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SuccessFactors Kicks Off 2008 With ULTRA Release

SuccessFactors on Monday announced the ULTRA release of its on-demand performance and talent evaluation software featuring an overhauled user interface and an the inclusion of several new Web 2.0 capabilities.

As more and more companies—particularly small- and mid-sized (SMB) firms—turn to software-as-a-service vendors for quick and relatively inexpensive access to a whole host of key business applications, providers are updating their offerings in increasingly shorter cycles to showcase new features and improvements.

While Salesforce.com, the best-known purveyor of on-demand applications and development platforms, offers up four seasonal updates for its customers each year, SuccessFactors does it every month. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company provides human-resource software to more than 1,500 customers including the likes of American Airlines, Lowe's and T-Mobile USA and claims more than 2 million users worldwide.

Gartner predicts the human capital management (HCM) software market will grow to more than $6.5 billion by 2011, up from $4.9 billion in 2007.

ULTRA is the company's most significant refresh to date with a streamlined user interface for all employees to navigate across its suite of human resources applications. It allows for greater customization for specific tasks such as succession planning recruiting and compensation management. Its New Employee Profile feature includes an interactive seating chart, seamless integration with employee and customer Facebook pages and enhanced tagging capabilities geared to promote social networking in the workplace.

"We've redesigned the application to be very intuitive and graphical," Rob Bernshteyn, vice president of global product marketing and management at SuccessFactors," told InternetNews.com. "There's no need for a lot of new training for new users. We're exposing a lot of drag-and-drop and feature function visualization to provide an advanced set of integration capabilities."

Users in any department can now access photos of all employees to track down the person or persons working on a particular project without having to remember the person's name. It provides links to every employees' essential information such as performance reviews, goal plans and development and educational plans.

"A lot of products in the HR application space are targeted at the recruiter or the buyer that just takes all these paper-based processes online," Bernshteyn said. "We do that too but we're also focused on what the executive wants in terms of making sure the entire organization is focused on the core business goals and has the skill set to achieve them. It's one button to close all your competency gaps.

Unlike other on-demand and on-premise HR suites, SuccessFactors does not standardize for any one codebase such as Adobe FLEX or AJAX, opting instead to let customers pick and choose the code they want to deliver specific functionality.

"I've not fully developed my opinion on this, and while [SuccessFactors] seems to think that this makes them more agile, I tend to feel that as they develop the product, have more code bases to maintain, and delve into yet more functional areas, operating on several platforms will become cumbersome," wrote "Double Dubs" on the human resources and technology blog SystemicHR. "The verdict is still out. Whatever I think, SF has developed a user interface that is admirable and looks as sleek as anything else out there."

ULTRA is now available from the SuccessFactors. While pricing varies significantly depending on the number of users and modules purchased, Bernshteyn said customers can expect to pay between $100 and $150 a year per user.

The company held its initial public offering about a month before fellow on-demand applications provider NetSuite held its much more celebrated IPO in December.

In its first three quarters of 2007, SuccessFactors posted a net loss of $49.2 million on sales of more than $44.1 million.