This article was updated on July 16, 2018.

Agility is now a critical consideration for any business. How quickly can you adapt to new markets, effectively complete mergers, or implement new technology initiatives, while concurrently managing payroll, talent retention and personnel evaluation systems?

As noted by Fed Scoop, even federal agencies find this challenging — the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented only 15 of 422 necessary HR systems improvements over the last five years. These fragmented and outdated HR tools pose a risk for the DHS, and speak to the need for better business agility through integrated systems.

Here's a look at the evolving role and impact of HR systems on company-wide agility.

Holding Back

HR professionals know all too well the frustration of multiple, fragmented systems. If legacy payroll solutions don't play nicely with accounting tools and compensation systems can't align with performance evaluation offerings the result is a chaotic mess — one that makes it almost impossible for HR departments to adjust on the fly or embrace new technologies. This is especially problematic if your organization has plans to open satellite offices in a new country or a corporate merger is in the works. How do you effectively integrate even more disparate tools in your already fragmented work space?

Despite the common chaos, however, HR departments still struggle with adopting more agile, integrative technology. Why? Forbes says the FUD factor — fear, uncertainty, doubt — remains one barrier to adoption. HR staff are worried new offerings could upset their not-so-agile apple cart. Put simply, this often comes down to a "better the devil you know" discussion and keeps HR from achieving their agile potential.

The Integrated Advantage

So what does business agility through integrated systems look like in practice? According to Business.com, integrated systems should encompass a wide range of HR tasks and ideally "provide end-to-end functionality that runs the gamut of HR needs, incorporating budgets, calendars and performance evaluations on top of core HR processes." With access to the same payroll system at all endpoints, the instances of data entry errors and need for manual corrections can significantly drop across your global organization.

Goal-Oriented Solutions

Ultimately, the goal of new HR technologies is to make HR a strategic leader rather than plodding follower. HR departments should strive to adopt systems that are easier for employees to use and adopt systems from vendors that have the expertise to implement and ensure the systems work together. By doing so, the integrated data will allow the analytic tools to more easily uncover actionable insights and facilitate talent management. Achieving these goals, however, demands a re-think of the HR process — third-party tools and technologies must play a larger role in achieving agile and integrated ends. For example, cloud-based payroll and talent solutions let HR professionals easily manage large amounts of data without bogging down local servers or relying on cumbersome legacy systems, and integrated HR software suites provides the ability to transparently see data across all systems for all HR staff.

Bottom line? Fragmented HR systems slow down HR departments and make it difficult for businesses to extend their global reach. Historically hesitant to embrace new technologies, the rise of cloud-based offerings and end-to-end solutions now make it possible for HR to achieve business agility through integrated systems that positively impact corporate growth strategies without having to sacrifice control or visibility.

Tags: Trends and Innovation HCM Technology Workforce Planning Multinational Research & Insights Articles HR