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SuccessFactors Update Streamlines HR Management

User-interface improvements bring guided workflows to software-as-a-service-based human resources system of record.

Managing human resources was once akin to the tax-filing process: a long, tedious grind of finding, interpreting, and filling out forms. In a new approach espoused by on-demand applications provider SuccessFactors, HR management is more like the TurboTax experience: a guided, online workflow that lets people get the job done while automating the tedious details.

SuccessFactors' streamlined experience was announced Wednesday as an upgrade to its on-demand Business Execution (BizX) Suite. The key upgrades include an over-hauled interface and navigation experience for Employee Central, BizX Suite's core HR system of record, embedded analytics, including comparative industry benchmarks, and a new social learning component tied to recent SuccessFactors acquisitions.

Employee Central 2.0, the revamped HR system of record, is said to deliver a guided, intuitive experience for employees seeking to update their personal data or managers seeking to handle promotions, assess pay or performance, review headcount plans, or even take on acquisitions and mergers. The system's online navigation approach is an advance over legacy HR systems "like PeopleSoft and SAP" that took the old paper-based forms and made them electronic, Brad Mattick, head of worldwide product marketing at SuccessFactors, told Information Week.

"We've redesigned the interactions to be guided, so employees and managers- people who aren't in HR--can accomplish the tasks as easily as they can list an item on eBay or buy a book on Amazon," Mattick said.

Another enhancement in Employee Central 2.0 is the inclusion of workforce analytics and industry benchmarks that help managers get a comparative sense of company and employee performance. Gained through SuccessFactor's 2010 acquisition of analytics and workforce planning vendor Inform, these capabilities deliver more than 2,000 sought-after employee, departmental, and total-workforce metrics such as operating profit per full-time employee, the turnover rate among top-performing employees, internal hiring rate, and voluntary termination rates.

The industry benchmarks were developed based on aggregated data from all 3,200 SuccessFactors customers broken into major categories such as retailers, manufacturers, professional-services firms, and so on. Though the data is anonymous, it gives managers a sense of how their company is performing compared to firms in the same general industry.

In a final upgrade announced Wednesday, the vendor introduced SuccessFactors Social Learning, which stems from the March acquisition of Jambok, an on-demand social learning company with strengths in multimedia content. The social learning app is essentially a rebrand of Jambok that has been integrated into the BizX Suite.

Social learning tools enable customers to capture webcam videos, narration, and other multimedia assets such as screencasts, slideshares, photos, and documents. This content can then be uploaded and shared inside a company or extended to a larger community.

The social learning module is likely to grow later this year when SuccessFactors completes its acquisition of Plateau, which was announced last month. Plateau provides a more conventional on-demand or on-premises software-based learning management system that will complement the multimedia-oriented Jambok assets.

SuccessFactors touts its complete BizX suite as a single-sign-on, one-stop-shop for workforce management tools. The complete suite includes apps for employee performance management, recruiting, variable pay, compensation management, learning management, strategy management, goal execution, succession, workforce planning, and collaboration via the CubeTree social platform.

BizX capabilities, including employee updates and performance reviews, tend to be deployed enterprise-wide. Thus, SuccessFactors has racked up more than 10 million users among its 3,200 customer firms, a first for an on-demand services provider, according to the company. Enterprise customers include Comcast, Kimberly-Clark, and Vail Resorts.

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