The Challenges of Working with Multiple HR Technology Vendors

Not all HRMS software packages are created equal, and neither are HRMS vendors that sell them. Regardless of the apparent similarities in the ‘brochures’ and specs, you may find that the best records management system for your business comes with a mediocre analytics package. Add in other features such as employee engagement, performance management, self-service, learning, talent, plus payroll and you start to find that each vendor has their own specialty and – often – the all-in-one package does not offer the best of all possible HRMS worlds.

Although– thanks to market forces, acquisitions and mergers – the bigger HRMS vendors increasingly are offering everything on the same plate (or at least, via the same dashboard) your business needs may still dictate the purchase of a number of best of breed solutions. This HRMS selection strategy may result in a few operational issues. That’s not to say that those ‘issues’ aren’t worth having if the array of systems meet your needs, but they do need to be managed.

The first and most fundamental issue is integration. To take full advantage of all your HR (Big) data, you need your systems to talk to each other. You may not have a single database storing all your bytes but the different applications need to work seamlessly enough that you might as well have. Put simply, if your systems can’t share the data then it becomes if not useless then at the least of very little value. That said, the cloud helps. SaaS and cloud-based ERP solutions enable easier integration of multiple solutions and that’s worth bearing in mind.

The second issue that might trip you up is upgrades. In the wider non-HR world, Mac and PC users who have to work together have experienced this difficulty for years: the compatibilities you and the numerous programmers involved have worked so hard to achieve can fly out the window when one of your HRMS vendors applies a patch or an update to their product without regard for the ‘opposition’. Suddenly, ‘this’ file won’t transfer to ‘that’ function and you’re having to patch the patch… again. One answer is openness up front – be clear with prospective HRMS vendors what their system will have to deal with and demand some guarantees that taking such interactions into account will be part of their service provision.

Another issue for larger companies, and the more geographically-diverse smaller enterprise, is the issue of multiple countries. For functionality such as payroll and data management (both subject to legislation that varies according to national boundaries) you may find yourself needing to deploy country-specific solutions which in turn lead to difficulties when you want to amalgamate your data (such as for reporting and analytics).

One possible hope for the future is the ongoing developing of HR-XML, now under the aegis of the HR Open Standards Consortium. This project aims to develop an HR version of extensible markup language that – if used by the differing vendors – will enable easy communication between systems; they will literally speak the same language. Standards are already available for many areas, including onboarding, payroll, benefits, performance management, recruitment and time management, with further standards in development. The industry remains a little doubtful of HR-XML’s broader use by all vendors in the near future but given that there will always be smaller specialist vendors disrupting the market with fresh innovations, a common language or set of standards may represent the best chance for smooth HRMS operating in the future.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall