In the last entry I wrote “that the only HR departments that go on SAP are the ones that are forced to do so by their CEO.” While there’s some truth to this, I’ve also written in the past that if I were a CIO, I’d go out and buy Oracle financials, PeopleSoft HR, SAP supply chain, etc… and hook it all up in the back end with whatever API’s I’m using and some nice web services for portal and Cognos for business intelligence. While that’s all well and good, it’s just not reality. (and every now and then I need to be realistic)
Reality states that SAP and PeopleSoft are incredibly different to integrate. So while you really do have options when you’re selecting your HR vendor, what the rest of your organization is on does matter. No matter how your vendor presents the technology, in the back end, SAP is a real time system and PeopleSoft is a batch system. There is good and bad to both of these processing philosophies both for HR processing and broader organizational integration.
SAP being a real time system sounds great, and it usually is (assuming that you are on SAP for all your ERP systems). However, true real time integration creates havoc all too often. While we love real time, the truth is that once the employee record has been updated, a dozen other HR fields have also updated, and a cascading tidal wave of change has gone out to finance, operations, etc. By the time you realize that the initial employee record change was in error, it’s too late, and rolling it back 5 minutes later means rolling it back in 20 downstream consumers of that data. All in all, real time data integration is a great thing, but you really do need to understand what it all means.
However, I should talk about PeopleSoft (considering I pissed everyone off by calling it batch). I’ll stand by the batch part, but I’ll concede that you can put in as many hooks as you like making workflow real time. So when you hire an employee, the workflows go out in real time to manage tasks. However, anyone who has ever implemented payroll, ben admin, or whatever will probably wholeheartedly agree that most system processing and data integration between the ERP modules happens in those fabled batches. So while you eliminate some of the problems we noted for SAP, much of the native integration within the ERP suite isn’t so timely.
What’s the point? We started this article saying that mixing and matching ERP modules may not be the best thing. Honestly, it’s hard to get a real time system to talk to a batch system and vice versa. On top of that, within a consistant ERP suite, the vendors have built in the API’s for HR to talk to finance (and whatever else) pretty seamlessly. Visions of XML are great, and they do simplify the old worlds of async interfaces. But true effectiveness in your ERP suite is greatly simplified by staing within the ERP suite.