By Greengard, Samuel
Personnel Journal , Vol. 73, No. 3
When Atlanta-based Southern Company peered underneath the hood of all its computer systems a couple of years back, it never expected to find hundreds of different software and database programs--many used for the same tasks. "The entire system had gotten completely out of control," recalls Laurie Swift, the company's information systems managers. "There was no standardization of data, and in many cases it was difficult to exchange or share information."
Eventually Southern Company cleaned up and standardized its system, using client/server architecture. But it is hardly the only example of how things can spiral out of control with today's PCs and LANs. From Seattle to Saratoga, companies large and small increasingly are finding they have data that isn't being shared efficiently--often resulting in extra clerical load and an inhibited ability to make strategic decisions quickly and efficiently.
But HRIS experts say that a well-designed data base and software system can eliminate many of these problems. "Current business trends give HR managers more reasons than ever to seek the strategic benefits of integrating once separate data bases," says Zena Brand, vice president of HRIS marketing for ADP Inc. in Roseland, New Jersey. "An integrated payroll/personnel data base uses the same, consistently defined reservoir of data. Once a record is entered, it is immediately and continually available for analysis and reporting. Ultimately, it allows management to restructure HR and payroll along lines that are optimally effective to the entire organization. …