3 steps to consolidating disparate HR systems

Despite the ever-widening availability of HR software claiming to ‘do it all’ and the various surveys that spell out the cost benefits of the single-system approach, many organisations are still working with disparate HR applications. Even if an organisation is ‘consolidated’ and uniform in its structure, it’s not unusual to have a variety of different business intelligence technologies in play; including several in HR. This might be a deliberate best-of-breed strategy, choosing the ideal package for each individual function. Alternatively, it might be the aftermath of a merger or acquisition, in which the new corporate structure finds itself with multiple, disparate legacy HR systems and processes. Or it might simply be a result of history: buying systems one at a time over a period of years.

Whatever the reasons for it, the drawback to the multi-system scenario is the matter of integration. How well do these various systems communicate and share information?

When bringing your HR tech closer together, there are three fundamental steps/principles to keep in mind:

1. The underpinning HR strategy must be clear

Before you start sourcing a new HRMS or commissioning clever workarounds for the current disparate HR systems, you need to justify how your chosen path will support your HR goals. Put simply, the results of your integration project must be aligned with your organization’s wider business strategy (if they aren’t, then any system tinkering or new purchases are effectively just shots in the dark) – so, have a clear HR focus with links to harder-edged business outputs.

2. Integrate as much as you can

It’s entirely possible that you have different software for personnel records, payroll, time and attendance, recruitment, workforce management, learning and development, and so on. However, in these times of potentially enormously powerful (and strategically useful) predictive analytics, we need combined access to all our information, the capability to crunch all those different elements in order to attain sophisticated insights; in other words, you need to make the most of your Big Data.

This doesn’t necessarily mean throwing everything out in favour of a brand new, all-in-one solution. But if you’re going to keep some of your legacy systems, it’s essential that they interact smoothly and you may have to invest significant time and resource in bridging the gaps between different systems in order to achieve what is effectively a single database of information.

Recommended Reading: HRMS Selection Survival Guide - Make the right HRMS selection and remove the disparate HR systems

Do you conduct a selection exercise, looking to source a new multi-function system? Do you pick the best system you have, link it together and roll it out across the business (be wary of imposing solutions on departments or teams that have been entirely happy with their own unique solution for years). Or do you attempt to keep several systems going and integrate them using patches, middleware, whatever’s necessary… The problem is, the ‘best’ practice you’re looking for might be a combination of various puzzle pieces, each taken from different parts of the organisation – thus complicating the matter even more…

3. Factor in the inevitable risks

Data security is critical in business, and it’s especially sensitive in HR when that data relates to individual employees. Ironically, having your IT functionality scattered across a number of isolated systems is of course more secure. So when integrating, don’t neglect the security angle, especially concerning the usual cybercrime access points, such as Single Sign-On. Do what you need to, so that your users can genuinely have faith in your HR system(s).

The obvious goal is efficiency and that usually comes from consistency. Even if your HR systems are not ‘one’ they should operate as if they were, resulting in improved operational simplicity, common usage and practice across the entire workforce, less system redundancies, reduced costs, and easier management of HR function as a whole… That’s the ideal outcome.

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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