Event: HR Technology Conference & Exposition
When: October 10-12, 2007
Where: Navy Pier, Chicago
What: Human Resource Executive magazine's HR Technology Conference & Exposition is a major annual gathering of HR tech professionals, vendors and analysts. Topics at the show, which is marking its 10th anniversary, include "the talent management suite," learning and performance management, recruiting and outsourcing.
Conference info: For information, go to www.hrtechnologyconference.com.
Day 2—Thursday, October 11, 2007
HR tech warfare: Among the highlights of this show are the head-to-head product demonstrations. Conference co-chair Bill Kutik takes pride in the way the show’s specific, scripted problems force vendors to provide attendees with apples-to-apples comparisons. Thursday featured a morning "shootout" of vendors that offer integrated performance management and recruiting applications, as well as an afternoon "battle" among providers of systems that include core HR applications.
Authoria bested SuccessFactors, Vurv and HRsmart in the morning shootout. Audience members using wireless voting devices selected Authoria as tops in each of three separate tasks, one of which involved a hiring manager preparing for a new hire’s first midyear review by accessing data captured during the recruiting process.
The winner of the afternoon contest between Oracle, Lawson and Workday wasn’t as easy to judge. Conference organizers decided against voting during the event, citing its format. Just one of the three segments involved all the vendors solving the same problem—which in this case centered on the creation of a new "skunkworks" team at a hypothetical software firm. During the second segment of the battle, vendors could choose their own problem and solve it, and in the third they were asked to provide a demo of their "coolest stuff." This format was designed to let attendees see vendor "thought leadership" but precluded fair comparisons, Kutik and company decided.
Still, audience members formed opinions. Several people interviewed after the event were impressed by what they saw from Lawson, which demonstrated its newly announced "strategic human capital management suite." During the third segment, Lawson showed how its software can allow employees to post jobs from their firm’s career Web page directly onto their page at the popular social networking site Facebook. Companies also can arrange to have employees earn a referral bonus if a job is filled by someone who applied through their Facebook page.
Lawson’s integration with Facebook "was really interesting," said Lawrance Martin, vice president of finance at the Allegheny East Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists church.
Oracle also showed off social networking during its demonstration. But rather than connect to a consumer site like Facebook, Oracle showed how its own technology could allow employees to establish informal networks devoted to a particular topic as well as alert colleagues about job openings.
Michelle Newell, senior director for human capital management applications marketing at Oracle, said Oracle’s promotion of informal collaboration "behind the firewall"—that is, within a company’s internal computer systems—is in response to corporate worries that use of consumer sites like MySpace and Facebook can threaten intellectual property and reputations. "Organizations are concerned that employees are talking about their company on Facebook," she says.
Too much talent management? Much of the conference was focused on talent management and integrated talent management suites. But Gretchen Alarcon, Oracle’s vice president for human capital management strategy, said all the attention on talent management can overshadow another important issue for clients. That is, she said, the continuing challenge of providing HR services to employees effectively and efficiently.
At the show, Oracle touted what it called "workforce service delivery," which refers to the way its software can be used to help organizations provide a tiered approach to employee services. In other words, the software is designed to enable firms to set up everything from online policies to call center help desks to personnel dedicated to solving the problems of senior executives.
"Workforce service delivery is still a critical area for a lot of our customers," Alarcon said. "It’s not just about talent management."
Day 1—Wednesday, October 10, 2007
HR tech is in: The world of HR technology is hot right now, and the scale of this show reflects the buzz. There are some 2,200 registered attendees, as well as more than 220 exhibitors. This is the first year folks from Russia have attended the event, conference co-chairman and Human Resource Executive columnist Bill Kutik told participants. Top HR tech analysts are here. And the list of presenters includes officials from such industry titans as Coca-Cola, Aramark and IBM.
HR tech is not all that: Despite growing spending on HR applications, a major theme of this year’s show is that software is no substitute for a company getting its workforce management processes and strategies in order. Speaking on a panel of company officials focused on "talent management" efforts, a vice president from services provider Aramark discussed his firm’s quest to come up with a standard approach for assessing employees. Liviu Dedes, an organizational development specialist at the company, saysid it would be a mistake to invest in software for performance management and other tasks before his company gets its internal ducks in a row. "The organization is not quite ready for it," he saysid.
Please don’t squeeze the software: During an informative presentation on talent management software, Bersin & Associates analyst Leighanne Levensaler used an analogy that probably made vendors squirm. In describing a reason companies purchase "suites" of talent management software, she noted that bulk buys lead to discounts: "It's like buying multiple rolls of toilet paper instead of one roll of toilet paper."