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Human Resource management can be traced back to prehistoric times, when tribal members were given specific jobs of hunting or gathering. The households of ancient Chinese emperors had employment tests to identify servants with special talents for special jobs. Then there were the apprentice system and artisan guilds, formed to train new workers. In more modern times, the discipline of human resource management (HRM) has become a sophisticated science with theories, experiments and studies that seek to help managers and organizations recruit, retain, and maximize staff productivity.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, large companies felt a need to centralize their personnel data in large part to facilitate record keeping and meet regulatory needs. Programs were written on large mainframe computers that acted as a central data repository with little transactional processing, usually only for payroll. The Human Resource Information System (HRIS), also know as a Human Resource Management System (HRMS), became prevalent in the 1980’s with the popularity of Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) applications and the move from mainframe systems to client server technology. This trend was based on a new school of thinking, one that saw the transformation of transactions into business processes and data into information. HR information can empower companies with “intelligence” enabling management to make more timely and more informed decisions. All the tier One ERP software vendors such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP included some flavor of human resource management in their suite of applications providing their users with a single, holistic view of their workforce.

At the same time, the 1980’s saw a shortage in skilled workers, especially in the technology sector. Human Resource Management had long evolved from the basis of a skills management discipline to more of an employee satisfaction and productivity tool. However, by the 1980’s, HRIS systems now included a host of feature sets and functional capabilities aimed at attracting, retaining and properly compensating the workforce. By 2000, the human resource software industry saw HRIS grow to include recruitment, benefits management, time management, payroll, compensation management, learning management, expense reporting and reimbursements, and performance management. Self-service applications built on top of the underlining data empowered employees to manage their own data and make timely changes. Online employee portals further consolidated disparate systems, documents and information into one place.

As computer hardware prices fell and computing power simultaneously grew, more and more companies were able to afford enterprise software systems and vendors saw a market for standalone HRIS software. Data connectors and application programming interfaces empowered customers with HR systems that need not be delivered with their financial accounting software. They now have an a la carte option and can leverage a higher fit system that better fulfills their HRIS needs and can integrate information such as payroll and headcount to their financial system. Vendors such as Sage Software and Ultimate Software saw a niche in the midmarket sector for their HRIS offerings.

However, Software as a Service (SaaS) found significant adoption in a downsizing economy. Companies can now have all the advantages of an HRIS that fits their specific needs and requirements, integrate relevant information with their financial applications, massage the data with a business intelligence (BI) reporting suite and make management decisions based on facts, figures and trends. And they need not incur the burden or cost of managing the hardware or software environment themselves. Not to be left behind, the Tier One ERP software vendors follow the pack by providing their ERP solutions, packaged with HRIS, as a SaaS option. This offering usually benefits small to midsized companies. However, organizations looking for a SaaS option for their HRIS will have a host of choices.

The future of HRIS lies in SaaS and cloud computing. However, as more and more companies outsource their HR department’s functionalities, outsourcing organizations such as Randstad and ADP are adding technology to their menus. HR outsourcing services such as TriNet and Achilles Group all offer HRIS tools and solutions for their clients. As the human resources outsourcing market is predicted by Gartner to reach $1.102 billion worldwide by 2012, outsource companies will provide the majority of HRIS processes and management.

The immediate future of HRIS is a marriage between outsourced functions and outsourced technology. After that, the pendulum could swing either direction further, whereby all workers are outsourced, not just in HR; or it could swing the other way, where organizations take back control of their workforce, workforce management but probably not the technology.

On Demand HR Systems  

HR Software History

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Outsourced Payroll Benefits
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Host-based HRIS

Client/server HRIS
Software as a Service HR
Cloud Computing HR
Outsourcing trend
The future of HR


hr Tags:
human resource software history, hr business systems, HR best practices, hr software suggestions, outsourced hr, hr business processes, employee programs, on-demand hr, saas hr, hr management, cloud computing









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