A brief history of HRMS software


An HRMS (Human Resource Management System) is considered a basic necessity in most HR departments these days for core HR data management as well as for specialized areas such as recruiting, learning management, reporting and payroll.

There is vast choice and selection in HRMS applications today with solutions tailored for any size company supporting all types of HR staffing models.

How did we get to where we are today? What is the history of HRMS?

When did HRMS become a computer-based function?

Going back to the 1970s, HR was a paper-centric function. HR systems would only be found in payroll, with green-screen technology and mainframe computing, although these systems would often generate basic printed reports such as employee lists.


Covering the key issues faced by businesses selecting and implementing HRMS.


All of this was about to change though, with the introduction of ERP systems into the HR world. SAP R/2 was launched in 1979, integrating HR functionality together in the same ERP database with production planning, materials management and financials. Combined data access via a real-time, mainframe environment gained a lot of attention and motivated more companies to enter the market.

Major milestones in HRMS history

The next major milestone in HRMS history was seen in the introduction of PeopleSoft in 1987, an ERP that was built on a client-server rather than mainframe environment.

PeopleSoft represented a shift in the HRMS landscape as it was a purpose-built software application built from the ground up and driven from HR business requirements rather than being an add-on to a financial ERP. The HRMS market came into its own in the early 1990s as HRMS ERP vendors such as Oracle and JD Edwards introduced HR ERPs which were designed to cover all HR functionality, including core HR, recruiting, learning, US payroll, and reporting.

Find HRMS vendors to suit your company with this free online HRMS comparison tool 

At the same time, smaller ERP vendors sprang up globally offering local products targeted to specific countries and regions of the world.

HR's shift to the web

The 1990s also saw a shift away from client-server technology and onto the web, an innovation that removed the need for software to be installed locally.

In doing so it opened up HRMS systems to users outside of HR, such as managers and employees, opening the door to HRMS employee self-service. The next generation of HR systems became more specialized at the same time, the industry saw the beginning of ‘best of breed’ HRMS, so an HR application such as Taleo that focused only on recruiting, for example, rather than the ‘one size fits all’ ERP umbrella.

The HRMS landscape continues to develop as vendors provide new options and functionality to meet the evolving needs of HR. In order to stay in front of the curve, it’s best to understand your business requirements and then to match them with HRMS software which best meet your needs.

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Heather Batyski

About the author…

Heather is an experienced HRMS analyst, consultant and manager. Having worked for companies such as Deloitte, Franklin Templeton and Oracle, Heather has first-hand experience of many HRMS solutions including Peoplesoft and Workday.

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Heather Batyski

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