HR Systems Needs and Desires Part IV: Configurability

10 Oct

For reference, here is a partial list of the HR systems I have implemented or used: Halogen, Sonar 6, Taleo (learn.com and Vurv), HRSmart, iCims, ADP, Paychex, Namely, Jobvite and Oracle

As I previously wrote, almost every HR system I have encountered claims full customizability of all of their features. Whenever I hear this I get a bit weary. From my experience, a fully customizable system means that I will have a lengthy implementation process, long documents to complete and the system will be engineered for me. Custom built sounds great, but it also means you won’t be able to change much without going through a formal development process and probably some cost. It’s sort of like buying a custom suit. It’s great to have and you love designing it and getting fitted, but if you gain or lose a few pounds you can hardly wear it. And no one else can use it either.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy designing HR systems, but anyone who has implemented any system knows that organizational requirements will change all the time and they need to be accommodated. Workflows change, processes change, organizational structures change and that means that the HR system that supports that process will need to be changed.

For larger systems even the features you are supposed to be able to change on your own are pretty complicated to understand and require all types of support. Workday, the HR system everyone HR person dreams about, requires some pretty serious ongoing consultation to support it. An example of the complexity and danger with features of large scale systems I often hear about is when an admin makes a change to one part of the system not realizing that they have exposed parts of the system they may not have wanted to. I.e. a change to a permission set allows all team members to see each other’s compensation.

As a system buyer you want to have absolute clarity on what the build process will be, an understanding of why it will take the amount of time it will take to build and the process and cost for making changes at any point before you commit. If it seems complicated it probably is. I’m not saying complexity should be the deciding factor, just be clear about what you are getting.

There are a point players out there right now who are focused on creating user friendly, self-serve systems, but so far they have been developed with limited functionality. As soon as they start adding some functionality and features this will directly impact the ability to be self-serve.  I look forward to the day when HR systems will be built with maximum configurability in mind. I’ll buy it.

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