Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Microsoft Debuts First Office Solution Accelerator

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Microsoft Wednesday launched the first of its new line
of Office Solution Accelerators, geared to providing packages that will
help customers take existing Microsoft applications and systems and use
them to streamline organizational tasks.

The software titan used the HR Technology Conference & Exposition in
Philadelphia as a platform to unveil the product: the Office Solution
Accelerator for Recruiting. Microsoft introduced its
new line of products in September.

The package is designed to automate the process of planning and scheduling
hiring interviews, and capturing interview feedback.

“We thought we could add a lot of value in the recruiting space by helping
to automate a lot of the touch points,” said Jon Clemens, HR Solutions Planning
manager within the Information Worker New Markets Group at Microsoft.

“The reason we really focused on recruiting is because that’s where the
major pain is in the HR space,” Clemens told
internetnews.com. “Customers say 56 percent of
their time in the recruiting process is spent scheduling interviews.”

Clemens explained that the recruiting accelerator focuses on interview
management in an effort to automate scheduling and give interview managers
deep visibility into interview feedback in order to expedite the
hire/no-hire decision.

Steve Davis, vice president of product services and technology at Hire.com
(a provider of talent management software), told internetnews.com
that this makes the recruiting accelerator a big deal, because the hiring
process tends to break down when interviewing begins. Many departments do
not have defined interview plans for interviewers, meaning questions are
often redundant. Also, transferring feedback generated from interviews into
a useable form that can be analyzed is often time consuming.

“Now we can capture information in a structured format,” he said. “By
structuring that information in XML, we can now pull that information back
into our solution.”

Monica Barron, research director with AMR Research, said the new package does a good job of adding the
Office suite, where much of the scheduling and interview feedback
information is captured, into the recruitment business process and linking
it with a recruiting application.

“Up to now, you’ve had to go into a separate application,” Barron told internetnews.com.
“[The accelerator] gives you a linkage between the two. The data is visible
and accessible through the recruiting application.”

She also noted that Microsoft has been careful not to step on the toes of
partners, like Hire.com, which offer recruiting applications. Instead, the
company is focusing on specific pain points that have not been previously
addressed. As Clemens put it, Microsoft’s efforts are focused on providing
the “glue” between process steps, rather than duplicating the efforts of

On the front end, the new accelerator depends upon Microsoft’s new InfoPath
application and SharePoint Services, Microsoft’s portal server.

Microsoft will ship a version with a SQL Server database, and the
accelerator already has a pre-built integration point with Exchange.
However, Clemens noted that InfoPath is the only “must have” portion of the

“You could use a different calendaring system instead of Exchange, or a
different database; you could even use a different portal server,” he said.

InfoPath is a brand new application for Microsoft; an XML authoring tool
designed for end-users, which allows them to create XML-enabled forms which
leverage the capabilities of documents. In the recruiting accelerator,
Microsoft uses InfoPath to allow interview managers to design an interview
plan for each interviewer. This, Clemens said, will allow interviewers to
optimize their time by focusing on specific areas.

Interviewers will utilize InfoPath forms that map to HR-XML schemas (HR-XML
is a consortium that has put together a suite of XML specifications
designed specifically for the automation of human resources-related data
exchanges). When they enter data into the forms, it is pulled into a
backend data source. From there, another application, like one supplied by
Microsoft partner Hire.com, can utilize the data, providing views and
metrics that will allow human resources departments to select the best

Clemens noted that often, it is essential in interviews that they happen in
a sequential order — an applicant needs to meet with a particular
interviewer before moving on to the next. And currently there is no
automated way to do that. With InfoPath, interview managers can create a
detailed, customized plan for each interviewer, and then go into a
different view within InfoPath to see who is available at which times,
based on their calendars. From that point, the package can generate
free/busy information and automatically create a schedule. Once the
schedule is generated, the manager can send it out as a standard meeting

“The benefit to the customer is that the hiring manager or interviewer
doesn’t have to learn another application,” Davis said. “They can use the
common set of tools they’re used to using every day.”

Davis explained that Hire.com utilizes the recruiting accelerator to link
Office up to its Hire Enterprise Platform (leveraging its .NET API). Davis
said it can utilize Tablet PCs to good effect, with interviewers checking
out tablets when they perform the interview. Data is sucked into the
backend database as it is entered into InfoPath, giving managers “complete
visibility to feedback in real-time.”

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