Smart HR: Just How Good Is the New People Management Software? Human Resource Technology Is Taking off. High-Impact, Quantitative Software Solutions, like Performance Management Packages, Have Caught Management's Imagination. Technology Is Freeing-Up HR Managers to Become More Strategic about Staff Development. the Objective Is Better Organisational Performance. but Just How Technology-Driven Has HR Become? (HR Technology)

Article excerpt

Integrated, web-based human resource solutions that link the everyday `admin' stuff with other HR functions like training and competency development, have been on HR managers' wish-lists for years. But it's only since the recent advent of single-solution software that it's become `do-able'.

Variations of this software are now available, but most organisations are just starting to contemplate and appreciate the potential and the power that's increasingly within reach. Beyond the back-office applications, enterprises are using sophisticated HR software to drive business plan and performance management processes. Management wants to identify, nurture and retain top talent by using online information.

A survey of some of our larger corporations reveals a lot of activity going on out there in HR cyberspace.

Local activity

For example, the New Zealand Rugby Union has recently adopted PS Enterprise. The primary product offering of Rebus, PS Enterprise is a mid-sized, HR management and payroll solution. At the top end, large employers like National Bank and Telecom have embraced Oracle Human Resources Solutions, which in addition to automating routine tasks, gives staff access to other key areas of business intelligence. And Air New Zealand is currently deploying a $37-million PeopleSoft enterprise-wide solution (over five years) which, when complete, will have 26 systems all hanging off the one platform.

Homegrown options are also easy to find. For example, the 34 users of Jade's software solution, JADE Star, include organisations like BHP NZ Steel, the Department of Conservation and the National Library.

And what started out four years ago as a homegrown performance management and leadership development tool for Carter Holt Harvey's in-house use--Talent Manager--is now being sold commercially as an ASP model (with 15 external clients) via its HR solutions subsidiary Mariner7. Similarly, Lion Nathan developed its own in-house solution and is now contemplating commercialising the application under the People Planet brand name.

Drill down further and there are more niche-based applications like candidate testing software DrakeWize.

StaffCV software, developed originally for recruitment in the aviation sector, claims to have shaved $700,000 off Virgin Blue's HR operation costs.

Survey-based software is also becoming more popular. One example is Survey-online.com, developed by John Robertson & Associates to manage virtually any form of people research, such as employee surveys, 360-degree feedback and exit interviews. Key clients include: Trade NZ, The National Bank, ACC, Auckland Regional Council and Simpson Grierson.

Automation is key

So what does this software technology deliver that HR managers couldn't ante-up before? The short answer is nothing. But the difference, says JADE Star general manager Karen Dale, resides in the integration and automation of the processes.

Put simply, integrated HR software solutions attempt to:

* Free-up employee administration time

* Automate numerous manual tasks

* Improve communication across workforces

* Streamline reporting requirements

* Enhance the recruitment process

* Provide faster and easier access to up-to-date workforce data

* Identify employee skill and competency gaps, and

* Help implement strategies to improve performance.

With automated back-office systems already in place, the decision to implement new software within medium to large organisations is now being driven by HR rather than payroll or finance.

Culture gains

Does all this software work? Lion Nathan's answer is a resounding yes.

Nicolette Wood, the company's director HR technology, links Lion's recent ranking as Australia's fourth best employer--third best in NZ--to their People Planet solution. …