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NOVATO – Locally grown software-as-a-service human resources provider Enwisen announced record growth of more than 50 percent in 2008 and continued success in 2009, which HR professionals say is a sign of the continued transition of the profession and the economy.

Enwisen released growth numbers for its work force communication and management modules late last month, with some divisions jumping by 70 percent to 233 percent and overall revenue growth of 55 percent. The company provides online portals for employee self-service, including decisions on benefits, questions about company policies and other resources for work and life.

Chief Executive Officer and Director Walter Smith said the recent growth was the company’s largest since its inception in 1999, which he contributes to the software’s cost-saving value during economic declines and its capacity to streamline work force transition. On average, the tools provide companies a 150 percent to 500 percent return on investment.

“The concept of software-as-a-service has been around for about 10 years, but in the beginning it struggled because people still weren’t sure about the safety of information on the Internet,” he said.

The company validated its concept with success in reducing costs for North Bay companies and very quickly expanded nationally, then globally for the first time about two years ago. Enwisen services mostly large companies between 5,000 and 100,000 employees and has grown every year by about 37 percent on average.

Mr. Smith said another advantage of the service is that it allows human resources managers to have a more strategic focus, something outside professionals say is imperative for retaining the value of the human resources profession.

“Definitely as a result of difficult economic times and increasing human resource service outsourcing, there has been a lot of internal dialogue between HR professionals in the past five to 10 years about the difference between old school human resources and changing into being more strategic business partner based,” said Kristina Derkos, senior vice president of human resources and development for Redwood Credit Union and president of the Professional Association of Sonoma County for Human Resources.

She said at about the same time as the development of companies like Enwisen, difficult economic times made “layoffs the national pastime,” and human resources began to be viewed as more obsolete.

“[Human resources people] were always the first to go because they were viewed as having soft skills, and it scared the heck out of the HR community. … It was at that time that the astute people said this is the wave of the future, and I need to start demonstrating value in other ways,” she said.

Faced with a new recession, the industry of software-based services that once diminished their necessity is now helping further the transition to a new kind of human resources manager. The departments can waste less time with administrative functions and do more on a daily basis to analyze how various work force decisions will impact the future of the business.

“The new strategic business partner-minded HR professional finds a lot of value in enhancing our value in an organization by implementing self-service for employees. … The recession, as awful as it is, is our opportunity to prove it.