By Knapp, Jeffrey
Personnel , Vol. 67, No. 4
Trends in HR Management Systems
Organizations are no longer content to allow their human resources management systems (HRMSs) to remain technological backwaters. Once a back-office application, the management of human resources has become strategically important. An increasing number of organizations are now demanding that the information systems supporting their HR applications be upgraded so that they are on a par with the company's other mission-critical applications.
The image of the HRMS as a mission-critical application has emerged in response to a number of organizational and technical trends. Not only are cost considerations essential, but today's environment demands consistent top management attention to employment issues to insure corporate survival and success. Attracting and retaining skilled employees and meeting their needs for flexible, innovative, "cafeteria-style" benefits have become business requirements.
As regulatory and legislative changes continue unbounded, information systems in general are shifting to on-line environments. Coping with systems distributed on mainframes, minicomputers, and PCs - often in a multi-vendor environment - presents organizations with new challenges. New concepts in end-user access, security, and data integrity further complicate the situation.
Fortunately, computer industry initiatives promise unprecedented levels of compatibility and standardization to HRMS applications within organizations. For the first time, organizations can take advantage of HRMS applications fully integrated with other systems. Like the data entrusted to these other systems, HRMSs data and applications now benefit from data integrity, security, backup and control, and the other attributes of modern information processing.
Technical advances in systems and applications have certainly promoted the development of HRMS, and organizations that first made investments in new hardware and software have realized significant benefits in their HR activities. Nevertheless, with computer technology becoming increasingly available to all segments of the economy, advantages stemming solely from technical factors are minimized.
Framework for the Future
By contrast, competitive advantages stemming from human or personnel factors while leveraging state-of-the-art technology take on greater importance. The HR department is now clearly the cutting edge of a company's success. HRMS vendors have responded with systems that emphasize the end-user aspects of personnel applications. Increasingly, the technical details remain under the covers, transparent to users. Thus modern systems do not need to be limited to the central MIS department.
We are seeing tremendous changes in the evolution of technology that will enable companies to deliver a broad array of benefits to employees. The combination of advances in workforce demands for flexible benefits and evolving technology have triggered development of a new generation of HRMS software. From the end-user's point of view, the industry has evolved to deliver a growing spectrum of desktop applications. Vendors are providing technology that will allow corporations to distribute functionality to different levels of the organization and to bring HRMS offerings all the way to individual employee workstations. Relational technology and advances in application functionality provide for dramatic increases in our ability to access and manage information.
As employers deliver state-of-the-art HRMS functionality to the desktop, employees will be able to directly access and easily interface with all HRMSs within the organization. These companies will be able to provide employees with the best HRMS services, and will best be able to maintain talent and minimize the costs of employee turnover.
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In 1987, IBM published its "Systems Application Architecture" (SAA) specifications. …