The Good, Bad and the Ugly of Taleo Business Solutions!!

Talent Drives Performance - Taleo Talent Management

Phew !! that’s an impressive list of credentials for a Company that was founded in 1996..almost a decade after Dave Duffield founded PeopleSoft – one of the best in breed ERPs in the market today. I had heard about Taleo’s Recruiting Solution about 4 yrs ago when my previous employer was scouting for the best Recruiting solution after being a wee bit uncomfortable with PeopleSoft’s Recruiting solution.  Without a doubt, Taleo’s impressive User Interface and advance talent acquisition functionality stood out from the crowd. Having a bias towards peopleSoft, I must confess I didn’t give it much of a thought until I was given a demo of the system by Josh during my class at UC Berkeley and I was mesmerized once again with the impeccable UI and ease of configuration that this system gives to its users….So without a further adieu let me rummage through all the literature available and collect my thoughts to present a rather interesting take on …the good, bad and ugly of Taleo’s  Talent Management Solution.

So What makes Taleo Talent Management worth a mention?

1. Affordability: It’s simple with no initial capital expenditure. Like most of its contemporaries in the SaaS and Cloud Computing domain, users pay a monthly fee of $99-140$ per month. There is no software or hardware to buy which is normally a deterrent in these trying times.

2. Availability and Pure Web Architecture:  Accessible 24/7 from anywhere anytime as long as there is an Internet connection.

3. Usability: This is one area wherein I found Taleo providing the greatest advantage to its users mainly the candidates through its simple and intuitive User Interfaces . With the sudden rise of social networking sites like Twitter and Linked In used by candidates for job application purposes, Taleo has a built in integration with both these websites. Hence it facilitates an instant chat with a member of the Co’s recruiting team as well as allows a prospective applicant to find additional information through contacts on professional/ social networking sites like Linked In.

4. Integration to Microsoft Outlook: Coming from a PeopleSoft eRecruitment background, this was another fascinating feature provided by Taleo. All interview schedules can be entered in Microsoft Outlook which can further remind an interviewer about the interview scheduled for the day without having to login to the system and checking an equally complicated interview schedule calendar.

5. Configurable Workflow Mails: I still recall the nightmare I had to undergo while configuring the workflows in eRecruitment as the business processes were so individualized to certain sections of the user audience. Taleo allows us as Functional Consultants to configure individualized workflows. Hence we could better adapt the system to our real life business scenarios.

A very refined Advance Search Functionality: In PeopleSoft eRecruit, there was an inherent bug in the Verity Index which allows us to use the advanced search functionality. PeopleSoft n its vanilla avatar also restricted its users on a very limited fixed set of parameters to search a large and complex resume database. I still recall the times wherein my power users wanted resume searches to be based on uploaded CVs, testimonials, PDF resumes and HTML docs which wasn’t possible in the system. In one of the demo sessions, Josh demonstrated how Taleo allowed its candidates to upload not only .txt files but also .Doc, .PDF, .HTML files which seemed so practical in today’s time.

7. Ad-hoc Reporting: Even today, if I could lay my hands on a disgruntled user, it would be my Head of Group wide Recruitment as she wanted the flexibility to drag and drop fields used for her MIS and reporting which could never be standardized in a crystal / SQR report. The ease and flexibility which this feature brings definitely makes one of the reasons for a compelling business case for Taleo ATS.

The other side of the coin…the flip side of Taleo:

I do realise that demos or sales pitches by pre-sales teams are expected to invoke an -Ahhhaa effect on the audience so while I cannot discount the apparent advancements of the Taleo system, I cannot assume a perfect system devoid of any ugly truths.

1. Integration through Open APIs : While I may not be an IT professional to enumerate the complexities involved in integrating the Taleo Recruiting system with the Co’s System of Record by using the functionality of Open API, as a novice on this subject I can state with some degree of certainty that the path to integration of the 2 systems provided by different vendors, having no commonality in system architecture and database structure would not be for the faint hearted. Integration plays an important role when you have hired the candidate through Taleo’s ATS and now the record needs to be passed in the System of Record (employee database). Most integration using Open APIs are through non real time cumbersome batch processes which further results in time lag for data entry between the 2 systems.

2. Taleo is known for its ATS not Talent Management: If we were to trace the early beginnings of Taleo as a product and focus on its impressive list of Fortune 100 clients, you would see a trend towards Taleo’s forte being its advanced ATS. From a predominantly ATS product to a Talent Management application comprising of Performance Management, Career & Succession Planning modules, there is no comprehensive evidence of the business benefits of Co’s using these modules or to corroborate if these processes are mature and incorporate industry best practices.

