What to look for in an integrated platform
By Jeremy Durham
HR technology is changing fast and often. The HR tools that normally fell into the hands of HR managers are now also being utilized by employees and in some situations, part- time contractors. Across the industry, these new users are pushing HR technology vendors to provide instant access to critical data, seamless viewing from multiple devices, and an effortless user experience. In response, vendors are now rethinking their approach to software and turning to software integration as the answer.
The proper integration between talent management and HRMS tools is frequently referred to as the holy grail. With over 71 percent of people choosing a technology based on its convenience and ease-of-use, it’s easy to see why. It’s an ideal way to allow organizations to get the maximum value of the vendor’s HR technology.
The question remains: What does integration really mean for the HR space?
Vendors often address integration in a number of different ways and what works in the consumer space may not necessarily work in the HR space—given the added concerns for privacy and the complexity of combining product suites. Before making any moves toward integration, weigh the following five factors:
- User experience expectations. HR providers are challenged with finding a way to provide access to multiple talent management and HRMS product applications in the most user-friendly manner. Vendors often chose to either combine these products together in one single, branded interface or they offer access to each product through one convenient shared login. For the latter, vendors need to ensure the experience is consistent across each system, both from a visual perspective and how they interact. If a user has to learn different ways to take action or navigate in each part of a product suite, they will quickly become frustrated with the experience.
- Data access. Whether dealing with mobile apps, full cloud-based systems, or simply a shared login to allow a user access to each application’s data on one interface, there is a growing need to have data available, and quickly and easily accessible any time of any day. But simple access to the data isn’t enough. Users also need the ability to get their data out of the system if and when they need to. When integrating systems, look for vendors who make it possible for data to move from one system to another, as well as include the ability for data exports or integration through application programming interface to additional systems.
- Cross-device behavior. Recent data reported by Google shows that 90 percent of web users are viewing information via multiple screens, including laptops, desktops, mobile devices, and tablets. HR applications are no exception to this behavior. Users are reviewing HR data at work, at home, and on the go. More importantly, users are expecting the experience to be consistent and seamless, no matter what device they are using. They also expect it to function similar to other products they are accustomed to, both in business and personal situations. For example, a typical user might be in their LinkedIn mobile app, switch to checking their 401(k), and then move quickly to a Facebook update—all in a very short period of time.
- Software testing and maintenance. With more integration often comes more software complexity. Vendors need to perform rigorous testing to ensure the applications run properly and that the user experience remains flawless. Constant changes in browsers, devices, and operating systems result in an environment that makes it difficult to achieve a high-quality offering with an acceptable time to market. Ask about vendor testing, especially crowdsourcing, to see if the user experience will be high enough quality.
- Monetary investments. Vendors, as well as their customers, need to also consider the added costs of facilitating software integration as well as general product maintenance and upgrades. With each test or upgrade comes the additional monetary cost to help keep the systems running at peak performance. When possible, the selection of a SaaS offering that covers a number of the features required in one suite, can significantly reduce the maintenance cost.
Jeremy Durham is director of the enterprise program office for Paychex, Inc.