Meta4 Technology Review
Meta4 offers a multi-tenant architecture supporting SaaS delivery, but also allows customers to opt to subscribe to the software via remote delivery or deploy the HR software on-site. (Of course, regardless of architecture, when customers deploy cloud software on-site they clearly lose many of the SaaS benefits—such as accelerated deployment, reduced IT administration and seamless transfers of new software releases). However, Meta4 are purveying a strong SaaS bias and may well be in the process of transitioning existing clients in that direction; similar to the manner in which Ultimate Software transitioned its customers just a few years ago. In fact, communication from Meta4 would seem to suggest that all new customers are being directed to the SaaS offering. That said, despite the SaaS-only marketing, PeopleNet (and by association, Meta4’s payroll solution) remains available in a number of different deployment options, including the ‘traditional’ on-premises, licensed model. A few years ago, Gartner research found that approximately 75% of Meta4’s clients were leveraging the on-premises version, making the SaaS option a distinctly minority choice, possibly due to the fact that even the company’s SaaS subscription pricing model carries with it a license fee – a decidedly non-standard SaaS feature. Although current customer deployment figures were not available, it’s probably safe to assume that a sizeable portion of the existing Meta4 client base remains on the licensed on-premises option, although given that the transitioning strategy, this condition will gradually sift over time.
(As to technical details, PeopleNet 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).
System Integration Capabilities
At PeopleNet’s heart is a robust integration framework enabling a high degree of interoperability with other systems; both in-house and outsourced. By utilizing a Rich Internet Application (RIA) architecture, the framework uses a broad set of technologies – LDAP, SOAP, XML, etc. – to ensure smooth collaboration between systems, including both a sound technical connectivity and also data exchange with internal controls or integrity measures. The integration framework includes out-of-the-box user-configurable interfaces. Groupware integration rests in the PeopleNet’s compatibility with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Mail Servers, allowing exchange with the SaaS platform Mail Server.
Software Customization Capabilities
On a basic level, PeopleNet allows clients to brand the start page with their logo, corporate colors, and so on. The self-service functionality provides individual users with the option to configure their own pages, add ‘favorites’, shortcuts and generally change the organization of the page to suit personal working preferences.
Going beyond surface appearances, a more advanced customization facility is available for clients who need custom processes or features based on global and multiple local requirements which are unique to their business activities; capabilities 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.
In addition, Meta4’s proprietary workflow tool enables business process automation, permitting clients to group, automate and integrate otherwise manual tasks. Being role-,rather than name-based, once an event trigger is defined, the workflow engine sends tasks can be directly to all the people in a specific role or position (a generally helpful workflow feature in larger enterprises). However, for more sophisticated automation, the engine includes a competence-recognition feature that can be utilized to allocate and process work and information to the most appropriate people to perform the specific task.
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