3. Data Security – Although I am told that there is a detailed comprehensive encryption methodology of securing data, there is still an element of fear in my mind for fear of cyber pilferage or confidential Talent Ratings falling into the hands of cyber miscreants.

4.  Customer Support/ Helpdesk Assistance – Resorting to my past experience of working on PeopleSoft, I always knew that there was a very robust 24/7 Support infrastructure for its customers with predefined escalation clauses and SLAs which I used extensively during the nascent stages of project roll out and implementation. It may seem questionable to assume a similar support infrastructure that Taleo would provide to its customers in very remote corners of the world, akin to that provided by the Application Bigwigs like Oracle, SAP or PeopleSoft.

Whether Taleo’s Talent Management Suite can rival that of the larger Best in Breed Application systems like PeopleSoft, Oracle, SAP etc .. only time can tell. However, its without a doubt a competitor which only a fool would choose to ignore….So lets  wait and watch this race for some more tech trivia!!

Tech Debate (Part 1) – Voilla !!! Business Case for Web 2.0 and SaaS Software.

web2inenterprise_latestWhen the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.

– Chinese proverb

The world of ‘Talent Management’ is changing at a bewildering pace. Everywhere new conceptual models are being developed, new talent management software is being released, new Talent Management strategies are devised and a new highly skilled workforce is marching into our organizations…thereby challenging our conventional wisdom in many ways than one. We are in the midst of a new wave of talent management where talent and brainpower are becoming the predominant currency. ..ofcourse leveraged by the new Web 2.0 and SaaS technology.

So, the next obvious question that will strike any intelligent mind is how does the application of Web 2.0 and SaaS translate to better Talent Management in organizations of the future?

In the past couple of works, I have been reading and watching demos of various Talent Management application suites using Web 2.0 and SaaS software as a part of my course at UC Berkeley – HR systems and technology. Having come from a prior PeopleSoft HCM and Hyperion implementation experience, I must confess I was biased towards ERPs and discounted what various gurus spoke about Web 2.0 and SaaS software. However, this blog is a starting point of new revelation that Web 2.0 and SaaS may herald a new future of Enterprise Software and below mentioned are some points that I was intrigued by.

a. Knowledge Transfer and Best Practice Sharing: How many of us in HR use Twitter, Blog sites or wikis to understand the latest HR policies or process as implemented in HR. Today as a part of my project assignment I use Twitter, Linked In and Blog sites to connect to millions of people, mentors and product managers to gain knowledge about my project assignment. It’s like business consultancy for free. Apart from social networking sites, most SaaS applications are built on global HR practices which are easy to deploy and configure to the organization’s needs.

b. Facilitates in-depth knowledge of our employees:  Although I worked in the niche area of identifying the company’s future leaders, I would seldom have in depth information about their interest, skill sets, aspirations and project assignments the way most Social Networking sites would detail. As I started using the social networking sites more often, I realize that there is a vast repertoire of information that most people in HR would long to get their hands on but their ERP systems limit their search.

c. To develop an internal communication tool for your company:  Having worked extensively on PeopleSoft and its Portal application, I have always longed for simplicity and ease to connect the Company’s Senior Leadership with the voice of its employees. While I’d say PeopleSoft did allow us to do it…company blogs are a perfect way to communicate your voice to employees and vice versa. I’ve seen CISCO systems do that effectively.

4.Expand your reach to candidates:  A no. of recruiters have their pages uploaded on Facebook and other well known Recruiting sites e.g. www.recruitingblogs.com wherein jobs and vacancies are posted and candidates are sourced. This is especially being used for campus recruitment to some of the premier B-Schools.

5. Affordability:  Most SaaS application suites unlike their predecessors – The ERPs are highly affordable and do not require an additional paraphernalia of IT infrastructure. I still recall my PeopleSoft implementation days where days and weeks were devoted to costly Hardware and Software installations by equally costly hardware and software experts. Even the total project time for a global implementation of our magnitude was 180 days which would also add to the project deployment cost. Most SaaS application suites are ready to use (if you are not looking for customization) & can be commissioned immediately.

6. Available Anywhere Anytime:  All SaaS applications is available to any user who has access to Internet hence its accessible 24/7 – 365 days of the year. This enables employees to access the software from their main office, from home or any place they are traveling to.

