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Glitzy Talent Management Interfaces Shed Light on Org Chart Software

May 21, 2008

The push by talent management software vendors to outfit their applications with the look and feel of org charts is calling attention to what has been a quieter corner of the HR software market: products expressly designed to create organizational charts.

Org chart software, from vendors including Nakisa, Aquire and HumanConcepts, represents organizations and employee reporting relationships in graphical form. The products can display the hierarchical structure of a company, with boxes that display employee names and titles and sometimes additional items such as their photos and performance rating.

Sellers of org chart software say their products not only provide a clear view of an organization’s structure, but also help with strategic decision-making. HumanConcepts, for example, says its software can play a key role in managing mergers and acquisitions by letting companies aggregate employee data from two firms and build a hypothetical combined organization within the application.

Martin Sacks, CEO of HumanConcepts, expects that the talent management vendors that have been adding org chart interfaces will eventually try to incorporate such workforce planning functions into their products—meaning more competition for him. But Sacks is glad to see the interest in org charts from vendors such as SuccessFactors and Authoria, because it indicates the org chart software market is on the rise.

"We kind of welcome them," Sacks says. "We do a lot of things that they’re not going to get to."

In the past year or two, user interfaces defined by org charts with "baseball cards" representing employees have become a growing trend in talent management applications, which are products for key human resource tasks such as recruiting, performance management and compensation planning. Major talent management players Taleo, SuccessFactors, Authoria and Cornerstone OnDemand have woven an org chart look and feel into their software. SAP, which sells a wide range of HR software, recently joined forces with Nakisa in launching a joint product designed to help with tasks including succession planning.

Other talent management vendors and some analysts are skeptical of the org chart interface trend, even calling it a fad. But advocates see org charts as a friendlier user interface and a key to improving adoption of talent management tools by managers and employees.

In fact, some talent management vendors are exploring the possibility of doing more with org charts. Authoria says its software already will allow organizations to view planned but not yet approved new positions and calculate the potential costs of those hires. The company is looking into enhancing its software to help organizations do scenario planning for mergers and acquisitions.

Taleo, for its part, is working on a feature that would allow managers to model teams. But Dave Michaud, vice president of product marketing at Taleo, says there’s a limit to how much org chart functionality his company will add. "Advanced org chart capability really isn’t our focus," he says. "We really focus on talent management best practices."

Workforce Management, May 19, 2008, p. 24 -- Subscribe Now!