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HR Software Show round-up

pp_default1’s technology editor John Stokdyk spent last Thursday at the annual HR Software Show in London. This is what he found.

NorthgateArinso adds PeopleChecking to its portfolio

The first thing visitors encountered at the HR Software Show (HRSS) exhibition was the stand of NorthgateArinso. One of the HR software industry’s bigger players, and the winner of the 2007 Software Satisfaction Award for enterprise HR, the company expanded its portfolio in April with the acquisition of AST Check, an automated background checking service. According to sources on the stand, TV Apprentice Lee McQueen might not have made it through to the Sir Alan Sugar’s final shortlist if the show’s HR advisers had bothered to check his details properly. HRSS was effectively the public debut for the NorthgateArinso PeopleChecking service, which automates the checking and reference process to whatever level the customer firm desires. The system uses public sources such as Companies House, court records and the electoral roll to verify some details automatically, and will set up electronic workflow mechanisms to solicit responses from previous employers and personal referees. The service costs from £50 per check.

“Our figures show that 85% of applicants in the US are screened by third parties. In the UK, it’s 5%. And we suspect the remaining 95% are not screened at all,” said Rob Withers, managing director of the PeopleChecking division. “With all the recent publicity, companies know they’re exposed and have got to do something. The culture is changing, so demand for this kind of service is growing.”

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Effects of industry consolidation

Behind NorthgateArinso in the central zone of the exhibition were the rest of the integrated HR system developers including Oracle, Vizual, Cascade and Computers in Personnel. Snowdrop and KCS, which are now both of the Sage software group, were neatly tucked in together, while last year’s Software Satisfaction Award winner for integrated HR, ASR, was at the opposite end of the hall from its new corporate owner, COA Solutions.

The reason for all this industry consolidation, according to Simply Personnel’s Sat Sindhar, is because the lower end of the market is being attacked by employment service providers and legal groups who are giving away HR tools as part of their offerings. At the high end, accounting software companies are taking over. “We expect to see more accounting companies like Sage buying HR companies because they’ve exhausted their potential markets, while HR companies are still growing.”

Sindhar added that the prices being asked by many of the integrated HR software providers was also coming under attack from companies like his, which is using a web-hosted system to deliver comprehensive self-service HR facilities for £2 per employee per month.

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Select Software introduces new PeopleVision suite

For Select Software, the event saw the debut of PeopleVision, its new HR and payroll software. It is not a trivial task to do a complete ground-up rewrite of a complex business application, but if the market was demanding web-based solutions, Select HR needed to build one, said Select HR director of development Rob Maynard. The project to rewrite all of its existing functionality for the PeopleVision edition took two and a half years to complete.

While other companies beat Select to the market with self-service, browser-based products, the company’s late start meant it could adopt some of the lastest technology tricks. PeopleVision is based on Microsoft’s .NET architecture, in which the Windows application server will feed modules and forms to users via their web browsers. PeopleVision also incorporates Microsoft’s Workflow Engine, which means that authorisations and tasks can be routed to the relevant people, Maynard explained. The workflow tools are so easy to use that users themselves will be able to create their own workflow processes by dragging and dropping visual elements from the Workflow Engine toolkit. PeopleVision will start to earn its keep early in July, when Select starts to implement the first live version for an unnamed client.

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Computers in Personal Absence Manager is ready to take your sickness calls

We’ve grown used to responding to automated voice recognition systems when dealing with our banks and utility suppliers, but Computers in Personnel has brought the same technology into the field of HR with Absence Manager, a new system that uses voice recognition to record employees’ absence reports.

To report their sickness in the first instance, an employee can ring an automated telephone line at any time. The system will register their reasons and trigger alerts to relevant managers. The alerts can help to manage contingencies, and will also trigger follow up interventions if required at a later point – for example to request a visit from an occupational therapist or raise an insurance claim. By capturing data in a consistent manner, the web-based program can highlight absence trends and report on the costs of employee absence.

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Team Profile Analyzer: a colourful new view of team dynamics

Another eye-catching innovation at HRSS was the Team Profile Analyzer, a graphical team modelling tool developede by consultants at the Prague-based QED Group. The Analyzer can take numerical performance and motivation/personality data from a wide variety of sources and convert it into brightly coloured heat maps. The resulting “sociomaps” can illustrate team dynamics in a highly visual manner, typically with high and low-performing members showing up in closely aligned clusters. The maps can help managers to identify and encourage the characteristics of strong performers, or illuminate team cohesion. The red-yellow-green-and blue images were certainly arresting. When questioned what use they might serve in real life, one of the QED consultants said they could be very helpful in 360-degree appraisals.

Have your say in the 2008 Software Satisfaction Awards, organised by’s parent group Sift Media and the trade body BASDA – complete the online survey!

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