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Acquisitions Cap Hot Year for HR Apps

Lawson and Epicor buy human resource applications vendors -- just two more signs of a growing market.

Human resource applications, and the vendors that offer them, seem to be in big demand. Within the last week, ERP vendors Lawson and Epicor have both announced deals in the HR arena. But that's just the latest in a string of HR-related announcements in 2010.

On Monday, St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson Software announced plans to acquire Enwisen, a provider of HR portal, knowledgebase, onboarding, case management and reward compensation functionality delivered software-as-a-service (SaaS) style. Navato, Calif.-based Enwisen has 260 customers and is expected to be acquired by December 31 for $70 million in cash plus a $5 million performance-contingent payout payable in mid 2012.

Lawson said Enwisen's services will become a new strategic component of the Lawson Human Capital Management (HCM) System. Lawson HCM includes talent management and workforce management apps and is said to be a key growth driver for Lawson, accounting for 1,000 customers before the Enwisen deal.

"Companies want to transform how HR services are delivered to their employees, simplify these services and reduce the costs associated with them," said Larry Dunivan, senior vice president of Human Capital Management products for Lawson, in a statement on the Enwisen acquisition.

Last week, Epicor Software acquired Spectrum Human Resource Systems in a $16 million, all-cash deal expected to be completed by year end. Spectrum's Web-based HR and talent management software is to become the core of a newly formed Epicor Human Capital Management group. Epicor said the deal will broaden the vendor's base and will create cross-selling opportunities among both Epicor ERP customers and Spectrum HCM customers.

Other apps vendors on the HR hot list include SaaS-based ERP vendor Workday, a company that has long specialized in HCM functionality. Workday 12, an upgrade of the SaaS platform released in early December, includes enhancements to both HCM and to talent management functionality added in March.

Workday Initiatives is a new HCM work management application designed to help companies plan, staff, manage, and analyze the cost, quality and nature of work. Key features enable users to model various types of work, find and assign qualified people, report time spent on tasks, align work with individual and corporate performance goals, and analyze results and costs with actionable performance measures.

Workday 12's talent management enhancements are said to make it easier for organizations to find, assess, and reward employees. A faceted search feature lets manager explore available talent with filtered searches across 20 dimensions including locations, job descriptions, competencies, work experience, languages, talent assessments and performance data. A new collaborative feedback feature lets employees solicit and provide input on formal or informal performance reviews and career development plans.

SuccessFactors is another SaaS vendor that has expanded its portfolio of HR capabilities. The company is best known for its performance management application for employee-performance reviews. But the company has steadily extended its BizX Suite by add apps for recruiting, variable pay, strategy management, goal execution, compensation management, succession planning and workforce planning.

Why all the interest in expanded HR functionality? Cost control clearly drove interest at the onset of the recession. But as shared in a recent InformationWeek Analytics report, innovation and competitive advantage are also closely tied to the workforce. The report cites a survey of 400 senior manufacturing executives that found that "talent-driven innovation" was the top driver of competitive advantage.

The survey, conducted by Deloitte and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, was specific to manufacturing, but the report concludes that the intersection of talent and innovation are cross-industry concerns.

Last month, SAP introduced a Workforce Planning application that lets managers in any industry create simulations and predictive models around staffing needs. The idea is to be able to anticipate demand so HR managers can gear up hiring, shift existing talent or both in advance of major projects or product-line launches.

As economic recovery takes hold, the retention, reward and recruitment functionality of HCM systems will undoubtedly get a workout. Deloitte is predicting a "resume tsunami" in 2011 as many employees who've been waiting for a stronger job market will try to make a move.

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