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FrontRunners for HRIS Management, March 2017

Powered by Gartner Methodology

This FrontRunners analysis is a data-driven assessment identifying products in the HRIS software market that offer the best capability and value for small businesses. For a given market, products are evaluated and given a score for the capability (x-axis) and value (y-axis) they bring to users. FrontRunners then plots the top 25-30 products in a quadrant format.

In the HRIS FrontRunners graphic, the Capability axis starts at 3.00 and ends at 4.10, while the Value axis starts at 2.80 and ends at 4.35. Scales may differ between quadrants in order to capture the relative positioning of the specific products in each category.

To be considered for the HRIS FrontRunners, a product needed a minimum of 20 user reviews, a minimum capability user rating score of 3.0 and a minimum value user rating score of 3.0. In most cases, we evaluate hundreds of products and feature only 20-30 as FrontRunners; thus, all products that qualify as FrontRunners are top performing products in their market.

The quadrant positions a product relative to its peers in the market. Each product falls within a designated quadrant based on their axis scores. Dependent on the specific needs of the software buyer, a product placed in any quadrant category could be a good fit. Each quadrant category has a distinct description for placement.

  • Upper Right = Leaders: Leaders are all-around strong products. They offer the highest value and capability in that market.

  • Upper Left = Masters: Masters may have fewer capabilities, but end users value those capabilities highly. Depending on the functionality needed, a product positioned in the Masters quadrant might be a better option to consider than products positioned in other quadrants.

  • Lower Right = Pacesetters: Pacesetters may offer a strong set of capabilities, but are not rated as high on value. For example, a Pacesetter might have a breadth of functionality at a higher price point.

  • Lower Left = Contenders: Contenders are strong-performing products that have not yet achieved the value and capability of the products in the other quadrants. For example, products in this quadrant may be more suited for companies that need more specialized functionality that comes at a price.

FrontRunners Methodology

The Basics

The FrontRunners methodology assesses and calculates a score for products on two primary dimensions: Capability on the x-axis and Value on the y-axis.

The Capability score is an overall weighted average of scores including:

  1. End-user ratings of one to five stars on the product’s functionality.
  2. End-user ratings of one to five stars ratings on the product’s ease of use.
  3. End-user ratings of one to five stars on the product’s customer support.
  4. A score, relative to other products in the market, for the product's inclusion of key functionality for the software category.
  5. A score, relative to other products in the market, representing the number of other products that integrate with it.

The Value score is an overall weighted average of scores including:

  1. End-user ratings of one to five stars on overall satisfaction with the product.
  2. End-user ratings of one to five stars on how valuable users consider the product to be relative to its price.
  3. End-user ratings of one to five stars on how likely they are to recommend the product to others.
  4. A score, relative to other products in the market, for the size of the product's customer base.
  5. A score, relative to other products in the market, for the number of professionals in the market who have experience with the product (e.g., users, developers, administrators).
  6. A score, relative to other products in the market, representing the total number of user reviews across the three Gartner web properties.
  7. A score, relative to other products in the market, representing the average number of times per month internet users search for the product on Google.

Markets are defined by a core set of functionality, and products considered for, and included in, FrontRunners must offer that core set of functionality. Additional related functionality can contribute to the capability score for a product.

To qualify for consideration in a FrontRunners quadrant, a product must have a minimum number of unique, user-submitted product reviews across the three Gartner Digital Markets web properties: softwareadvice.com, capterra.com and getapp.com. The minimum number of reviews required per product may differ by category, but will generally be between 10 and 20 unique reviews.

More Methodology Details

The FrontRunners methodology assesses products on two primary dimensions: Capability on the x-axis and Value on the y-axis. Products receive a score between one and five for each axis. Products that meet a minimum score for each axis are included as FrontRunners. The minimum score cutoff to be included in the FrontRunners graphic varies by category, depending on the range of scores in each category. For products included, the Capability and Value scores determine their positions on the FrontRunners graphic.

The Capability score is based on three criteria: user ratings on capability, a functionality breadth analysis, and a business confidence assessment.

    1. The capability user ratings criterion captures user satisfaction with the product's capabilities. The capability ratings score is a weighted average of the one to five star rating scores from three user ratings:
      1. Functionality.
      2. Ease of use.
      3. Customer support.
    2. The functionality breadth analysis is based on:
      1. The product's coverage of core software category functions.
      2. The number of other products integrated with it.

