But the move raises questions about how far talent management specialists should stretch from their roots and about the need for yet another Facebook-like tool.
At SuccessFactors’ customer conference in San Francisco on June 8, the firm introduced Employee Central. The new product is designed to aggregate basic employee data—such as name and job title—now frequently stored in human resource information systems with other talent data including performance information.
It also lets employees create profiles and tag themselves as focused on certain projects or hobbies.
“This is much more than just phone numbers and insurance information, but a social tool to collaborate, communicate and make real, strategic decisions about [an organization’s] people,” SuccessFactors chief executive Lars Dalgaard said in a statement.
But Jim McDevitt, head of rival talent management software firm Authoria, argues there’s a risk of being spread too thin by branching into human resource information systems.
“We’re not planning to dilute ourselves by heading off into that space,” he says.
The fast-growing field of talent management software refers to applications for key HR tasks such as recruiting, employee performance management and compensation management.
At the conference, though, Dalgaard and other executives hinted that they intend to compete in the larger category of business management software. They framed SuccessFactors as providing tools to bridge the gap between strategy and execution.
To go with this broader vision, SuccessFactors announced a deal with Sie¬mens in which the conglomerate will use a variety of SuccessFactors software modules with its 420,000 employees.
Employee Central, slated to be released in July, puts SuccessFactors squarely in the territory of human resource information systems, which was long controlled by vendors including Oracle, SAP and Lawson.
SuccessFactors says the product offers some HRIS-like functionality, such as planning a leave of absence.
Melody Silberstein, senior vice president of human resources at San Francisco-based insurance broker Woodruff Sawyer & Co., learned about Employee Central at the San Francisco conference and liked what she heard.
“HR is going to need to have a social networking strategy,” Silberstein said.
But it’s not clear how much appetite workers will have for another networking tool, and how such technologies affect the bottom line. Employees already have been setting up work-related groups on Facebook and MySpace. And corporate social networks can foster time-wasting along with productive teamwork.
To Lisa Rowan, an analyst at research firm IDC, Employee Central signals a looming war over which application will be counted on for data about workers.
“As HRIS and [comprehensive business software] providers continue to enhance talent functionality and talent management vendors continue to creep into core HR territory, it will make for an interesting meeting in the middle and a battle for status as ‘system of record,’ ” Rowan wrote in a report June 8.