SurfControl (www.surfcontrol.com) is a leader in a relatively new niche: software that helps companies monitor and control workplace Internet activity.
The software is aimed primarily at protecting network bandwidth usage—many companies report network servers crawling or crashing on a regular basis due to sheer e-mail overload. (The volume of personal e-mail received at the workplace is not easily determined, and employment policies toward it vary considerably.) Other benefits of monitoring and blocking include improving employee productivity, increasing security, and reducing legal liabilities. For instance, human resource professionals are concerned about the potential consequences of employees filing harassment complaints because of being subjected to Internet content (audio or visual) that they find objectionable while passing another employee’s workstation.
According to General Manager Nik Bahram, SurfControl can allow an employer to customize access privileges to certain types of websites: for instance, allowing broader online-shopping access to employees whose jobs entail purchasing, pricing, or other research. Employers can also customize their blocking to the time of day (e.g., so that bandwidth usage is controlled during scheduled runs of critical reports).
To help businesses sort out the issues of monitoring and blocking, SurfControl offers a free starter kit through its website that includes basic guidance on acceptable use and other policies.
SurfControl cites research showing the trend toward increased employer monitoring of Internet usage (overall, employer monitoring has more than doubled since 1997) and has commissioned additional research that shows that of all non–work-related usage, online shopping has taken the lead, having just recently surpassed sexually oriented content as the most common type. With the holiday shopping season around the corner, businesses everywhere can probably anticipate more employees choosing to shop from their desks rather than braving the crowds.
PeopleSoft Launches Version 8
The suite of applications in People-Soft 8, released this summer, includes customer relationship management, supply chain management, human resource management, financials, and professional services automation.
According to Rita Iorfida, vice president of financial product management, version 8’s “pure web-enabled Internet architecture” differentiates it from its precursor, making it more cost-effective, independent of the client’s system, and easier to deploy, regardless of the system’s size. She adds that this scalable approach makes the new version work as well for a small dot-com as a large bank. Other innovations include a more intuitive user interface (“It’s like eBay and Amazon.com,” Iorfida said) and open integration with other systems.
In the financials area, she said version 8 has taken a best-practices approach globally, with transactions in taxes, withholding, and accounts receivable and payable “architected” so that people can complete tasks that they do only rarely with little or no trouble or error.
Iorfida cited Fannie Mae and Turner Broadcasting as PeopleSoft clients that reduced the time needed to do a month-end close from two weeks to five days, and from 15 days to three days, respectively. She says Turner Broadcasting was able to integrate new acquisitions into its systems in less than two weeks.
Iorfida said PeopleSoft is working to get involved in the current extensible business reporting language (XBRL) project. (XBRL is an XML-based specification under development that will use accepted financial reporting standards and practices to exchange financial statements across all platforms and applications, including the Internet). She noted that XBRL is not part of version 8, although the company hopes to bring it into a later version. PeopleSoft customers have said that they want the clearer financial supporting strategy that XBRL promises, especially in the areas of management reporting, control reporting, and production reporting. q
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