For each of these two data points, the methodology calculates the percentile ranking for each product relative to all other products in the software category that have qualified for FrontRunners consideration. That percentile ranking is then translated into a one to five score.

    1. The business confidence assessment is an indicator of whether the software company is likely to continue investing in the product for the next 12-18 months. The analysis is based on four data points:
      1. The product's current customer base.
      2. The annual growth rate of the product's customer base.
      3. The vendor's current employee base.
      4. The annual growth rate of the vendor's employee base.

If the company's size and product's customer base are both significant and growing, then the likelihood that the business will invest in the product is higher than in the alternative scenarios. For each of these four data points, the methodology calculates the percentile ranking for each product relative to all other products in the software category that have qualified for FrontRunners consideration. That percentile ranking is then translated to a one to five score.

The overall one to five Capability score is a weighted average of the scores for user ratings, functionality breadth and business confidence.

The Value score is based on two criteria: user ratings on value and product adoption.

    1. The value user ratings criterion captures users' satisfaction with the business value provided by the product. The value ratings score is a weighted average of the one to five star rating scores from three user ratings:
      1. Overall ratings of the product.
      2. How likely users are to recommend the product to others.
      3. How valuable users consider the product to be relative to its price.
    2. The product adoption data analysis assesses if the product is positioned in the market as more of an industry standard with higher adoption (thus earning a higher score), or as an emerging competitor with more limited adoption (thus earning a lower score). The product adoption methodology analysis for each product is based on four data points:
      1. The size of the product's customer base.
      2. The number of professionals in the market who have experience with the product (e.g., users, developers, administrators).
      3. The total number of user reviews across the three Gartner web properties.
      4. The average number of times per month internet users search for the product on Google.

For each of these four data points, the methodology calculates the percentile ranking for each product relative to all other products in the software category that have qualified for FrontRunners consideration. That percentile ranking is then translated into a one to five score.

The overall one to five Value score is a weighted average of the scores for value user ratings and product adoption.

Data

Data sources include user reviews and ratings, public data sources and data from technology vendors. The user-generated product reviews data incorporated into FrontRunners is collected from submissions to all three Gartner Digital Markets sites (softwareadvice.com, capterra.com and getapp.com). As a quality check, we ensure the reviewer is valid, that the review meets quality standards and that it is not a duplicate.

The business confidence and product adoption data comes from public sources, collected by either a third-party data provider or by Gartner associates. As a quality check, we compare this data against data submitted by the providers. We use this data to calculate a product's percentile ranking, which allows us to determine how products compare relative to one another rather than determine an absolute number.

The functionality breadth data is collected from the technology providers. We check the data provided and challenge data that seems inflated or unlikely. We use this data to calculate a product's percentile ranking, which allows us to determine how products compare relative to one another rather than determine an absolute number.

See FrontRunners frequently asked questions (FAQ) for more information on the methodology.

External Usage Guidelines

Providers must abide by the FrontRunners External Usage Guidelines when referencing FrontRunners content. Except in digital media with character limitations, the following disclaimer MUST appear with any/all FrontRunners reference(s) and graphic use:

FrontRunners scores and graphics are derived from individual end-user reviews based on their own experiences, vendor-supplied information and publicly available product information; they do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.

Runners Up

Providers listed as Runners Up were eligible for inclusion in the FrontRunners quadrant, including having 10+ product reviews, but their value or capability axis score was not high enough for positioning on the FrontRunners quadrant.


by Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 29, 2017


Human resources software is designed to help organizations manage every aspect of their HR operations, including:

  • Sourcing
  • Recruiting
  • Applicant tracking
  • Personnel tracking
  • Onboarding
  • Time and attendance
  • Payroll
  • Performance reviews
  • Learning management

We created this guide to help you determine which HR applications are best for your organization. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Human Resources Software?
Overview of HR Applications
Common Features of HR Software
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Market Trends to Understand
Recent Events You Should Know About

What Is Human Resources Software?

