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Meta4 PeopleNet Software Review

 

Meta4 Technology Review

Meta4's PeopleNet software leverages the server platforms of the IBM iSeries, Microsoft operating systems, and Unix; as well as the DBMS (database management systems) platforms of Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.

Meta4's PeopleNet solution is one of the many software offerings in the HCM space that appears to straddle the traditional licensed, on-premise model and newer deployment models such as the cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Though exclusively marketed as a SaaS product, closer examination reveals that the solution is available in multiple deployment options. According to 2009 research from Gartner, roughly three quarters of Meta4's customer base deploys their HR software through the on-premise model; and only a paltry 15% have chosen to leverage the company's SaaS "subscription" option. Further, even that subscription model carries with it a license fee, which is a decidedly non-SaaS element that has been discussed for years. Although estimated figures were not available as to what current customers deploy, it's safe to assume that a sizeable portion of that customer base still remains on the licensed software option.

The company touts a multi-tenant architecture which supports SaaS delivery, as well as customer choice to subscribe to the software via remote delivery or deploy the HR software on-site. However, regardless of architecture, when customers deploy cloud software on-site they clearly lose many of the SaaS benefits—such as accelerated deployment (time to value), reduced IT administration, focus on core competencies, and seamless transfers of new software releases. That said, by all indications, Meta4 may well be in the throes of transitioning its customers to the same software instance, in much the same way that Ultimate Software began their transition just a few years ago. In fact, specific verbiage from the company seems to indicate that all "new" customers are being directed to the SaaS offering.

Business Process Automation (BPA)

Also known as "workflow", Meta4's BPA includes a proprietary workflow tool that improves HR business processes by grouping, automating, and integrating otherwise manual tasks. The Meta4 PeopleNet workflow engine is based on roles, meaning that once a triggering event is defined, tasks can be directly sent to all the people who hold a specific role or position, and not to those identified by their names (a generally helpful workflow facet particularly for larger enterprises). In addition, this workflow has built-in functionality that recognizes the defined competencies of individuals and can thusly process work and information to the most appropriate people to perform a specific task.

System Integration Capabilities

At the core of the Meta4 software platform is an integration framework which allows significant interoperability with both in-house and outsourced HR and back-end systems. Leveraging a Rich Internet Application (RIA) architecture, the PeopleNet system facilitates integration using a broad set of technologies like LDAP, SOAP, XML, etc. Not only does this accommodate technical connectivity but functional data exchange with internal controls or integrity measures for HR features can also be handled. Out-of-the-box user configurable interfaces come with this integration framework so that input and output from/to other legacy or HR systems is smooth.

Groupware Integration

Email integration consists in email delivered from the SaaS platform Mail Server to the customer Mail Server and is compatible with both Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Mail Servers.

Software Customization Capabilities

As is the case with most of today's HR software applications, PeopleNet's most basic customization functionality includes the ability to modify the start page to incorporate a company's logo, colors, etc. As well, employees' and managers' self-service pages are also configurable by individual users allowing for the addition of "favorites", other browser shortcuts and the ability to organize the page in a manner that suits their personal preferences.

More advanced software customization functionality is available for those clients who need to go beyond configurable parameters and custom processes or features based on global and multiple local requirements which are unique to their business activities. While specific visualization tools were not disclosed by the vendor, customization capabilities that Meta4 provides include:

  • Extra workflows for new HR processes or policies;
  • Optional additional alerts for existing and custom workflows;
  • Additional custom specific user profiles;
  • Additional and more complex reports and queries for web publication; and
  • Sandbox environments for on-demand set up (and testing) of a secondary copy production environment with client company's own data and functionality.

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