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John Stokdyk

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Workflow tools – the new buzz for HR software

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While self-service HR software is winning the battle for acceptance, the new buzzword at the HR Software Show (Olympia, London, 21-22 June) is likely to be workflow. John Stokdyk reports

“Self-service systems have been around for 2-3 years now, but what’s happening is a lot of customers are not just rolling it out to line managers, but extending it to employees and giving it additional functions,” says ASR’s marketing manager Tony Flanagan.

“People are becoming a lot cleverer about the way they are using self-service. It’s giving great visibility to the HR department and letting them do things like online appraisals, training admin and skill gap analysis.”

According to Flanagan, HR managers are embracing workflow tools that let them further automate their processes.

“Workflow is a seamless process that allows users to create a series of states and actions that define business processes,” he explained. “When a process is initiated the workflow module will coordinate the flow of the process, passing information to users, taking input from users and updating the database as required.”

In practical terms, this might mean replacing paper holiday request forms that are passed around the office with electronic forms with built in hyperlinks so that once a member of staff completes a holiday request, an email goes to the authorising manager with a URL that will log them straight into the system to approve or deny the request.

Cascade’s Andy Court picked up on this theme. “Most software will have authorisation routes, where a self-service application will let an employee set a report to go to their manager via email,” he explained.

“Workflow takes that one step further and can initiate tasks and involve other departments, for example when a new employee starts. The technology gives HR managers the ability to dictate policies and procedures to make sure things are happening in the right fashion – for example so that new starters are being well received and prepared, with PCs on their desks, passwords and their car arrangements, if needed.”

While still a relatively new technology, Court noted that Cascade’s workflow tools were one of the features that convinced the Financial Reporting Council to implement its software.

Court says that because every organisation’s processes are different, there is some doubt about how easy workflow tools can be adapted – and whether any configuration work will require extra consultancy.

“We’ve tried to make it so generalist HR users can configure HR workflows without additional support from us or the IT people – and without the need for consutlancy,” he said.

As a relatively new technology, workflow will take some time to filter through to users who have older systems, but if you are visiting the HRSS at Olympia, you can find out about the possibilities at the stands of vendors including ASR, Cascade, Perceptive and Team Technologies.

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John Stokdyk

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