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A critical -- but potentially overlooked -- aspect of an HR system implementation is system interfaces.
In simple terms, a system interface allows you to share data from one application to another. A small software program is written to pull data from one application, format it as needed for the receiving application and deliver it.
For example, when a company uses one vendor for its HR data and another for payroll, data does not flow between them naturally since they are two separate systems. This means that as your company hires and terminates employees you have to manually enter the data in each system. What an interface allows you to do, however, is pass the data from one system to the other, eliminating the need to enter the data twice. You enter the data in the HR system and then, using an interface, you pass the data to the payroll application.
There are many benefits to implementing interfaces, such as eliminating the need to rekey data into multiple systems and automating processes. With proper planning, you can determine early on who will develop the interfaces, how many you will need and how they will be supported, as well as avoid costly surprises during the implementation phase.
Advantages of setting up IT interfaces
When implementing an HR system, you want to use the functionality available to provide the best return for your organization. Interfaces can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend in an HR system and help increase the return on investment (ROI) of your HR system decision.
You may have manual processes today that can be automated with an interface. For example, you may manually create user accounts for new hires. Using an IT interface and the appropriate data, you may be able to set up the new hire without having to manually enter any information.
Plan for the IT interfaces
It's important during the planning phase of your project that you identify all your current system interfaces, as well as systems that would benefit from an interface. It can help to start by developing an architecture diagram that shows how your current HR systems share data with other systems within your organization. Consider applications used outside of HR too, since your HR system may connect to applications in payroll, IT or finance.
On the architecture diagram, you can indicate the system interfaces that are automated versus manual, as well as those that are existing versus the ones that are planned. Once your diagram is complete, plan to get feedback from multiple people within your organization, such as your IT department and leads in other departments that have knowledge about their systems. If you are using a vendor to assist with the implementation, you can also use their experience with other customers. Getting feedback early will reduce the odds of missing something that may be critical to your budgeting process, timeline, or desired future state.
Implications of missing an IT interface
During the planning stage of your project, you will want to identify all of the system interfaces your new application will require. Overlooking an interface during the planning stage can have a significant impact on your project.
Three key areas to consider include:
- Cost. The cost to implement interfaces can be significant, and when unplanned, may put your project over budget.
- Timeline. Implementing an interface involves many steps, such as documenting the requirements, developing the interface and testing. You also need to ensure you have a resource available to implement the new interface. Based on the availability of the resource, you may have to extend deadlines to allow time for the new interface to be implemented.
- Manual process. Depending on when the missing interface is identified, it may be too late in the project for it to be added, leaving you with a manual process until it can be scheduled.
Considerations for your IT interfaces
Once you have a complete list of IT interfaces and how the data from one system will benefit another, you can start planning for the implementation and post go-live support of the IT interfaces. Items that you will want to consider include:
- What is the cost and benefit? Besides just determining how much it will cost to develop the IT interfaces, consider the benefit of developing an interface. For example, if you manually upload data once a year, the cost of implementing an interface may outweigh the benefit. Finally, you will also want to consider the ongoing costs associated with each interface, such as the testing required when upgrades to applications are made, troubleshooting interface issues and so on.
- Are you capturing all the required data? For an IT interface to be valuable, you want to ensure you are capturing all the data required for the receiving application, otherwise there may still be data entry required.
- Who will implement the system interfaces? Ask yourself: Do you have the resources internally or do you want to use a vendor? If you are considering developing the interfaces internally, do your resources have the right skill set or will you have to train them first?
- What technology will you use to develop and monitor the interfaces? Your organization may have a programming language they use for interface development, or for monitoring the interfaces. Determine this before getting estimates since it may have an impact.
- Who will support the interfaces post go-live? This is an important consideration since there will be an ongoing need for support once your implementation is complete. You may choose to use a vendor to perform this task for a fee, especially if the vendor built the IT interface. Alternatively, you can assign this to an internal resource.
- How often will the IT interfaces run and is there a cost associated with it? Often, IT interfaces for HR systems run overnight. However, this may not be sufficient for your needs. Confirm that you can specify how often it can be scheduled to run, and if there are any associated costs.
- Can the interface be run on demand if needed? You may have system interfaces that push critical data from one system to another. Waiting for the scheduled time for the IT interface to run may not be possible, such as last-minute changes in the HRIS that are required for payroll to complete the pay process.
- Do all the applications you are targeting support interfaces? While most modern applications support IT interfaces, older systems may have limitations that must be considered when developing your system interface strategy.