Human resources (HR) software solutions make managing a large or growing workforce more efficient. Vendors and buyers alike often refer to this category of software as human resources information systems (HRIS), human resources management systems (HRMS) or human capital management (HCM) software (though if you want to get specific, each of those categories has its own nuances).

What all HR solutions have in common is their ability to streamline the traditional HR functions of benefits administration, personnel tracking and payroll. But in addition to increasing your productivity by automating many of these administrative processes, HR software can also support you on a strategic level, by helping you to recruit, develop and manage your company’s most valuable resource: its people.

Overview of HR Applications 

Industry watchers break down the field of HR software into three main categories: Core HR, Workforce Management and Strategic HR—also called Talent Management or Talent Administration software.

HR Software Functionality

Core HR encompasses the three traditional human resources management functions: benefits administration, personnel tracking and payroll. Every company will require these functions once it has reached a critical mass of employees. You need core HR functionality when, for instance, manually running payroll and managing employees with spreadsheets becomes too burdensome a task.

Workforce management, or Workforce administration as it is also called, comprises the range of software solutions intended to effectively schedule and track your workforce. These solutions are ideal for organizations whose employees work in shifts, and include applications to track time and attendance, monitor compliance with labor laws and usually include payroll functionality, or integrate well with other payroll software. It's important to note that there are industry-specific systems that offer attendance functionality outside of human resources software. Specifically, school administration software provides education organizations a means of tracking student attendance. This can include providing online portals for parents and teachers to monitor attendance online.

Strategic HR involves growing your company by attracting and developing the best people, as well as better managing your workforce overall. Strategic HR applications generally provide some combination of applicant tracking and recruiting, learning management as well as performance review functionality. This type of software streamlines these strategic processes to ensure that a company is using its staff as efficiently as possible, and also that employees are continuing to grow and develop—increasing employee satisfaction and retention rates.

Of course, core HR, workforce management and strategic HR functions often overlap. While there are best-of-breed solutions for individual functions in each category, there are also integrated suites boasting across-the-board functionality.

Common Features of HR Software

Core HR

Benefits administration Manages employee benefits such as paid time off, medical/dental/life insurance policies and 401k participation. Example vendors: OmnipriseHRM, Epicor HR, Triton HR.
Personnel tracking Centralizes employee data, such as SSN, contact information, past employment and demographic information. Example vendors: Sage HRMS, Ascentis, Lawson HR.
Payroll Tracks employee salaries, bonuses, 401k contributions, health and other deductions; calculates withholding for taxes; and cuts paychecks. Most solutions provide integration for direct deposit as well. Example vendors: Halogen, Vista HRMS, Tribe HR.

Workforce Management

Time & attendance Helps staff track employee attendance and absences, and enables employees to clock in and out. Many solutions also track PTO and sick days. Rules-based engines provide alerts when employees miss or perform established amounts of work. Example vendors: TimeForge Labor Management, LaborVIEW, Kronos.
Employee scheduling Provides functionality for scheduling employee shifts and attendance to ensure compliance with staffing needs. Systems can schedule employees across departments, locations and projects, and provide alerts to employees when schedules change and when staffing levels are inadequate. Example vendors: Ascentis, Sage HRMS, UltiPro.

Strategic HR

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) Provides a centralized database that lets recruiters store applicant information and employment applications throughout the application process. Features include candidate tracking, applicant status monitoring and direct integration with other HR applications. In addition, many vendors include on-boarding features, like the ability to perform background checks. Example vendors: iCIMS, MarketRate, NuViewHR.
Employee evaluation Also known as performance review software, these applications offer a centralized system where supervisors can conduct and track reviews with employees. Features performance measuring, tracking and goal management. Example vendors: Empower by ECI, Cornerstone CSB, People-Trak.
Learning & development Establishes a centralized hub to monitor new employee training and the ongoing skills development of existing employees. Features include content authoring and management, curriculum and certification path definition, testing and reporting. Example vendors: Prosperity LMS, Halogen Talent Management Suite, SmartTeam.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

Given the wide variety of popular HR software available, the task of choosing one solution is daunting. To help you narrow the field, below we present four common buyer goals. One or more of these goals might align with your needs.

Streamline HR administrative tasks. If you’re a small to medium-sized company with no HR software, or you are using a few standalone solutions that you want to consolidate, you should consider an integrated HR suite. This will automate your more basic HR functions with a single system. Representative vendors: Sage HRMS, SAP - HR, Vista HRMS.

