HR software integration can be less challenging if HR prioritizes systems, works with IT and reads the fine print of what a vendor offers.

By many accounts, there's never been a better time to invest in HR technology. This technology can analyze data more efficiently than ever to provide detailed insight. Analytical power is all well and good, but with organizations stacking technologies to perform a multitude of functions, their top priority needs to be effective HR software integration.

"The single biggest challenge is the sheer number of fragmented systems that organizations have as part of the typical client-IT estate," said Gordon Ash, a divisional vice president of Global Partnerships for ADP. Organizations often have more than 50 HR and Payroll systems, according to an ADP Research Institute's 2017 Global HCM Decision Makers' Research.

Consolidating "differing data and processes to a single set of aligned processes and experience is a considerable effort, and it requires the right solution and planning," he said. Fortunately, Ash has four best practices for organizations to consider before they embark on their next HR software integration project.

1. A Set Order of Integration Helps

Global organizations looking to streamline their HR functions should first understand that every technology implementation requires time, patience and effort to ensure successful adoption, Ash said. Yet, even when taking a methodical approach, implementation is still a burden on resources.

According to Ash, there isn't a perfect order to integration, but he has seen global organizations succeed by either focusing first on payroll or on an effort that combines payroll with time and core HR. If that seems ambitious, he recommends tackling payroll and time first to establish a global data model and infrastructure that's demanded by payroll functions. Building out core HR and talent can be followed by an integration into payroll.

"HR core first is often seen as the organizational 'quick win' as it can typically be centrally managed and perceived to bring the quickest results," he said. "But, and it is a considerable 'but,' if the HR solution is implemented in isolation without the full consideration of the other data sources and consumers of payroll, HR processes, and pension retirement, the HR solution will not integrate easily … causing significant delay or even failure of the project globally."

2. Strive to Make IT's Job Easier

Integration, good or bad, places a big burden on IT pros, Ash offered. So, when you're integrating payroll first, make sure your payroll experts sit at the table with IT. Their presence can lessen risk and even though payroll data is never "entirely correct," having payroll experts there should help ensure the best possible data is pushed forward, he said.

Ash cautions that automatic integration is a route to explore only when system requirements are considered simultaneously. Also, be mindful of silos and too many manual processes.

"When organizations consider, as an example, the HR system of record in isolation, the solution undoubtedly fails in meeting the needs of the payroll solution," Ash said. This creates "gaps in the offering, inadequate user experience and missed productivity and cost savings." Organizations should "strongly evaluate the platform's ability to reduce or even remove the frequency of manual data re-keying or uploads," according to Ash.

3. Global HR Has to Consider Local HR

A global organization is only as strong as its local offices, and that's as sure a reminder as any that global technology has to integrate well with in-country HCM solutions. Where should an organization even start when piecing together those disparate offerings?

"My best advice is (integrate) as much and as quickly as your business can move — and be ready to move," Ash said. "The fewer the integrations the better … but it's all about organizational readiness." That means doing the necessary work up front to manage data extraction, validation, transformation and load activities so that the data is correct and fully aligned.

Ash added: "A wholesale approach can be too daunting for many organizations, and therefore a regionalized approach that groups countries into manageable waves is often preferred. Roll-out can often begin in the region or regions most prepared and willing for change, and an organization can use the success and feedback from those experiences to drive and enhance the more challenging regions."

4. Prepare for Unavoidable Challenges

The cloud is viewed as the great simplifier for global technology implementation, and it largely has done just that, Ash said. But the cloud hasn't made integration any easier; it's actually made it more complex, he added.

The biggest challenge that organizations face is the glut of technologies that are needed to make HR run. That's the more than 50+-system hurdle Ash described earlier. Again, the best way to leap this hurdle is aiming, as difficult as it can be, for a single set of aligned processes. Success comes down to choosing the right technology and not giving planning short shrift.

Another challenge is the undeniable reality that no HR system holds the superset of data required to manage global HR processes. "This gap amounts to 40 percent or more of the data required to run payroll, for example," said Ash. "This could translate to literally hundreds or more fields globally that are not captured with the HR system and require separate, often manual, updating."

So when organizations shop for HR technology, they need to "fully understand the level of integration that exists between the solutions and how the vendors deal with this missing data," Ash said. For one, organizations should find out if they are expected to manually input and upload the missing data, or if the vendor will perform this service. Also, they need to learn how the data errors from re-keying mistakes affect process.

Before investing in any software or cloud offering, learn about the processes your organization will have to perform to consolidate data, Ash recommended. You can also check if an offering delivers one point of data entry and, after integration, it can ensure data is validated and updated automatically in real time.

"Only then can HR deliver an end-to-end process that drives standardization, cost savings, higher productivity and user adoption that your business expects from implementing a global HR solution," he said.

But all that homework on vendors can mean little if your organization isn't ready. "Many organizations greatly underestimate their overall preparedness to tackle complex, global projects such as this and manage the change required to see it through."

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