Within HR departments five years ago there was a lot of duplication and time wasted on paper processes.
According to Paula Gordon, human resources industry manager for software integrator SAP, HR departments spent 40 per cent of their time moving paper and fixing errors.
Limited employee data was available and an overview of common processes was impossible because geographically HR departments were situated remotely.
“Five years ago client/server software was a concept rather than a reality,” says Gordon. “What client/server gives you is the ability to devolve responsibility from the organisation to wherever HR people are.”
Now the use of information technology has changed the position of HR departments. There is greater visibility of common processes.
“It allows HR to contribute to the bottom-line rather than become imbedded in admin processes, and that is the real change in HR management,” she says. “The trends are really towards value-added services in HR departments and are geared towards how best to deploy and motivate people.”
Gordon says the new client/server architecture has helped HR departments to shorten paper-based processing in terms of holiday applications, expense accounts, maintaining employee addresses and planning trips.
HR Release 3
From a SAP perspective, client/server technology has revolutionised the whole HR process. The firm believes that HR Release 3 (R3) has opened up new opportunities for HR management from collecting, recording and archiving data to setting up a stand-alone system and linking that to payroll.
“We have developed an HR and payroll system that gives firms the capability to interface with external payroll systems,” says Gordon.
“HR never used to be part of the Enterprise solution,” she adds. “There was often frustration with HR management because they appeared cut-off but that was more to do with software evaluation.”
She says that HR departments were not viewed as technically competent and were very much seen as an overhead function, so they were not evaluated for technology in the same way as other departments.
R4 will give HR departments even greater freedom, the ability to be more flexible, and to have greater choice because it will allow them to run HR and payroll separately. In addition it means they will have greater freedom to manage software implementation and take on technical enhancements.
An Ovum report on HR systems by Colin Richards-Carpenter says that many of today’s HR systems have been developed for traditional HR functions.
But the systems are not beneficial because of the way that organisations manage employment processes.
In the paper, Richards-Carpenter says that the HR profession realises that it must change if it is to deal adequately with employee issues.
While the industry has seen some change and seen a move towards a more comprehensive strategic model, he believes that HR departments still have a great deal to do.
They are still spending the majority of their time on routine tasks and processes that should be automated. He concedes that this mentality is probably built into the profession, which for years has been trained to do what he describes as a fire-fighting job.
Faster transfer of employee information, enabled by IT, frees up HR time so the departments can focus on the greater strategic business case.
Gordon points to the benefits of new technology and how the use of intranet and Internet solutions have made HR systems easier to use, improving productivity in HR departments.
She adds: “IT fulfils a technical function, but without sound HR management they won’t be going anywhere. Because HR affects employee morale it has a knock-on effect on company performance.”
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