7. Constant Updates and No IT problems:  This is a rather interesting feature for which most people like me with ERP implementation experience would heave a sign of relief. Every time a new upgrade or a release patch is required to be installed, its like living a nightmare !! However unlike ERPs, SaaS applications are updated with new features regularly and Software bugs are fixed in real time by the vendors. So its time to say goodbye to all IT problems that we as implementers are confronted with on an ongoing basis.  SaaS vendors have their own maintenance and support Department which look after the day to day maintenance and bug fixing.

8. Customization Available: Recently I attended a webinar on Configuration vs Customization by one Talent Management application vendor – Workday. It was fascinating how most backend customization that would be required to tweak a system business workflow to an organizational TO BE process can be avoided by allowing most users to configure systems to their needs. This was perhaps one of the greatest boon that a SaaS and Web 2.0 enabled application would allow vis a vis other reputed ERPs.

While this blog is only the beginning of an end project deliverable on which Talent Management ERP best serves the needs of an increasingly global and fiercely competitive organization with an insatiable appetitive for mergers and acquisitions. This blog signals our story that is yet to unravel on how Talent Management enabled through a Web 2.0 and SaaS platform has the potential to change our ways of working in HR beyond recognition.

References: Web 2.0 and SaaS factor by Gireesh Kumar Sharma, Saigun Technologies.

My project presentation..In pursuit of the best Talent Management System.

Tech Debate (Part3) – The Cloud, Web & Enterprise Talent Management Software

cloud computing

This blog is a dedication to a never-ending debate in my mind that had continued to intrigue me since the beginning of my class here at UC Berkeley about 3 months ago. This curiosity of mine with an insatiable quest for finding an answer has led me to devote much time and attention to this debate for which the answers still allude me. To some it may be just another IT debate but to me, it seems to be a new found reality of the future of enterprise software.

To kick-start our Tech Debate Part 3, a fresh new study done by Gartner gives a technological twist to the debate. What fascinated me most about this study was that it delved into the intricacies of the technical aspects of Cloud Computing to put forth its pros and cos and used very simple examples of Google, Amazon and Salesforce.com to drive home the point. Interestingly, this is not a sole dedication to sing paeans of SaaS or Cloud Computing even though it does enumerate the aspects of ease of configuration of these systems to the customer’s need, greater affordability and smaller deployment time frames. The Gartner study equally emphasizes on some of the disruptive aspects and difficulties revolving around issues with security of data, integration of niche products, scalability and global support requirements.

To serve as an anchor for this debate and resolve it, let’s use the power of imagination to conjure up this scenario of a large diversified conglomerate:

…with a global workforce of 50000 employees,

…an insatiable appetite for Mergers and Acquisitions,

…with relatively immature processes for HR delivery (often in an offline paper-pencil format).

What would be the best technological platform for this company to Automate, Centralized, Integrated, Standardize, Adopt World Class HR Best Practices and and Processes across 110 of its subsidiaries… A SaaS based solution or a Conventional ERP??

Pros and Cons of each of these systems has only left me with more unanswered questions and greater thoughts to ponder upon..which seem to increase with greater research and time. However,the solution lies at crux of some of these unanswered questions…so its critical to surface these as a conversation starter and ask the experts on the world wide web to deliberate and discuss these to find a probable solution.

Q1) ….Should the company compromise on dazzling User Interfaces, Easy Configurability and Affordability over Superior forms of Integration within modules of an HCM application suite and Security of their critical Non Publicized Data???

Q2)  ….Most SaaS and Cloud Computing vendors furnish an impressive list of Fortune 100 clients using their niche products and decry the complexities that a conventional ERP confers on its users and implementers alike. However most IT departments in Large Global Companies with a workforce of 10000 upwards choose Conventional ERPs…Why???

Q3)… Is it about the mentality of Users who believe that a conventional Enterprise Solution protected by their own firewalls is more secure as compared to those over the internet???

Q4) …. Most SaaS and Cloud Computing Software dominate the small and medium scale market…are Large Companies adopting a Wait n Watch policy before they implement these systems.

To the experts out there, any thoughts??? Express your opinion through a short Interactive Poll which would take nothing more than 2 seconds for you..but would give me an insight on the collective thoughts of a much wider audience.

References: Gartner Event Presentation by Anthony Bradley: SOA, the Web and the Cloud: Big Decisions About Application Architecture