People-Trak Reviewed in
People-Trak HRMS Offers Low
Cost, Efficiency and Many Options
by Jim Meade
Chances are you like to create reports on unused
employee vacation time, find job-applicants with Java training,
track executive pay increases for the previous year or do anything
else you can do with a complete HR management system. But if
you have a limited budget for software, training, equipment upgrades
and consulting, People-Trak HRMS from Technical Difference,
Inc may be just what you’re seeking.
Company president Jim Witschger calls People-Trak
the "populist" choice and an "upstart". "There
is nothing close to it within four or five times the price,"
Jeffrey Blau, director of HR and information systems
at Nercon Engineering & Manufacturing in Oshkosh, Wis, concurs,
calling the product "a great value at even twice the price."
What it Does
People-Trak is a full-featured, Windows-based
HRIS that can prepare any report you can envision and plenty
of others you might never dream up on your own. The program contains
modules for Personnel, Applicants, Requisitions, Job Profiles
and Contacts. You can key in information, import it, or transfer
it from one module to another, such as from Applicants to Personnel.
To prepare a report, you choose Reporting from
the menu, then click on either Custom Reports or Standard Reports
or Alternate Report Writer. The hundreds of built-in reports
come in categories ranging from Balances, Benefits and Compensation
to EEO, Recruiting and Wellness.
People-Trak comes with many preprogrammed
reports, and you can pull them up and tweak them a little bit,"
says Laila Allen, HR manager with Cardiff Software Inc., in San
Marcos, Calif. "I didn’t even have to program them from
scratch." You can choose from pre-written letters, such
as an anniversary letter or a COBRA confirmation. And, if you
wish, you can readily edit the letter in Microsoft Word or create
forms and labels as needed.
What I Like
It’s not so much that People-Trak does all
the standard things an HRIS should do and more. What I find remarkable
is that the program does it all so efficiently. Blau, a systems
analayst as well as a head of HR, describes the program as "well-designed,
fast and efficient code with a lot of functionality built into
a one-megabyte file."
This is brilliant programming with innumerable
neat design features. You can change field names, even the Help
files, on your own with having to turn to MIS. Reports always
display first on the screen saving you from printing over and
over. Strong security features include the ability to restrict
any user’s access to only what you want that person to see.
People-Trak’s simple and clear design makes
it easy to learn and use. For instance, Judy Zeiss, HR manager
at Composite Optics Inc. in San Diego describes herself as "the
least computer literate person you’ll ever speak to." But,
she says "I can configure my own reports with little stress
Those who want all the latest in 32-bit Windows
will find it in People-Trak’s forthcoming version scheduled
for September release. In addition, Technical Difference delivers
the primary benefit of efficient computer code- it keeps the
price low. You can buy one of the program’s modules for $495,
which sounds more like the price for a mass-market Windows program
than for a specialized HR product.
Nor do you run into ongoing costs for training,
consulting and upgrades. "It’s what I call ‘very low maintenance,’"
attests Allen. "You don’t have to keep calling, updating,
getting new training. It’s powerful enough to do what we need."
As Witschger puts it, "We don’t create codependent
relationships." But if you do feel a little dependent, the
phone support is excellent. "Any time I needed help, I would
call them, and right over the phone, within five minutes, they’d
have what I needed programmed for me," says Allen.
What Could be Improved
Witschger confesses that the company may have gotten
carried away with its own minimalist approach. The documentation,
for example, is one casualty. Although it is short, it is too
earnest, too detailed and just a slow read. Chances are you’ll
be like Allen, who says, "I’ve never opened their manual;
I call them instead."
Similarly, the Help files are likely to be useful
to you MIS department-but not always to you. You can can find
out that the blank called emp-number is alpha-numeric and 12
characters long. But you won’t find any good HR advice on what
to put in there or common mistakes to avoid. If you click on
the Help item and choose Contents, you get no introductory material.
the only help is specific information on the fields.
There’s little color on the screen and not pictures
and you can’t insert a photo.
Essentially, though, I’d say that such seeming
limitations are the kind of trade-offs you might expect from
a program that emphasizes performance and price instead of pizzazz.
In the gilded world of modern software, you’ll
rarely find straightfoward technical brilliance. However, you
will find it in People-Trak HRMS, which bills itself as
"No. 2 in Human Resources Software."
The program can create any report you want, doesn’t
cost much and continues to be low cost as you use it over time.
In short, it "tries harder".
Jim Meade, PH.D is president
of Meade Ink Inc in Fairfield, Iowa, which provides writing and
technical translating services. His e’mail addres is [email protected].
Reprinted from Human Resources
Magazine, September 1998.