At LitE Consulting, we have helped several clients procure HR and Payroll systems in recent years. They always want a fully integrated solution with a single database. This generally leads into exploring this further and try to understand the rationale behind the statement.
Firstly, trying to understand what is meant by a fully integrated solution is a fascinating discussion. What it draws out is there are pro’s and cons. It does get clients to think differently about their statement, and their ultimate decision.
Some of the responses I have had are, “I want to enter the data into the systems once and not into several fields in different systems”. “I want the systems to look the same, I don’t want to enter the data twice”. “We want everything from one supplier”. “I want a joined-up implementation”. “They want to report on one set of data and I want to call one support desk”.
If each point is looked at individually, it shows that the fully integrated solution should be challenged. The improved technologies can now integrate systems more effectively.
- “I want to enter the data into one system and not into several fields in different system” – This can be addressed by having a defined process. We live in a world of self service. Data is now entered and updated through self service functionality. It is not carried out by a single group of people into their own database.
- “I want the system to look the same” – Generally HR and payroll is carried out by different groups of people, who only have access to HR or payroll so look and feel is a mute point.
- “The two applications do different things” – Payroll is all about speed of entry and processing accuracy. HR is more about the user experience, providing managers and employees with accurate data at their finger tips.
- “I don’t want to enter the data twice” – This comes down to having a single point of entry (master system) and a good interface between the applications, to pass the data between system.
- “I want everything from one supplier” – This is achievable, with many companies offering HR and payroll offerings as well as other related modules and applications. The benefit of one supplier is of course one lot of costs, one support desk. Also, there is only one account manager which is more efficient.
- “I want a joined-up implementation” – This is required but generally these will be carried out separately and joined at some point. HR and payroll are two distinctly different processes and require a different skill set within the implementation team. Even with a single database you will find that payroll and HR have different timescales and deadlines they work too.
Most customers are moving their IT systems to the cloud. The number of databases and improved ability to now integrate systems with the use of open API’s has increased. This supports the fact that a single database is not necessarily best!
A term used over the last 15 years has been best of breed solutions. Having worked for software companies that have developed single database and best of breed solutions, I can see the point from both sides of the fence.
I believe that there are some new HR and payroll software houses that are developing new modern technologies. This is all made possible now with cloud based technology, and integration that no longer requires bespoke development to set it up and maintain it.
My recommendation on this would be to find the applications that offer the most to your organisation. If that means two databases are from two suppliers, then as long as the ability to integrate the systems effectively is available, then do not rule out the fact that it is not a single database solution.