Boost efficiency when recruiting and hiring candidates. If you need to scale your workforce quickly, a best-of-breed recruiting and applicant tracking solution might be your best option. Many of these solutions can automatically post jobs to job boards and social media outlets, in addition to simplifying candidate tracking and on-boarding of new employees. With searchable databases of candidates and robust reporting capabilities, you can make the most of your current candidate pool, while expanding your talent base. Representative vendors: SuccessFactors, COMPAS, GoHire.

Manage a large pool of employees working in shifts. If you are faced with the task of staffing a workday with multiple shifts to assign and time-off requests to approve—such as the shift-work found at hospitals, grocery stores or restaurants—and need better tools to track your workforce, you need to build up the workforce administration pillar of your HRIS. Many solutions either feature a built-in payroll system to help when running massive payrolls, or integrate effectively with your current payroll software to ensure all hours worked by employees are compensated. Representative vendors: LaborView, TimeAttend, TimeForce.

Develop your workforce. You want to ensure that your best employees are recognized and rewarded so they stay with your company and continue to do great work. The broad category of talent management solutions help you do that, with everything from performance appraisal solutions, to systems for gathering peer feedback, to employee training tools. Benefits include increased retention rates, higher morale and greater employee productivity. Representative vendors: Halogen Talent Management Suite, Kenexa2x, NuView HR.

Market Trends to Understand

As you evaluate a human resources management system, it is helpful to understand a few current trends in this industry.

Consolidation of cloud-based HR software start-up vendors. Recently, there has been a trend in the HR software world toward consolidating as many applications as possible under one vendor. As such, companies have focused on developing integrated suites that allow HR departments to track an employee’s entire life cycle within an organization.

To that end, many best-of-breed providers have been acquired by larger vendors looking to extend the breadth of their integrated suite solutions. For instance, in 2012, SAP acquired SuccessFactors; Oracle bought Taleo (one of SuccessFactors’ competitors) and Salesforce.com completed its integration of Rypple, a social performance platform.

For buyers, this offers the opportunity to benefit from larger corporate resources, but it can also lead to disruptions as acquired companies are integrated and product offerings are rationalized. In anticipation, buyers should lock in rates and service/maintenance terms in their contract as this can save them a headache down the line.

Adoption of software as a service. HR software vendors have widely embraced the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or “Web-based,” deployment method. SaaS applications are easily implemented and updated, and can be accessed by HR staff and employees from almost any device with an Internet connection. Although most SaaS applications allow for some level of customization, it is important to realize that customization options to support your company’s unique needs can be somewhat limited.

TimeForce Employee Self-Service Portal

Vendors such as TimeForce allow employees to request time-off through their Web-based system

Consumerization of HR software technology. A major shift in the development of enterprise software has been the emergence of consumer markets as a primary source of technology innovation—a trend called consumerization. From social media as a recruiting tool to mobile apps for managing HR on the go, consumer technologies are changing the way HR technology is being used. Vendors are beefing up collaborative capabilities in their systems and developing more intuitive user interfaces. When selecting the human resources system that’s best for you, third-party reviews of product features are a great way to distinguish which vendors will deliver.

Bullhorn Mobile
Vendors such as Bullhorn feature mobile accessibility

Recent Events You Should Know About

Sage announces stake in Fairsail. In May 2016, Sage announced a minority investment of £10 million in Fairsail, a cloud-based HR software vendor. Through the partnership, Fairsail will become the “platform of choice” to accompany Sage’s X3 Business Management Solution for midsize customers.

Ultimate Software acquires Kanjoya, announces UltiPro Perception. In September 2016, Ultimate Software acquired Kanjoya, a cloud-based workforce intelligence platform. Ultimate leveraged the technology in Kanjoya to develop and announce UltiPro Perception—a tool to “collect, understand and act on employee feedback.” UltiPro Perception will be available to UltiPro customers in January 2017.

Zenefits releases Z2 update. Zenefits, a small business HR software provider, released a major update to their platform called “Z2” in October 2016. The update changed the look and feel of current applications and added wholly new functions, services and mobile apps. Learn more here.

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