, from product-level usability and functionality to customer validation, which kept Taleo from being a top-ranked provider.

Taleo showed compensation as part of its Taleo Business Edition at the conference, but that was pretty much absent in educational sessions and demonstrations. Almost two years after announcing Worldwide Compensation, Taleo does not seem to be further along than it was after acquiring Vurv, which had a good start in providing a compensation application that Taleo scrapped. Over the summer Taleo released a visual compensation calculator to make it easier to create and modify rules and calculations, which is a requirement to be competitive in this application field. Compensation is not an area that Taleo is known for, and the company would probably do better to improve the marketing of this specific application so that it is not lost in the talent management dialogue, since the buyers are focused on compensation and finance along with HR.

Taleo is now approaching a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue and thus has many synergies to its business, but it must continue to innovate in the user experience and mobility aspects of its products. It needs to dramatically improve its compensation management offering to cover more functionality and breadth of incentives, rewards and variable pay. In addition Taleo apparently does not see the importance of stand-alone workforce analytics that can bring together data from across processes in the enterprise and the cloud to provide an in-depth set of metrics and key indicators. The company’s existing workforce analytics are embedded as part of its application suite, but unless an organization converts everything to Taleo it will not be able to take advantage of cross-organizational workforce analytics. My dialogue with Taleo executives at the conference did not show much appetite to compete in the workforce analytics market or appreciation of the pain HR and Finance suffer when forced to integrate disparate data from on-premises and cloud computing applications from many providers.

Despite these shortcomings, Taleo has plenty of room for growth. Given its size and reach it can be challenged globally by only a handful of other providers. I like its aggressive exploration of the intersection of social media and recruiting, which our preliminary findings, to be published later this year, have determined to be an area for growth. Taleo is worth examining in for recruiting, performance and succession applications then look carefully at evolving compensation and more newly acquired learning applications.  If your organization cares about gaining access to larger talent pools through mobile and social media, you have to see what Taleo is doing and how it can help your organization.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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