28 September 2022

What does it mean to truly integrate HR software and other business systems?

‘Integrated’ networks of digital applications aren’t all created equal; find out what it takes to eradicate manual intervention from your HR processes


Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery is head of content and community at Ciphr. She was previously deputy editor at People Management magazine. You can find her on Twitter @c_newbery.


HR transformation Technology


‘Integrated’ networks of digital applications aren’t all created equal; find out what it takes to eradicate manual intervention from your HR processes

Many HR departments might say they have integrated HR and payroll systems even though the link between the two systems requires human intervention – such as downloading a data file from the core HR system and sending it via secure transfer or email to the payroll administrator.

But, says Jordan Mori, managing partner at Hensen Associates, a consultancy that supports HR teams with technological change, advances in technology mean that integrated HR systems, once configured, shouldn’t require human intervention. “As a rule of thumb, ‘integration’ means two systems talking to each other and exchanging information without any manual import of data,” says Mori. “That level of integration is rare for a lot of businesses – even the ones using enterprise-level HR solutions. The maturity of organisations establishing and using integrated HR systems effectively is low to ok, at best.”

Some of the major driving forces behind the move to more automated links between systems include the possibility of reducing administrative workloads, greater data security, and less likelihood of human error – factors that were highlighted in a survey carried out by YouGov on Ciphr’s behalf earlier this year.

“Doing stuff manually introduces risk,” says Megan Hope, partner manager at Ciphr. “There’s a risk that someone might forget a task, or the one person who knows how to send the pay data to the payroll provider is off sick that month, for example. Or an organisation might find itself in a situation where someone hasn’t completed their mandatory training and isn’t legally able to work because the overdue course has only been noted in your learning management system (LMS) and not flagged to the employee in your core HR system.”

It’s thanks to a programming tool called an Application Programming Interface, or API, that systems are able to send and receive specified fields of data to one another. For example, a benefits platform could pull pay, job role and other relevant employee details from a core HR system. It could then push into the core HR system details of elected benefits and the resulting impact on pay. Or, an LMS could pull basic employee information from a core HR system, and assign mandatory training courses based on job role.

Because systems administrators don’t need to know all the technical details of how APIs work to make appropriate decisions about how systems link together, “it’ll be the new norm for HR administrators to decide what third-party system they want to be able to access specified data fields in the core HR system,” says Hope. “They’ll request an access token from their HR system provider, which can be plugged into the third-party system. The beauty is that, once it’s configured and the connection between the two systems is set up, it’s done.”

Ciphr works with a number of trusted partners whose software integrates with our core HR and recruitment software.