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Ultimate Software Updates Workforce Management Solution

Payroll and workforce management ISV Ultimate Software on Wednesday unveiled the latest version of its web-based Workforce Management suite.

The enhancements in UltiPro 7.0 address areas like Internet recruiting, wireless and self-service features, Web Services data exchange capabilities, and increased performance and security.

"Performance gains were a very high priority for us in UltiPro 7.0, and we're proud of our achievements in this area," said Adam Rogers, senior vice president of product development at Ultimate Software. "The commonly used processes in UltiPro are now three to seven times as fast as they were in UltiPro 6.0."

The company has a 12-man team -- nearly 10 percent of its development organization -- dedicated to running automated test tools. They focus on running high-load, high-stress tests on different areas of the application, then come up with a report card with the top 10 areas to focus on.

"We set some pretty enthusiastic benchmarks we wanted to reach and then tested them on every build throughout the release," Rogers told ASPnews. "Each area had different types of changes, but certainly analyzing SQL, analyzing what happens to the product under concurrency and under load led to various changes. For the most part, if you test it and you uncover it and you can reproduce the problem, it becomes much easier to fix. If you don't have a dedicated team to do that, it doesn't get stressed out until your larger customers use it, which is obviously too late."

Another performance improvement results from multi-threaded application servers used for Internet payroll. "What that essentially means is that if you previously needed four application servers to pull the load you were looking for in your BSP, in the new version you could replace those four servers with one server that can handle multiple threads," he said.

UltiPro 7.0 uses Web Services technology, the Microsoft .NET framework and HR-XML standards to facilitate information exchange with third-party recruitment vendors like HotJobs, Monster and CareerBuilder. Users can post jobs to multiple Internet job boards at one time, automate the acceptance of applicants from the boards, screen applicants online, manage the interviewing and candidate communication process, and accept information on new hires into UltiPro automatically.

Wireless notification and access features in UltiPro 7.0 provide workforce-related information to both managers and employees. Users can view a company directory online and then e-mail or call an employee directly via a wireless PDA or Internet-ready cell phone. Managers can access staff or peer contact information, and can elect to be notified through their PDA or cell phone when employees submit requests or changes for approval.

Employees with PDAs and security access to UltiPro can view their own pay statements, including net pay, earnings, deductions and taxes, and can elect to be notified when their latest pay statement is available for viewing.

UltiPro 7.0 includes a number of new Web self-service features, such as the ability to view and update employee job and salary history, update fixed labor allocations and enter time for employees groups by department, location, supervisor or other criteria.

Ultimate Software has quite a formal process for accepting changes for a particular release, Rogers said. The development team gathers input from "stakeholders", which include internal units like customer support, professional services, marketing, sales and strategy, and external stakeholders being the customers. Then the development team will create a "feature matrix", rating the amount of development work each feature will require. Each stakeholder will rate how important each feature is to their area. The development team will then compare the potential return with the capacity of the development team and create the scope of work for the new release.

There were 86 individual features tracked in the new release. With customers running the gamut from restaurants to manufacturing plants, hospitals, and car dealerships, they all take advantage of different features in the product, he said. Showcasing the product's flexibility is the way it handles complex payroll situations like professional sports teams.

"We have over 20 professional sports teams as customers. Their payroll situation is complex, since each athlete is required to pay state and local taxes for the money they earn in each city they play in. We support all 15,000 local tax codes in the United States," Rogers said. "It's very complicated and hard to do, but when we go to talk to some of the larger customers who want to know how good our system is, we can show them. If we can calculate payroll for a baseball team or a football team, a restaurant is pretty simple to do."

UltiPro is available as licensed software, as a hosted application through Intersourcing, and as a co-branded offering to Business Service Providers (BSPs) under the "Powered by UltiPro" brand.