Magazine article Workforce

The HRMS Tune Up: Keep Your System Running Smoothly

Magazine article Workforce

The HRMS Tune Up: Keep Your System Running Smoothly

Article excerpt

Even if HRMS maintenance isn't one of your formal duties, knowing about backups, upkeep, and long-term troubleshooting can save you time, turmoil, and money.

You'd think that maintaining a human resource management system would be the sole responsibility of the HR department. It is, after all, the system that manages the functions of HR-report generation, employee data storage, and often payroll. Yet, an HRMS is a highly complicated piece of technology that few HR professionals have the skills or other resources to maintain. It shouldn't be the job of HR to oversee software, even software that ties so intimately into their job responsibilities. But too often it is, and when systems break down and maintenance issues go unaddressed, the tool can't possibly perform at optimum levels.

"Large HR systems should be managed by the IT department," says John Caplin, director of professional services for JAT Computer Consulting, a software consulting company in Pleasant Hill, California, that specializes in HR. "The HR department shouldn't have to know or care about the technical issues." This is largely because HR people don't have the expertise to manage the technology. "The user-side doesn't understand it, so things don't get done."

Caplin says, however, that many of his clients still leave HR people in charge ofthe systems, and problems crop up. "Backups don't occur often enough, and no one takes responsibility for followthrough with the vendor on maintenance."

Lax upkeep can lead to disaster

While HR management systems are designed to automate many tasks, it takes daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance to keep them running smoothly. In the short term, frequent backups of employee data to the server must occur to avoid disastrous losses of information. Companies such as Sears, Roebuck and Co. do nightly backups of the HRMS just to be sure a day's work doesn't get lost, says Jacqueline Kuhn, senior manager of HR applications for Sears in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Many systems can be designed to do this automatically, but even then the data has to be regularly saved to tape and stored off-site as part of a disaster recovery plan. Sears, Roebuck's IT department runs a backup to tape prior to every weekly payroll.

Software utilities on the system also must be maintained, which means running utility disks and scanning for corrupt data. At Pawling Corp., a plastics and rubber manufacturing facility in Dutchess County, New York, daily maintenance of the company's ADP HR system is the sole responsibility of HR. Fortunately, Deborah Klein, a Pawling HR representative, is a certified payroll professional, which means she has HR systems knowledge and has run maintenance on the system successfully since she joined the company three years ago. Unfortunately, when she left for maternity leave late last year, no one had the experience or knowledge to oversee the maintenance in her absence, and a lot of work didn't get done.

"When we upgraded the system, I was the only person paying attention to the utilities training;' she says. "When I was gone on maternity leave, no one took over, and pretty soon none of the applications worked."

Reports didn't get pulled, backups weren't made, frequent crashes were reported, and eventually none of the seven or eight users who had access to the system could get at the data. They couldn't understand why they were having all of these problems, says Klein, who was gone for only 10 weeks. When she came back, she had to re-create reports by cutting and pasting data from backup reports stored off-site.

"Without constant maintenance, you don't have a system," she says. While she is comfortable in her role as overseer of the system, Klein agrees that the best person to manage an HRMS of any size is someone with systems expertise who can learn HR. "Anyone can input HR data, but to get it back out, you need to be a systems person."

Make a schedule for long-term maintenance

Beyond daily maintenance, there are longterm issues to keep in mind that are the combined responsibility of HR, IT, and the HRMS vendor, Caplin says. …

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