The Evolution of HRIS

Corporate HR departments early on charged after ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and sometimes CRM (Customer Relationship Management) deployments in order to build giant repositories that would house employee data and improve personnel-related decision-making. However, changes in the hiring and work-force climate are making clear the need to wrap HR systems into larger corporate architectures as a way to give top officials a more holistic view of human capital.

Rapid retirement rates, a shrinking pool of talent and more transience among workers are just some of the factors that have HR shops struggling to make the most of traditional HR silos. In the face of these changes, the more progressive HR departments are now hustling to convince upper management that HR needs a seat at the technology planning table and deserves a stake in the ERP and CRM decision-making process.

In response to fundamental changes on the HR landscape, larger ERP and CRM vendors are doing more to accommodate HR applications, paying special attention to the HR needs of larger corporate clients. Meanwhile, numerous industry players are offering more options to smaller HR shops .

Large or small, HR departments are just waking up to the seriousness of the "war for talent " and the simultaneous "brain drain" — both of which have triggered new challenges for HR offices, observed Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp (Institute for Corporate Productivity) Inc., a Seattle-based private organization that strives to offer a peer community and research to its member corporations.

"As the CEO and other senior executives embrace the importance of human capital in their quest to achieve the organization's strategic goals, the very need for existing HR silos is being called into question," Oakes said. "It's clear that the recruiting function needs to work more cooperatively with the performance-management function."

Executives at business intelligence and performance-management vendor SAS Institute Inc . agree that enterprises are now rushing to include HR systems in broader IT efforts. "What HR is looking for today is a single, holistic or organizationwide view of their work force," said Becca Goren, product marketing manager of SAS Institute's Performance Management and Human Capital Management Division.

SAS Institute's answer is the company's Human Capital Management solution, an analytical tool designed to detect employment patterns and understand the way talent is tied to the mission of corporations. "The software integrates work-force and third-party data to help HR departments gain a comprehensive work force view," Goren added.

The need for a more complete view of how HR functions blend into the bigger picture has more enterprises looking to integrate these applications into larger IT efforts, such as the purchase of a new CRM or ERP system, agreed Tim Padva, president and co-founder of CheckPoint HR , an Edison, N.J.-based outsourcer of HR, payroll and other administrative services.

"HR functions such as benefits administration, payroll service, recruiting, HR administration, training and organizational developments are all functions that can and should utilize CRM systems," Pavda attested. "While some may argue that the return on investment for these capabilities is difficult to track, the benefit of a more productive, responsive and knowledgeable HR department is clear."

From stalwart ERP vendors such as SAS Institute, to new-breed SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies including CheckPoint HR, HR departments now have a variety of options.

For instance, Coghead, based in Redwood City, Calif., offers Business Essentials, a bundled solution that includes a recruiting-manager application with human-asset tracking capabilities and an HR application that helps automate employee provisioning.

Sage Software aims its Accpac HRMS solution at midsize businesses looking for applications to reside on database platforms, such as Microsoft's SQL Server or MSDE (Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine). Accpac wraps in Crystal Report Writer templates and other features designed to improve workflow and records management as well as the ability to convert routine tasks into employee self-service functions.

To reach the increasing needs of midsize corporate HR offices, Microsoft pushes its Dynamics GP business-management software. Dynamics GP is designed to let HR departments better manage personnel-related tasks, such as benefits programs, payroll and HR business-analytics tasks.

Meanwhile, Oracle Corp . bills its E-Business Suite Human Resources Management System as a "recruit-to-retire" application that gives HR departments immediate snapshots of traditional activities, as well as the ability to turn these snapshots into strategic analytics. Oracle's HR suite plugs into the database behemoth's trademark products, including Oracle Financials and Oracle Projects. In its most recent release — version 12 — Oracle's E-Business HR application includes enhancements such as better interfaces that let managers more effectively track employee absences, salary- administration tasks and other key HR functions.

Now that there are abundant new and varied options on the market, HR officials are wise to tread carefully when making IT-related decisions. "In general, HR departments are not particularly adept at the elements that go into selecting technology platforms — decision that involve sourcing, negotiating and implementing sometimes complex platforms," observed i4cp's Oakes.

Therefore, HR departments should strive for closer internal teaming opportunities when it comes to making purchasing decisions, "HR departments really should not be expected to have these competencies. Partnering ahead of time with IT and purchasing departments is critical to ensuring that not only is the right platform selected, but also the terms are favorable and the implementation is ultimately successful," Oakes advised.