HR Sales Surge Amid Pink Slips

Partners flow to human-resources solutions that make workforce hum with efficiency.

With payrolls declining at the highest rate in 10 years, it seems a bad time to be pursuing human-resources applications.

But thats just what a few solutions providers are doing. Brand-name integrators, Web-services firms and smaller consultancies are cultivating partnerships with software vendors offering HR specialty apps. Consider the following:

Accenture last week entered an alliance with Workbrain, a software company that offers employee-relationship management wares. Answerthink and EDS Corp. also are Workbrain partners.

KPMG Consulting is partnering with Incentive Systems and its enterprise incentive management (EIM) application, which helps companies manage sales commissions and other incentive plans.

EPresence and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among those joining Business Layers recently announced alliance program. Business Layers sells "e-provisioning" software, which helps companies distribute resources from laptops, to e-mail addresses, to employees.

Whats driving the HR activity amid the pink slips? For one, companies are investing in HR automation to get the most out of downsized workforces. Claude Ferguson, an associate partner with Accentures Human Performance Practice, says operational efficiency is a key pursuit among corporations and automation allows companies to effectively schedule labor.

Thus, Accentures Workbrain alliance is an ROI opportunity, Ferguson adds.

Eric Green, VP of strategic alliances at Workbrain, says companies that previously focused on optimizing external ties via CRM systems are now looking inward. "How do we get more out of the people we have?" is a common question in the current economic squeeze, he says.

"Demand for our product has actually never been greater," adds Michael Byers, president and CEO of Incentive Systems. "The pipeline is just bursting right now."

Incentives EIM application helps companies create incentive compensation plans and then manages the often complicated process of calculating variable pay. Organizations at times overpay commissions, which have led some companies to miss their earnings expectations. John Deere & Co. cited higher sales-incentive cost as a factor in a recent quarterly report.

"When everybody is focused on earnings per share, no one wants to make a mistake," Byers says.

Incentive Systems partners with firms such as KPMG, which recently installed its software at Genuity. It also works with regionals firms such as Westt Inc.

E-provisioning is another hot HR-related area. When ePresence started evaluating high-ROI applications to add to its solutions portfolio, it looked at Business Layers and its Day One application, which allows companies to efficiently allocate physical and digital resources.

"When you deliver solutions that have a high ROI—and do that during recessionary times when people are budget conscious—those are the ones that dont get cut back," says Scott Silk, senior VP of marketing at ePresence.

Izhar Shay, Business Layers CEO, says his companys sales have tripled quarter-over-quarter. He says the process of distributing corporate resources has become a "major source of frustration" for companies. He says companies lose productivity when new employees wait days, if not weeks, to receive the equipment necessary to do their jobs. And as employees are terminated, companies take a financial and security hit if former workers continue to have access to corporate calling cards and the network.

Outsourced HR applications also are hot in a downturn. Companies often look to cut HR costs when times are tight, which makes it a target for outsourcing.

"Companies are more willing to talk to us," says Margaret-Ann Cole, a principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers Unifi Network subsidiary. "In the past, we had to make the argument on how outsourcing is a good solution for them."

Today, HR apps appear to be among the easier sales in a turbulent market.

Workbrains software allows solutions providers to offer customers an efficient way to handle the scheduling and juggling of HR functions.