Workforce.com

HR Software Face-Off Reveals Latest Trends

A highly anticipated “battle” at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition revealed that social networking and “Web 2.0” features are key weapons for HR software vendors today.

October 24, 2007
A highly anticipated “battle” at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition revealed that social networking and “Web 2.0” features are key weapons for HR software vendors today.

Oracle, Lawson and Workday presented elements of social networking and the kind of consumer-friendly Internet interactivity that people have come to expect of software during the October 11 head-to-head-to-head showdown, held at the annual Chicago conference put on by Human Resource Executive magazine.

Lawson, for example, demonstrated how its new set of HR software tools can allow employees to post jobs from their firm’s career Web page directly onto their page at the popular social networking site Facebook. And companies can arrange to have employees earn a referral bonus if a job is filled by someone who applied through their Facebook page.

Such features let companies “put the job postings where the future talent lives and breathes,” says Larry Dunivan, Lawson’s vice president of global human capital management.

There’s a push to build greater interactivity and social networking capabilities into HR software. The applications are being used by a wider variety of employees as well as younger ones who grew up with the Internet and who frequent sites like MySpace.

Partly because of potential talent wars, HR applications are now the hottest area of business software. And the “battle” among vendors at this year’s HR tech show promised to be intriguing.

Unlike other HR Technology Conference showdowns among vendors, audience members were not asked to cast votes at the Oracle-Lawson-Workday event.

Organizers says a new format would make apples-to-apples comparisons impossible. The lack of a clear victor may have lowered the excitement level some, but drama was provided by having legendary PeopleSoft leader Dave Duffield pit his Workday product against Oracle. Duffield founded Workday in 2005, not long after losing a bid to keep PeopleSoft from being snapped up by Oracle.

At the “battle,” Duffield didn’t fail to entertain an audience that probably topped 1,500 people. Surveying the crowd, he made light of the legions of lawyers brought to bear during Oracle’s initially unwelcome acquisition attempt.

“I haven’t seen as many people in one room since our attorneys during the hostile takeover,” he says, drawing laughter and applause.

Duffield’s new firm stood out from Lawson and Oracle with its Google-like search field. That search box can be used to scan the Workday application using terms like “bonus.” The results from the searches are links that allow users to take actions such as creating a new compensation bonus program.

Oracle demonstrated that it is up on the latest trends of collaboration and social networking. Gretchen Alarcon, Oracle’s vice president for human capital management strategy, showed how an Oracle technology could allow employees to establish informal networks devoted to a particular topic and help workers further their careers by learning about job openings from colleagues. Alarcon called this embrace of peer-to-peer networks and sharing “Enterprise 2.0 for human capital management.”

A version of the collaboration technology, called WebCenter, is available now, but Oracle’s demo used a version of the product that is still in development.

Ed Frauenheim