Better HR management tools for hire

Lowdown

What are they? Human resources applications include traditional HR management systems, comprehensive enterprise resource planning systems and targeted applications for functions such as recruiting.

Why would agencies need one? The push toward integration, paperless processes and outsourcing makes the use of enterprise HR systems imperative. Modules within the systems also let agencies perform increasingly important work-force analyses.

What's new? The hottest trend is toward time- and money-saving employee self-service options via Web front ends. Look for these functions in more products, usually as optional modules.

Must-know info? HR products likely will evolve toward more self-service options and in-depth analysis. Tools to help HR managers make decisions are on the horizon.

Most legacy human resources systems aim only at payroll processing and core functions, such as benefits administration. But new applications have supported the kinds of strategic planning and development that HR managers have been trying to implement in low-tech ways.

Agencies use automated recruiting and resume processing, for example, to find new employees and build profiles for managing people as organizational resources.

American Management Systems Inc., Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc. and SAP AG ? the four biggest vendors of enterprise resource planning applications for government ? are the main players in modern HR systems. But a few niche vendors continue to hold sway, especially in recruiting. The Resumix division of Yahoo Inc., for example, helped 130 Minnesota state agencies using a centralized hiring center halve the time they took to fill positions. The Defense Department and NASA also use Resumix.

Federal HR systems now take their marching orders from recent government accountability and performance initiatives, especially the President's Management Agenda.

Anecdotally, the most popular HR management system trend in the private sector and government has been the addition of employee self-service to existing systems. This is usually a separate, optional module to the HR core package, but increasingly it is included in some products.

David Essex is a free-lance technology writer based in Antrim, N.H.

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