Data-base and Software Integration Allowing HR to Work More Efficiently

March 1, 1994
When Atlanta-based Southern Company peered underneath the hood of all its computer systems a couple of years back, it never expected to find hundreds of different software and data-base programs—many used for the same tasks. "The entire system had gotten completely out of control," recalls Laurie Swift, the company's information systems manager. "There was no standardization of data, and in many cases it was difficult to exchange or share information."

Eventually, Southern Company cleaned up and standardized its system, using client/server architecture. But it is hardly the only example of how things can spiral out of control with today's PCs and LANs. From Seattle to Saratoga, companies large and small increasingly are finding they have data that isn't being shared efficiently—often resulting in extra clerical load and an inhibited ability to make strategic decisions quickly and efficiently.

But HRIS experts say that a well-designed data base and software system can eliminate many of these problems. "Current business trends give HR managers more reasons than ever to seek the strategic benefits of integrating once separate data bases," says Zena Brand, vice president of HRIS marketing for ADP, Inc. in Roseland, New Jersey. "An integrated payroll/personnel data base uses the same, consistently defined reservoir of data. Once a record is entered, it is immediately and continually available for analysis and reporting. Ultimately, it allows management to restructure HR and payroll along lines that are optimally effective to the entire organization."

Of course, one of the pitfalls of today's high-speed computers is that, in many cases, they've simply made inefficient processes faster. But an increasing array of vendors, including ADP and Rockville, Maryland-based PowerPay, are integrating packages to exploit the power of today's client/server systems. In PowerPay's case, the software can run off several PC servers to process checks for upwards of 25,000 employees each period. HR data—including benefits administration and general HR data—is available from anywhere on the network, as long as the user has security clearance to obtain the data. Moreover, the system works on any platform.

"Relational data bases provide enormous reporting tools," says Kurt Basler, manager for payroll/human resource information systems at Transco Energy Company in Houston. "They are easier to work with, they are powerful and straightforward. Building a software system on top of a relational data base makes a lot of sense."

Adds ADP's Brand: "Integrated data bases support many of the critically important strategic business objectives of the 1990s, including reengineering, decentralizing human resources and financial data, the ability to use outsourcing, data quality improvement, and creating enterprise-wide executive information systems that incorporate all relevant financial and HR data."

Personnel Journal, March 1994, Vol.73, No. 3, p. 45.