At Silverdrop, we love any excuse to get out and share our knowledge with the world. In September, our founder Gerard had the opportunity to present a session at the 2018 HR tech summit. He decided to speak about systems integration, as we are often being approached by clients who are looking for a shiny new ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to their needs, rather than focusing on effective integration of their current systems. Below is his presentation:
Have you ever ridden a bicycle? Do you know what brand of bike you rode? Trek, Centurion, Raleigh, Giant, cyclops?
Do you think the same people that made that bike made all the parts?
If you answered ‘no’, you would be correct.
The Company that is best at making the gears is probably not the best at making the rubber for the tyres.
The Brand name on your bike is for the organization that puts all the parts together – The one completing the integration.
When you purchase a bike, you can buy the best wheels, the best seat and the best handle bars.
But without the frame, all those parts mean nothing. The frame is like the integration between systems.
The same is true for HR systems – I see them as being very similar to parts on a bike. There are lots of suppliers and each are good at some components, but none are best in class in all categories. You can’t just deal with one vendor for all parts.
It’s important to highlight that the integration of your HR systems is as important as the parts themselves. Without proper focus on integration, you only have half the solution
The three main ways
There are 3 main ways to integrate systems and each deliver different aspects of the desired outcomes.
They operate together in the same ways as the gears, the Frame and braking system are all important to operate a bike successfully.
- 1. Horizontal integration using data transportation for synchronicity
2. IDAM [Identity and Access Management] – data controls
3. Vertical integration using data exposure and interaction for users – what is sometimes referred to as an interactive staff portal
To keep this article simple, we will simply use the two functions of adding a new employee to our business and terminating them.
Horizontal integration using data transportation for synchronicity
Horizontal integration of systems is the most common integration method and often the only method that is used. Say you find some awesome new person to join your organization: Mrs Awesome.
You take a Master System like Recruitment or onboarding system (this might be WD or Successfactors)– When you add a new Manager to the Master system, you then ensure that you have a data flow that takes some of the required details from this system and enters them into the other system, such as Payroll and LMS.
You then have a matching integration that passes the details to the Performance Management system and the same for anything else you use.
At the same time, Mrs Awesome needs to be able to access her systems to do her job.
Jim in IT now has to create an email address and accounts in all the systems that the person needs to use; Payroll for Payslips, Performance Management to manage staff, LMS to complete some on-line courses. Jimmy needs to also provide the manager with a security pass to the front door and access to Riteq to log his Attendance on-site.
One day Jim is a bit slow in providing all the access and forgets to give access to Riteq. As such, there is an employee record in the system for Riteq, it knows how to pay him, he has a schedule, but he can’t submit his hours or get paid.
Luckily some smart programmer decided it might be good to automate Jim’s tasks; They created a second type of integration:
IDAM – Identity and Access Management.
IDAM is a smart solution that has decision making capability.
It is fed information about an employee or manager and areas such as their role in the organization and their work location. It then knows the identity of that person and shares this will all systems and provides access at the right level to the right systems at the right time.
When you add this new manager to any system of choice, whether it is the payroll system or the time and attendance system, you can have it create an access record across all your environments and your key cards to access the building they work in.
It can be setup differently based on the type of organisation you are in.
We have a client that is very disbursed across many sites around Australia in education. They sometimes find that Recruitment does not follow the usual path. They might find that they are short a teacher for tomorrow. An existing teacher knows a person that is capable of filling the role, and they have worked with before. The Manager decides to hire the new Teacher, but before HR can have all the paperwork done for the permanent hire, the teacher is out on site. They need to be on the timesheet system.
An Identity and Access Management system can enable the person’s details to be added to the T&A system and have this feedback centrally to create all the desired accounts they need for payroll and HR. This provides a rapid rollout for a new starter when needed. Every system then has the core details needed for them to operate before the person starts work.
We are then in a situation where the employee has access to 5 or 6 systems for their work. They have to log into an application for Time and Attendance and timesheets, they need to interact with an LMS system for learning, they need an APP for their payroll system for payslips and leave requests and they have to log into a Performance Management system for managing their staff. If someone falls over at work, they log this via their Sharepoint access and they use email to communicate with the business.
That is where the third level of integration comes into play: I call this Vertical integration.
Not many organisations use this yet. I think it is a huge trend that has just started to gain traction.
Effectively, it is a single APP that staff can have on their phone, providing mobility and access in real time to all their back end HR systems in the one location.
This is sometimes referred to as an interactive staff portal. An example of this is Mumba Cloud.
This integration method does not move data from one system to another. It does not replace Horizontal system data movement between systems. It does not replace the need for people to have access setup across systems.
It acts like an Umbrella over all HR systems so that staff and managers that are not in Payroll or HR, only need to have one APP, one Interface. They don’t need to know about how many or few systems are underneath.
With Mumba Cloud, they even add a few cherries on top for you. Their system is able to provide the added benefit of controlled communication with staff. This enhances staff engagement by creating interactive communications. An example of this is that you could put a blog from HR on the system for all NSW staff informing them about my presentation. You can then allow comments about the article, and see how many people have seen it and or opened and read it.
The beauty of IDAM and a Mumba Cloud solution is that the moment Mrs Awesome or any other manager or employee is terminated, all system access can stop instantly and in sync. In this way, you control security, but you also control the costs of user licenses across everything.
Staff don’t just stay in the original position they were hired into. They move, and their needs change. IDAM and Mumba Cloud only need a single change in one system and they can all be updated.
I have been around 100’s of organisations over the last 20 years. Most organisations like to create their own solutions to these issues.
I see a lot of scripting going on by very smart programmers within organisations. I see Python and VB scripts and macros that are created and they work very well. Very well for a short period of time.
The problem is always that at some stage Jimmy’s mate, the programmer, moves on. When they do, there is never the same level of knowledge about the scripting and macros in the next person.
Systems are never still. Single Touch Payroll didn’t exist a year ago. Payroll requirements are constantly changing. Awards are changing, your businesses are changing. You end up with takeovers, mergers, acquisitions. With each change, some of your systems will require an upgrade.
Upgrades impact integration
In the same way that the core HR systems need to be upgraded and configured for changing times. You need to be able to have integration solutions that can be maintained and upgraded.
When I look at these issues, I see that the best practice for catering for these is to use “products” that are purchased and configured and have a maintenance plan by the supplier.
Don’t rely on talented individuals to put in place a complex mix of fancy macros and scripts that work on day one.
> You want to have purchased a product that comes with 70% of the setup as standard out of the box.
> That has a team of people that know how it works.
> That has an organization behind it that can invest in improvements and that can understand what your issues are when you call their helpdesk.
- > You can’t rely on a single vendor to provide all your HRIS systems. No-one has proven to be able to the the best in all categories.
- > Just as Bicycle needs the chain, the frame and brakes to keep all the components working well, you need to look at multiple forms of integration to operate at the highest level.
- > We have seen today, 3 great ways of integrating your employee data in the HR environment
- o Horizontal transfer between systems
o Identity and Access Management
o An Interactive Staff Portal like Mumba Cloud as a single APP for employees to see everything at once.
- > Don’t create fancy integration scripts and macros that don’t last.
- > Allocate the right funding and buy the right products that are well supported and will last.
In that way, like a well-oiled Bike, your HR environment will operate smoothly during even the bumpiest of situations.